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Ludwig reitter vs vass

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by My View, Oct 15, 2003.

  1. My View

    My View Senior Member

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    Dear knowledgeable people,

    How are Ludwig Reitter shoes in terms of:
    1) build quality
    2) comfort
    3) value for money

    I may want to give them a try someday soon.

    What about Vass shoes? I read somewhere on this forum that having a pair of bespoke Vass shoes made in Hungary costs only USD500. Can someone confirm this? If so, it seems like a good deal. I may very well plan a holiday there.

    I read the post about off-the-rack Vass shoes. I must say they look really beautiful, especially the medallion tip ones.

    In terms of the build quality and quality of the leather, how will it (and Ludwig Reitter) compare with say an Edward Green off-the-rack?

    I love shoes but coming from a country where people do not usually spend a lot of money on shoes, the makes available here are rather limited. And not many people (esp men) discuss about clothings and shoes, so some lively contribution from you guys from around the world will be great.
     


  2. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    Ludwig Reiter shoes are highly regarded in Germany and Austria but have little distribution outside these countries (I believe Barney's NY does stock a few models.)

    Reiter is a machine made (guided by hand) shoe as most ready-to-wear shoes are. Vass shoes are made by hand in the old traditional way, the same way bespoke, made to measure shoes are made. (The bespoke shoes are made over an individual last, while the ready to wear are made over a stock last).

    Stylistically both makes are very close as they both draw on the Austro/Hungarian legacy of shoe design: high walled lasts, heavy solid shoes, blucher styles. As far as comfort is concerned, that's a question you have to decide as this depends on your feet and if a particular last works with or against your natural foot shape. Neither make has (and does not aim for) the refinement an Edward Green shoe has. A fiddle-back and bevelled waist is an English obsession. (I am excluding the second lot of Vass shoes in A Harris' post, as, stylistically, they are far more Italian in look.)

    As far as value for money is concerned, I don't know where you live and what is available at what price. I also presume once Hungary has entered the European Union (May 2004) that Vass' prices will go up to the European average.
     


  3. A Harris

    A Harris Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    I was hoping Bengal Stripe would answer first as I am not exactly unbiased on the subject. I have not had extensive experience with Ludwig Reiter. I have never worn a pair but I have sold a few pairs and seen more in stores. I have the catalogue, have corresponded a few times with the company, and have spent quite a bit of time checking out their website. Alan Flusser also did a nice bit on them in his book "Style and the Man." From what I have seen they are very nice shoes. The majority are Goodyear welted. I'd say the quality is at least as good as Crockett & Jones and maybe even on the level of J.M. Weston. As Bengal Stripe pointed out, their styling is primarily Austro-Hungarian (fuller scale and higher toe-box) so they are probably very comfortable, especially for people with wider feet. Joe G. should be able to comment on this as he is very fond of the Ludwig Reiter "Gustav Mahler" model. I don't think they are especially expensive so they are probably a good value. I especially like their welted sport shoes so I inquired as to whether I could purchase them anywhere in the US. They said that they weren't available here but I could contact their flagship store (in Vienna I think) and they would sell them to me. That may be a good way to get Reiter shoes. The current price for Vass bespoke shoes is indeed about $500 plus shipping. I'm sure the new models would be substantially more though and the shoes are only available if you make a trip to Budapest. Still, they certainly represent an incredible value in the world of bespoke shoes. As Bengal Stripe mentioned the prices are certain to go up. However (I hope) they probably will not be on the level of the rest of the EU as early as 2004 - they join the EU in 2004 but their currency does not go to the Euro until 2008 at the earliest. Here is an article discussing the subject. So there is still time to get your shoes. Ludwig Reiters, while being very nice shoes, do not compare to Edward Green in styling or quality of construction. Edward Green and Vass are easier for me to compare as I have quite a bit of experience with both brands. I had seven pairs of Edward Greens for a while and then I sold three pairs (two to my brother) so I have four pairs left. And I work for Vass. First of all I LOVE both Edward Green and Vass shoes. Â Edward Green makes what I think are the highest quality machine-welted shoes in the world. I had thought they were a hand-welted shoe before I joined the forum and then Bengal Stripe showed me otherwise. He referred me to the picture below: [​IMG] As you may be able to tell from the picture, the shoemakers at Edward Green glue a stiff linen "feather" onto the insole and then guide the shoe through a Goodyear welting machine that stitches the feather (and by extension the insole) to the welt. This is the traditional British method of "making" (a term that refers to the process of attaching the upper, insole, welt and sole to each other) a shoe. Edward Green carries out this process, and all the other processes, with a higher degree of precision and attention to detail than the other firms in Northampton (the home of British shoemaking.) Add their incomparable antique finish and the result is nothing short of exquisite. If you would like to see the rest of the Edward Green "factory tour" them visit this link. There is a link at the bottom of the page that leads to the second page of the "tour." Vass shoes are "made" in a different manner. Instead of glueing on a linen feather Vass "skives" the feather into the leather insole. The insole is the thick piece of leather that your foot rests on. Combined with the welt, the insole holds the shoe together. The shoemaker cuts two grooves into the bottom of the insole - one at the edge and one a little farther in. The welt and upper are attached by stitching them to the area of the insole between the grooves (which area is called the feather.) In the picture below the welt has been attached and the whole area trimmed to create the flattest possible surface, to which the sole will be attached. I have labeled everything to make it easier: [​IMG] [​IMG] On a Vass shoe the welt is sewn by hand: [​IMG] And the sole is sewn on by hand: [​IMG] This is of course a very labor-intensive process and one, as Bengal Stripe pointed out, that is very rare outside the realm of bespoke shoes. The traditional Vass models and Edward Green models are like apples and oranges - the styling is very different. The newer models are more easily compared. The Vass shoes have a longer slimmer toe with a more pronounced chisel shape than any of the Edward Green lasts: [​IMG] [​IMG] (The top shoe is by Edward Green, 808 last, and the wingtip is by Vass, U last.) Edward Green shoes have a very narrow waist, especially compared to other machine-welted shoes. The waist on the Vass shoes is narrower though, and is beveled like a bespoke shoe. In the pictures below the Vass sole is not finished - it still has to be smoothed and finished with a high gloss finish or a "half black" finish like the Edward Green: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] Edward Green's antique finish is more dramatic. Vass also highlights their shoes with darker polish - the effect is beautiful but much more subtle. Â Â So on the Edward Green vs Vass comparo - Vass wins in the categories of build quality and the shaping of the waist. As for whose styling is better - that depends on your taste.
     


