As we are busy working on the third version of our website, which will be released in the coming weeks, and which hopefully represents for PG a true watershed in terms of design, ergonomics, typography and overall ease of use, we have decided to tackle once again, four of our most-requested articles : introducing the new series of PG recommendations for shoes (ready-to-wear), suits (ready-to-wear), shirts (ready-to-wear and made-to-measure) and accessories (ties, handkerchiefs, socks, jewelry) classified according to price range !
This review has been long overdue indeed, since our last three recommendation series is now almost four years old. It has became urgent to publish an up-to-date version, if only to better guide the through of new readers who join us every day.
Of course, calling this series of articles an « update » is a euphemism ; especially after four years of PG, with so many articles published, so many products reviewed, and so many trips, events and reports covered. And that's without mentioning the current, ever-shifting nature of the men's style industry.
We have attempted to propose broad and in-depth selections, which hopefully will reflect the incredible richness and sheer dynamism of the current men's style sector.
We can't help but rejoice at the wide spectrum of offerings on the market these days ; for not only do discerning gentlemen now have access to a wider-than-ever choice, but it would seem that the global quality of the products, whether for suits, shoes or shirts, has been steadily on the rise.
This rise in quality is, in my opinion, closely linked to two ongoing phenomenons :
- A more fierce competition between houses and brands, with newcomers adopting a « better than cheaper » strategy, and
- A meteoric rise in consumer sartorial education.
This competitive environment has a natural and highly beneficial effect on refocusing the debate and the public's attention on the product rather than on the brand. Even established houses have been pushed to move up the quality ladder, so as to counter newcomers, promising fully canvassed suits, Goodyear constructions, and hand-rolled hems at every price range.
As for education, the shift has been so drastic that another kind of pressure – entirely new to this time – now weighs heavily, even on the most prestigious houses : we have come to a point were it is not uncommon for the salesperson to know less about their product than the average consumer.
Incidentally, we at PG are, more and more, asked for educational missions for menswear companies. Whether it is by producing ' how-to ' instructions or written guides for established brands, or by giving corporate or public lectures on the current-and-upcoming sartorial revolution, or master-classes to train the staff on the fundamentals of classic men's style.
Our 2013 selection for ready-to-wear shoes covers 22 houses, meticulously handpicked, whose price range varies from 130 to 1500 euros.
Be advised that although the inclusion of shoetrees with the purchase of a pair of shoes goes without saying for us---for many entry-level brands, shoetrees are optional, so you may have to add 30 to 60 euros to the final price (which corresponds to the average price for a decent pair of trees).
As for the indicated prices, also be aware that we are giving averages --- numerous houses listed here offer different collections whose prices can vary wildly, depending on the leather, design, and/or construction.
Without further ado, here is our selection given in ascending order :
This young house founded in 2001 was taken over about two years ago by the Albaladejo family, already well-known for being behind Carmina and for their great Shell Cordovan leathers. Meermin is probably one of the best quality/price ratio offerings to emerge from the past few years. This small house distributes its collections via two physical stores (one in Madrid, the other in Tokyo), plus an on-line store.
With a casual, Goodyear welted collection (rubber soles) priced at 130 euros, and a classic collection of Goodyear welted shoes (leather soles), priced at 160 euros, the Meermin price tag is nothing short of impressive.
Made in Shangai and finished in Majorque, this house also offers a hand-welted collection, at 260 euros (the most interesting offer as far as we are concerned), a norwegian-welted range at 360 euros, and a Shell Cordovan offer, priced at 320 euros.
Clearly inspired by British designs, these models are discreet with relatively modern lasts. The solidity of the construction is honorable, and the designs are overall pleasant. Of course, at this price range, the leather quality is mid-grade at best, the soles could be sturdier, and the finishing touches are only average, with hit or miss quality control.
Despite this, the quality/price ratio remains excellent, and the customer service, though a bit « rustic », is full of goodwill and consistently reactive.
