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What is the best value shoe maker you know?

clee1982

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I went to AE quite a few times to just look for beater, though even on discount (<300) still can’t see myself wearing them except maybe the Longwings.
 

standaloneprotein

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If I may, I have seen very well made blake construction shoes with nice leather than some GYW shoes. The idea of approaching/levelling GYW with high end shoes is not only wrong but dangerous: once our Asian friends start drowning the market with cheap GYW shoes you might remember this thread. There are very good brands out here so buy based on what you like (or need)

BTW: the same user who opened the thread added the name of this Spanish boutique that nobody knows... interesting...
 

clee1982

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Don’t mind Blake rapid, I would happily take Bontoni many times for example.

Speaking of the Italians, Silvano Sasetti for BG is very good value on sale, though looks like it’s gone now...
 

vizzgo

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Any thoughts on where Carmina stands vs Meermin/Vass/CJ?
 

smittycl

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I went to AE quite a few times to just look for beater, though even on discount (<300) still can’t see myself wearing them except maybe the Longwings.
I really like the Strand and have three. Also like the 5th Avenue cap toe Oxford. They look nice, hold up well and are easily recrafted.
 

dieworkwear

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Any thoughts on where Carmina stands vs Meermin/Vass/CJ?
At a certain point, it's less about differences in quality and more about design. The exception on your list is Vass, since they're handwelted. But sometimes people get into this stuff about plastic vs leather heel stiffeners, fiberboard vs. leather stacked heels, etc. And while I think some of those things can be important on the margins, the biggest factor between all these lines above Meermin is just how the shoe looks -- like, in terms of style. As your budget opens, you get more options. By any reasonable measure, all these brands above Meermin will last years and years and years. It's just whether you want to wear them for that long. If they're ugly shoes, who cares if they can be recrafted?

IMO, that's why it's kind of pointless to nitpick rankings above Meermin. At some point it's about aesthetics, which is very subjective.
 

smittycl

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At a certain point, it's less about differences in quality and more about design. The exception on your list is Vass, since they're handwelted. But sometimes people get into this stuff about plastic vs leather heel stiffeners, fiberboard vs. leather stacked heels, etc. And while I think some of those things can be important on the margins, the biggest factor between all these lines above Meermin is just how the shoe looks -- like, in terms of style. As your budget opens, you get more options. By any reasonable measure, all these brands above Meermin will last years and years and years. It's just whether you want to wear them for that long. If they're ugly shoes, who cares if they can be recrafted?

IMO, that's why it's kind of pointless to nitpick rankings above Meermin. At some point it's about aesthetics, which is very subjective.
All very true. Does everyone consider AE to be ugly? Granted all their models don't work for everyone but they are still aesthetically pleasing to me at least.
 

dieworkwear

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All very true. Does everyone consider AE to be ugly? Granted all their models don't work for everyone but they are still aesthetically pleasing to me at least.
I like some of their shoes, like the Park Aves and Acheson. But they have some duds.
 

clee1982

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I really like the Strand and have three. Also like the 5th Avenue cap toe Oxford. They look nice, hold up well and are easily recrafted.
the only AE I can see myself ever getting are walnut strand and longwing (looks sleeker than Alden Barrie...), can't stand 5th ave or park ave..., all the AE (at least to me) seems too chunky for dress shoes.

At $400 ish I imagine all the GW hold up well, by this point I have large enough rotation that if I put on rubber sole don't think I will need to worry about re crafting.

The only thing I ever sent to factory was my CJ northcote (was able to actually damage the dainite, so decided to switch to citysole), though the upper is just fine.
 

clee1982

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As to Vass, well it never made me go "wow", so I guess that's why never end up owning any, though that's after I already have decent size collection. Had I start from scratch and Vass was the first thing I saw I probably would end up with sizable number.

and same thing with Carmina, already had my basis covered with CJ by the time I can find somewhere to try Carmina, after that Carmina start to increase price (and so is CJ) and I kind moved up in price too, so never end up owning any
 

clee1982

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and not sure if it has been mentioned, AS Exclusive is good value at its price range (and if AS handgrade can actually be bought anywhere then probably a good value too)
 

mosivy

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The discussion here on the definition of "value" is very interesting. I'm going to suggest defining it as best price to quality ratio, where quality primarily refers to construction and materials rather than style. It's an imperfect and still subjective definition, given how many aspects there are to quality. And of course, there are diminishing returns on investment as you go higher up in the market.

Anyways, here is a list of what I think are great shoes for the value, broken up by price tiers.

Entry-level
  • Meermin (best quality for $200 or less, but tough break-in)
  • Carlos Santos (stand out in the saturated $250-350 market)
Mid-level
  • Kent Wang (not a lot of options, but very good build)
  • Carmina
Hand-welted
  • Enzo Bonafe
  • Vass
"Bespoke" quality (at RTW)
  • St. Crispins

I am pretty surprised by posts advocating for CJ, Alden, AE, and Edward Green. I think all these companies make nice shoes. I have many pairs from AE (all bought with substantial discounts) and a pair of Aldens. But to me it is apparent that the cost of labor in the US and the UK prevents these shoes from being sold at competitive price points, at least at retail. Vass shoes, at roughly half the price of Edward Green, are in several dimensions built with superior construction. Meermin builds better soles than AE, and sells the shoes at half the retail price. Now, obviously there is a lot of nuance that could be discussed regarding business models, brand, retail, manufacturing, sales and pricing, etc.

Regardless, I think shoes made in Spain, Asia, and Eastern Europe are more likely to offer you the best value--but who says you have to buy the best value? You can buy whatever you like.
 

SugarBear

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All very true. Does everyone consider AE to be ugly? Granted all their models don't work for everyone but they are still aesthetically pleasing to me at least.
I like several of their models, and find them to be helluva value for the dollar relatively speaking. Strand, MacNeil, Leeds, Randolph...all I find to be stylish, comfortable and well constructed shoes. I picked up a pair of their boat shoes this year on sale in the Chromexcel, and can say they're better made than any bullhide Gokeys I've had that cost twice as much.
 

benjamin831

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Worst value for money? AE at retail = dropping a couple of hundred bucks for a pair of shoes that looks like dog turd. Save that and spend a little more for shoes that look worlds apart.
 

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