  4. Sartoria

    Sartoria Member

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    Great post Mr. Harris. Thank You.
    A lot of valuable information, great pictures and eye opening facts...
     


  5. My View

    My View Senior Member

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    Thank you Bengal-Stripe and Mr Harris. You guys are great.

    Bengal-Stripe> I live in Singapore where Ludwig Reitter has a shop. The average price for a pair here is around SGD700 (about USD400) - that information was from about 6 months ago. They told me that the price was expected to increase with the strength of the Euro.

    I have a pair of Edward Green Berkeley which fits my rather wide and flat feet quite perfectly (I have never tried bespoke so I don't really know how perfect can perfection be.). My only complaint seems to be that the insole feels a little slippery (in that I can, through my socks, wriggle my toes). I don't seem to have the problem with my other shoes. You guys have any reason why that is so and how it can be solved?

    I would also like to seek your opinion on JM Weston. How does it compare with the shoemakers we discussed? I was in Europe just over a year ago and I saw a model called 666 (why 666???...) which looked absolutely gorgeous to me. I had resisted buying them because on the same trip, I had bought a pair each of Edward Green and Crockett & Jones and that 3 pairs of new shoes on a single trip seemed an unnecessary extravagance. (I know many of you in this forum would not agree.).
     


  6. jcusey

    jcusey Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    I've had this happen before, mostly with Edward Green and John Lobb Paris shoes. I don't know what causes it, but it seems to go away with wear as the insole gets dirty and otherwise broken in.

    I have a lot of respect for JM Weston, especially their split-toe penny loafer, their demi-chasse laceup, and their Hunt shoe. I think that they're generally less successful with bals than bluchers, but the 666 is a very good-looking shoe.
     


  7. MPS

    MPS Senior Member

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    I suspect that the problem is down to the leather insole. Some shoes have relatively buffed and smooth insoles, whilst others use leather with a coarser finish (sometimes approaching nubuck). This would account for the above observations.

    I've noticed a tendency for Crockett & Jones to be sold short on this forum. Their "handgrade" shoes are certainly comparable to Edward Green and John Lobb (in fact, this line is based upon the models it used supply to the latter).
     


  8. jcusey

    jcusey Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    I have a great deal of respect for C&J Handgrade shoes. I'm wearing the Mortimer model (antique tan monkstrap) right now. They're great shoes; and they represent very good value, especially if you order them from an outfit like Pediwear in Great Britain. That having been said, notwithstanding the provenance of some of the older Lobb shoes, current John Lobb and Edward Green shoes are higher quality than C&J Handgrade shoes. It's the same relationship that Weston shoes have to JL and EG -- the differences aren't huge, but they're there.
     


  9. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    I don't quite understand the problem. A well-fitting shoe should be snug in the heel, fit tightly across the instep and be quite roomy in the forepart. Your toes should not be squashed either from the sides or from above and you certainly should be able to wriggle your toes.

    If you feel the insole is too slippery, just rough them up under the ball of the foot with a bit of sand paper, or even better, coarse wire wool. (Works wonders to remove excessive sweat stains on the insole.)