One regret though, would be the abusive use of the affiliation with Carmina on the communications side (i.e., tradition-washing). Carmina and Meermin are two different companies, with two different production lines, clearly providing different levels of quality.
+ + : The quality/price ratio, the sober lasts
- - : The leathers, the finishing work, only two physical stores (Madrid & Tokyo).
No need to introduce Loding again, founded fifteen yeas ago, with the concept of providing accessible luxury at a single price.
Now counting at 66 stores (franchised network) in France and in the world (Hong Kong, Barcelona, Lausanne, Warsaw), Loding has secured a good reputation amongst shoe enthusiasts (newcomers and veterans alike) who have a limited budget but still want to enjoy (relatively) well designed shoes of (rather) good overall quality.
Loding still offers its collection at 160 euros for all models, an excellent choice to take one's first steps into the highly addictive world of quality men's shoes. This brand provides a great and affordable way to "taste" the formality of an oxford or the nonchalance of a derby, or even the casual chic spirit of a loafer without having to spend a fortune.
Of course at this price the leather quality is not fantastic, even if Loding shoes are famous for their decent sturdiness, if regularly well-maintained.
The only downside would be the lasts, which tend to get longer and thiner as collections come and go, to the point of verging on bad taste, but this concerns only a few select models, fortunately.
This concern aside, the offer is as relevant as ever and Loding is a house that can be credited for its real consistency in terms of quality and selection.
+ + : The quality-price ratio, the wide selection, a large number of physical stores
- - : The "average" leather quality, some of the lasts are not as elegant as in the past, sporadic customer service depending on the store (the downside of a franchised network)
Markowski literally infiltrated the market in 2007 under the impulse of Marcos Fernandez Cabezas, the man behind the launch of Bowen, the revival of Doc Martens in France, the update of the Paraboot style and subsequently, the creation of Emling.
The tireless Marco Fernandez (who, by the way, created Septième Largeur two years later, and sold Markowski in 2012) created the house with a simple and seductive idea : offer quality shoes at « wholesale prices » (about twice as cheap as retail prices) by cutting the middleman and reducing as much structural costs as possible, and selling online only (but still including a store / office/ warehouse located in a popular Parisian neighbourhood).
This philosophy resulted in an offer, which at the time of its inception, was nothing short of remarkable (for the price range). This quite quickly seduced a large customer-base looking for classic shoes with contemporary lasts (i.e the « 169 » model in its one-cut / saddle form – a very successful model, and rightfully so), with simple and elegant designs, for a quasi-miraculous price tag.
Six years later, despite barely acceptable leather quality and uneven quality assurance, Markowski remains a very solid choice in terms of quality/price ratio... if prices would stop increasing, that is. A 60 euros increase in a time frame of six years on a pair of shoes initially sold for 135 euros is a 45 percent inflation (even if the cost of leather has been skyrocketing in the past few years.)
In 2012, Marcos Fernandez sold Markowski to dedicate himself to Septième Largeur, who was until then a Markowski superior sub-brand offering, providing more sophisticated models with contemporary patinas.
+ + : Still an excellent quality/price ratio
- - : Average at best leathers, fluctuating quality assurance, back order issues.
Loake is a British shoemaker installed since the late 1800s, in Kettering (close to Northampton), that produces classic shoes of honorable quality sold at a very honest price.
Nothing spectacular here, in that no efforts are poured into creating original or highly seductive shoes. The designs are as British as it gets, the leather quality is decent, and the Goodyear welts are well-made, especially on the upper « Loake 1880 premium » range, the only collection still made in England, which sells at around 190£ (235 euros)
The other models fluctuate between 110 and 150£, with beautiful classic collections (including the : « 201 » semi-brogueat the very convincing price of 110£).
Loake is a good alternative for the most conservative, and for those who only swear by English shoes (which is not necessarily a wrong choice, especially in terms of sturdiness).
+ + : Nothing spectacular, but a solid choice, very decently crafted.
- - : Average leather, very « heavy » looking lasts, no physical stores outside of England.
