By my count you are but a young peckerwood who has spent gobs of money on expensive shoes and has a strong opinion about which of those shoes you prefer. But as for my being "clueless" I can only tell you that I have been purchasing everything from acid-tanned Mason farm work-boots, Bally, Church's, Peale, AE, Gucci, Bruno Magli along with many pairs of JM, Bostonian, Cole Haan, Florsheim, plus other assorted 'Italian' made shoes made by various designers and off-labels since you were still in P.F. flyers-or Keds or whatever.
What I said was that I would put MOST of what Bally is putting out now up there with Gucci, S.F. and to a lesser extent, Prada (which I admit to not having much experience with.) I was not talking about the upper tier line-up of Bally just as I am sure when people here 'diss' Bruno Magli they are most likely unaware or ignorant of the Platinum line which are some of the finest Italian made shoes I have seen, felt, worn and definitely up there with the most beautifully constructed. In terms of my one existing pair of Bally I own now? I answered another member that I thought they were as good as most other mid to upper tier Italian made shoes. My particular pair was actually labeled Dirk Bickemberg (who I said-I had no idea at the time was primarily a designer of absurdly designed and ridiculously priced sneakers who occasionally added a dress shoe to his line and had them made by-in my case-Bally.) I said they were quite stiff but beautifully made with Blake-rapid construction. It may be that the sole leather on these Dick Bik/Bally dress spats is superior to that used by Gucci, as I havn't worn them enough to judge.
But on to the main point of contention and your concise opinions:
1. Gucci and Bruno Magli- There are several grades of Gucci and BM just as there are Bally and I could pretty much say the same exact thing you said about Bally in reference to SOME pairs of Gucci and Bruno M. In particular-I own a pair of boots from Gucci that are the most comfortable pair of boots-work-or dress I ever owned and I find myself having to force myself to NOT wear them so as to not wear them too much. There going on 4yrs and the goodyear sole is not even close to needing a re-craft. These are those pointy cliche Italian boots that a lot of folks probably think look a bit hard to wear but in reality-these are the big pointy size 11.5 Italian boots that one NEVER wants to take off because they are actually built so well and so comfortable.
2. Same with Bruno Magli. I have two pair of their Platinum line and one pair of a 'hand-made in Italy' loafer. All three are comfortable but the Platinum exceed ALL expectations for craftsmanship and design ethics I have seen in modern shoes. These are not the 'fashion-forward' sty;es BM is known for but a very plain tan monk strap and a very typical but exquisite light tan chelsea boot with burlap gore and a hard to describe hand-sewn over-sole that joins the tops to the footbed. You can actually see the hand sewn craftsmanship which is not always easy to see on shoes.
3. As for Bally being "light years ahead"? I would consider that an opinion and not fact. I think what IS fact is ALL the big Italian (and in Bally's case-supposedly still Swiss) have much of their work farmed out to various shoemaking houses in Italy so that in some cases a certain Bally shoe may be made by the same craftsman making a certain Gucci shoe. And I understand that for companies like Bally, BM, S.Fer. etc, they all have signature lines like the 'scribe', 'platinum' and Gucci has a logo designation-or so I was told-where there upper models have the hand hammered logo on the sole. (and even if that isnt exactly the case-I'm sure Gucci has a WIDE variation from their best mens Boots and the stuff they sell in the luxe section of DSW for $350
4. My point is that opinions aside-all of the brands beiong discussed can be criticized legitimately on their own or collectively but to be fair-if you want to criticize one or two of the brands as being "light years" behind another you should make sure you are comparing apples to apples. I am certain I would absolutely agree with you that the Bally 'scribe' line are beautiful and extremely durable simply based on my experience with my one current pair of Bally (which probably are-but may not be-of the scribe level). (and funny-in the past-I would buy Bally boots exclusively for their extremely soft and supple soles and melt-in-your-hand calf-skin uppers but found their style became too stale for me)
5. I completely agree with you about AE and especially in regards to Alden being no better or no worse. And frankly-as much as I love AE and how they are constructed-I have found too many of their shoes to be too stodgy. (even the cronmok which I like a lot and am wearing right now and which are extremely comfortable still have something a tiny bit 'off' with the design of the toe-box)
6. I think the most sensible 'opinion' or piece I ever read about Italian shoes versus English and American was written by Ron Rider and it may very well have been on this blog or another similar themed one. He goes into much more detail about the Italian shoemaking houses that have to farm out much of their work to other factories and reserve only their top-of-the-line for their own rather small facilities. He also writes a good bit on the English makers which is not a subject I know much about except I do love my few pairs of stodgy 'ol english wingtips and cap-toes and that I tend to compare the 'last' Americans AE/Alden to the Brits more so then I would to the Italians. (I guess thats just normal common sense)
7. Lastly-I think opinions and strong ones are fine. In fact-I would like to see a fair minded side-by-side comparison of the 'Italians' provided it could be agreed upon that the models being compared represented the absolute best that maker has to offer. So-I am not saying that I would convince a die-hard Bally fan that Gucci is not at "the bottom of the list" but I do think I could convince a die-hard Bally/Ferragamo fan that Gucci -or- Bruno Magli can make a boot as durable, beautiful and comfortable as the best Bally or Ferragamo just as Santoni, Testoni and Kiton (to a lessor extent) all make shoes of varying quality and detail but can still be considered the 'best of the best'
Edited by DaBakr - 10/9/13 at 11:09am