    I don't know Ludwig Reiter shoes very well. I've seen them in Germany, tried them on, but never owned a pair. But it's a well-made shoe and in terms of craftsmanship can compete with English makes. If they fit well and you like the style, there is no reason not to buy them. Although I hated the all-rubber heels, which they seem to be fond of, in my opinion it makes a shoe look cheap. (Allen-Edmonds please take note.)
     


  10. caleboutoftheoven

    caleboutoftheoven New Member

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    Hi,
    I am new on the forum and wondered if anybody has heard of a brand from Buenos Aires/Argentina called Lopez Taibo. They make shoes and other leatherwear. The shoes are hand made I don´t know if they also offer bespoke services.
    Thanks
    Caleboutoftheoven
     


  11. shoefan

    shoefan Senior Member

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    Never heard of them; however, with the weak economy down there, leather goods are supposed to be an incredible bargain.
     


  12. My View

    My View Senior Member

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    Many of you with not-so-shallow pockets have tried bespoke shoes from the likes of John Lobb, George Cleverley and Edward Green.

    I wonder how Vass compares with these given that Vass charges much less. Labour costs obviously will be much lower in Hungary, but do labour costs account for all the difference in cost?

    Please enlighten if there are big differences in quality (handiwork, leather used etc.) because in the foreseeable years of my life, I probably will only be able to afford Vass bespoke.
     


  13. shoefan

    shoefan Senior Member

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    I am having my first pair of bespoke shoes from Vass in a few weeks, so this is based more on what I have gleaned from this and other discussions, etc.

    There is clearly a big difference in labor and other operating costs, which probably accounts for a large part of the cost differential. Obviously, these costs in London are among the highest in the world, whereas in Budapest they are quite low. Check out the the comparative costs of first class hotels in London vs Budapest, or of fine restaurants.

    Second, the London companies seem to have a level of finish, refinement, and attention to detail perhaps beyond the typical Vass shoe, though the newer Vass line is clearly headed in that direction. Likewise, at least from Kai's description, the attention paid to measuring the feet and therefore the precision of the last seems higher at Lobb. I can't attest to the quality of the materials, but there is no doubt the British use the finest leathers available; I don't know whether Vass is using the creme-de-la-creme.

    Finally, there is the name value upon which the London firms capitalize. Why are Lobb's $700 - 1000 or so more than Cleverley? Because they are the best known shoemakers in the world. At this point, Vass is unknown the the average customer, and probably their typical customer is from Hungary and the surrounding countries, not Japan/USA/UK; the British are selling to the wealthiest customers in the world, Vass probably is generally not (yet at least). The British are clearly selling Luxury Goods to a worldwide market, Vass are not yet.

    If a handmade pair of shoes takes, say 30 - 45 hours of labor (depending on level of detail, refinement,etc.) to complete, that tells you something about what the Vass employees are making.

    Still from all appearances, the Vass shoes seem to be a great bargain. We can't all wear Anderson & Sheppard suits, but that doesn't mean that a $1500 bespoke suit from a smaller tailor isn't outstanding or delivers a better price to value relationship.
     


  14. A Harris

    A Harris Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    I don't agree. Let us know if you still feel that way after you visit the Vass shop  [​IMG]
    I'm no leather expert - I only know what I've learned from my experience with just about every brand of high-end shoes. Based on that, Vass leather is top-notch. The sole leather comes from a respected German firm and is among the best available. They use French calf and shell cordovan from the Horween tannery in Chicago.
    Vass is better known than you might think. They are quite famous in Germany. Japan is starting to take notice and I've met a surprising number of men in the US who know of them because of the book, also because they were mentioned in Roetzl's book. Of course the average guy-on-the-street will never have heard them but I doubt they will have heard of Lobb either.
    It may not be a lot if they had to pay US prices for everything but they are well paid. The Vass workshop is most definitely not a sweatshop. The shoemakers are treated like family. To quote something JoeG said: "Kudos for bringing up labour conditions and such. Hungary right now, for a variety of reasons, is a place where things are just less expensive. A global economy will throw up such places, completely non-exploitatively." Why are they cheaper? It's fairly simple. As shoefan pointed out the overhead and labour costs are much lower simply because they are made in Budapest instead of London. And yes, you are not paying for a name. Nor are you paying for reps who fly all over the world to meet and measure customers. Â As far as quality of construction and materials goes, I would put Vass shoes up against any firm in the world. Of course I am not entirely unbiased. I hope some of the gentlemen of the forum will post their impressions once they recieve their shoes...
     


  15. My View

    My View Senior Member

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    A. Harris> Does Vass sell seconds? Do they sell them in the shop in Budapest? I am thinking (more like imagining) going to Budapest to get a pair of Bespoke and possibly get one or two pairs of off-the-rack and/or seconds?

    What is the price range of Vass off-the-rack shoes in Budapest? There are some really nice ones of which pictures you had posted on this forum. If I get them directly from Budapest, how much would they cost?

    How much would the seconds generally cost? (say as a fraction of the firsts)
     


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