The second part of Marcos Fernandez's work, in favor of affordable, yet qualitative men's shoes. The Septième Largeur collection recently has became a house proper, with an online store and two physical shops in Paris. The shoes are of classical style, honorably built with nice lasts and rather seducing designs, and for a few models, you can request a patina for 75 euros more (added to the original price).
A very relevant offer that can give you that bit of soul and style that few houses are able to offer for under 250 euros.
+ + : The quality/ price / style ratio.
- - : A sometimes random leather quality.
With Carmina, we change divisions, with an ever-evolving house that might very well become one of tomorrow's biggest names.
Unanimously hailed for its undeniable knowhow, Carmina-Albaladejo (from Majorca, see above) has firmly establishing itself in a key segment of the market. With models hovering between 300-400 euros, the house has a lot going for itself : the decent leather quality, the beautiful lasts (with special mention of the Simpson and the Rain), the large choice of patterns, and above all, the very serious quality of construction.
As for the Cordovan Shell models (the house's speciality), sold at around 550 euros, these shoes deliver the quality you expect, my personal favorite being the outstanding ruby red Brogue with the Simpson last that can be admired here.
A very fine house, without any real competitors in the price range.
Viva Espana !
+ + : The superb value for money.
- - : Allegedly some sturdiness issues with the soles.
The presence of Justin Fitzpatrick (London's most British American) in this list is as much due to his exemplary life story, as it is to the maturity (and very honorable quality) of his very first collection which has been until recently only available at Gieves & Hawkes (1, Savile Row).
Former student of the late Stéfano Bemer (to whom the red and black saddle-oxford above is a direct tribute), young Justin is currently developing his brand with passion and dedication. Built in a small Spanish factory, his beautiful, Goodyear welted collection is based on three classic lasts, including a very « British » one designed by Tony Gaziano. All models are rather classical with some interesting twists.
Particularly notable is the one-cut loafer model « Laurelhurst » with its nice medallion.
And while we are at it, here is a small PG « scoop » : Justin Fitzpatrick will leave Gieves & Hawkes at the end of January, to settle down as early as February 2014 at the house of Timothy Everest (the Mayfair store and the Spitalfields workshop), where his shoes will be distributed. An on-line store is also a work-in-progress.
+ + : A lovely product, well made, offering interesting twists and original colors.
- - : The lasts, perhaps a bit too conservative, physical presence limited to one shop and no on-line stores as of the writing of this article, (though it is possible to order by mail).
Altan is a small Parisian house, renowned amongst Parisian shoe aficionados, whose work definitely deserves a broader audience.
Famed for its astounding elegant Adelaide Oxford featured above, as well as for its warm and welcoming little shops and its obliging founder, the friendly and fascinating Samy Gouasmia, Altan Paris is a house that is growing slowly but steadily. The ever-increasing number of satisfied customers come for the small but qualitative collection of well-built Goodyear welted shoes (made in Italy), which Altan offers in raw leather condition, ready for a patina.
Speaking of which, the house's patinas are usually nothing short of spectacular, which factors heavily into Altan's current notoriety. Very few houses offer such a level of service, of which Altan likes to say, « enhances the costumer experience ».
A fine house to consider should you ever find yourself in Paris, where Altan has three shops including one dedicated to made-to-order.
+ + : Very stylish, beautiful designs, great overall quality, passionate and accessible founder.
- - : No shops or distribution outside of Paris, messy website from another era.
A very respectable house from the Northeastern region of Alsace, France. Heschung is now well-known throughout the world for its impeccable construction and quality, its mastery of the Norwegian welt and for the incredible longevity of its products.
The house style is historically focused towards outdoor wear, which makes Heschung a more « casual » brand than the rest on the list (with their « urban » collection being quite new).
But Heschung harbors a true treasure in its midst : the perfect shoe for a weekend outdoors. An emblematic model that every country shoe lover should own one day --- the famous Gingko model, the ultimate « hunting boot » (in this price range).
Available in interesting bi-material combinations, the Gingko is stylish, comfortable, sturdy, and a great choice for any and all nature outings.
+ + : Magnificent norwegian welt, incredibly sturdy.
- - : Only one truely convincing model. That being said, you'd be hard pressed to find anything wrong with it.
Vass was founded in Budapest, Hungary, by the eponymous bootmaker. Slowly building up a very good reputation since a few years, mostly thanks to the English-speaking forum community, Vass has made a name for itself amongst shoe lovers around the world, amateurs and connoisseurs alike.
The reason for this enthusiasm is simple : the Hungarian house offers entirely handmade shoes for less than 500 euros.
The house models remain very classic, although how could we not mention the « U-shaped » model, developed by the brilliant Roberto Ugolini, that became one of the house's signature models, and which is rather unusually distinctive. The designs are overall elegant, and the leather quality is decent.
Of course, the finishing touches could be perfected, but this is only a slight fault that is to be expected from handmade shoes in this price range; yet, this point is ' nitpicking ' considering the final product's undeniable appeal.
The flip side, however, would be the house's questionable quality control, or even its somewhat random overall organization which is rather embarrassing for such an acclaimed house. In this regard, Vass is the textbook example of a brand whose praises have been loudly sung by the fora and, as a result, that has quickly faced logistical problems and delivery delays due to a fast increasing demand and higher level of expectations.
That being said, when Vass's shoes meet the said expectations – and they most certainly do the vast majority of the time – their irrefutable charm makes you understand what the fuss is all about.
+ + : The quality/price ratio, handmade appeal, and the very kind Mr. Kuti (sales director).
- - : Finishing touches, quality assurance, and logistical issues (despite a lot of good will).
A sound investment. That's what comes to mind when Crockett & jones is mentionned. Founded in 1879 in Northampton, its manufacture is the region's second biggest, right behind Church 's.
C&J shoes are well made shoes - classical in their lasts and shapes, elegant and discreet in their patterns. Lots of timeless models (the Chelsea, the Connaught, the Pembrook) that every shoe aficonado has owned, or will own one day.
Two price ranges are available. The « main line » is sold at around 400 euros, while then « hand grade » is at about 550 euros (many connoisseurs are skeptical as to the real added value of this line, do the few hand-made operations really justify the 150 euros you pay for them ? But that's another subject...)
A safe bet nonetheless.
+ + : The consistent, objective quality, the discreet lines and the wide choice.
- - : Perhaps a slight lack of personality, but that's of course an extremely subjective judgement.
Another manufacturer hailing from Northampton. Alfred Sargent has been producing traditional English shoes for four generations, though its name was largely unknown until a few years back, as the house was mostly producing for other brands.
Since a few years, and after going through a very difficult period, Alfred Sargent found its second wind thanks to the quality of production rising significantly (perhaps a benefit realized as a result of having Tony Gaziano's production line in-house for a few years) and major stylistic work on the house collection.
The end result is convincing: a collection of English-styled shoes with soul, like the above featured Toe Cap Oxford.
A very fine house that could prove itself a relevant alternative for lovers of English shoes who are looking for something slightly less understated than the usual.
+ + : English classics with that little extra something, easy to find with the Manfield / Bowen network in France.
- - : Confusing price offer, difficult to find (outside of Manfield).
Marc Guyot does things his way. This is true with shoes as well.
The reason why Guyot's shoes are not as renowned as they should be (especially outside of France) is because of Mr. Guyot's obsession with the Golden Age (1930s to 50s),which has lead to his unfortunate bittersweet tendency of being one step ahead of the others in terms of design, which at times has meant creating models well before they comes back into style. This happened with Balmoral boots, which Guyot had in stock way back when--way before their current full-blown revival.
The Blake stitched construction is correct and the leather quality honorable, but the main interest lies elsewhere – it is the outstanding design element (that could be straight out of a Lawrence Fellows illustration) that is Guyot's true selling point, as the above « 30's style oxford » well demonstrates.
As a positive point, Marc Guyot's shoes are not for everyone; but these shoes are certain to eventually catch the eye of the men's classical-shoe-aficionado.
+ + : The designs, brimming with personality and finesse.
- - : Imperfect durability, irregular stocks, with models often being available for a limited time only.
You may not fail to notice that Santoni is the only Italian house to appear in this selection, while almost paradoxically, Italy makes shoes for the entire world (though mostly for huge RTW brands) and is full to the brim with truly brilliant shoemakers (Ugolini, Bestetti, Meccariello). The problem herein lies with how difficult it is to actually assess their products – those small houses are often not so well-equipped to handle sudden demand and are at times lacking in organization ... but again, is another subject.
Santoni is an Italian shoemaker that crafts quality shoes, mostly Blake constructed with handmade finishing touches. The house is known for its very slender (and often spectacular) lines – though at times Santoni has gone somewhat too far, with models that are not exactly worthy of the house's name and reputation, in terms of design and quality of construction, and that's without mentionning the quality of the leathers.
Since a few years however, Santoni seems to have finally awakened from its « high-fashion » ambitions, and decided to set its collections straight. Exit the incoherent models and welcome back the subtle and more understated lasts (some new models are even sporting Goodyear welts). In the end, this is a welcome change as we see a return to highly elegant designs, cue to the above cape toe oxford.
Currently, the house is on the right track to once again become a very good choice for those who seek highly stylish shoes, although the quality of the leathers still remains a subject of debate.
Santoni shoes are to be picked and worn with discernment. But aside from its shortcomings, a beautiful pair of Santoni will always be a beautiful pair of Santoni.
+ + : Beyong a doubt very stylish ; full of the Italian spirit.
- - : The erratic leather quality, some « fashionable » models are of rather unreasonable taste.
Serious. Sturdy. Discreet. Elegant.
J.M. Weston is a name that resonates strongly with shoe lovers all over France and indeed the world – one of the few houses that draws lots of praises for little criticism (which is about as unusual as you'd imagine).
Without doubt, these praise are well-deserved, as it is undeniable that the company from Limoges has enough strong points on its side, not the least of which is possessing its very own leather factories ; one for the soles, the other for the uppers (the former "Tanneries du Puy en Velay").
The Weston collections are always organized around four or five iconic models (Chasse, Demi-Chasse, Ville, Demi-Ville, Golf et Mocassin 180) around which other collections came to life – including the extremely interesting « Graphic » collection – under the impulse of artistic director Michel Perry, whose reliably tasteful designs have led the house's vision since 2001.
At a time when the "Made in France" label is largely oversold everywhere, J.M. Weston discreetly exemplifies, without needing to say a word, the lofty french image of high quality luxury products.
Weston au Panthéon !
+ + : Quality beyond reproach, timeless classics
- - : Not exactly easy to come by (except perhaps for the 180 model, which I still don't understand the popularity of – no other shoe will shorten your feet more than this model!)
Dean Girling and Tony Gaziano are two British shoemakers and last makers who earned their stripes from experience with the very best (Green, Cleverley, Lobb and Foster and Son). In 2006 they created Gaziano & Girling, offering a high-end British classic collection using state of the art craftsmanship methods, but with a more contemporary flair. The shoe construction process may be strictly by the book, yet G & G designs provide a certain flair that is unique to the sector.
From their past days of being produced on a dedicated production line at Alfred Sargent's to their current status of owning of their very own factory in Kettering, Gaziano & Girling has quickly become the toast of English shoemaking for a new generation of shoe enthusiasts.
This enthusiasm is well deserved, mind you – and G&G has some serious arguments weighing in their favor. From the high level of sophistication of the designs, the amazingly elegant lasts, to the high-end technical details, this house doesn't disappoint. Ranging from their bespoke offer (from 3000£), to their MTO and ready-to-wear lines, the G&G products seem to be worthy of their quasi-spotless reputation.
With G&G's first dedicated shop on Savile Row now opening and new production lines up and running, Tony Gaziano has the potential to create quite a rumble in the shoe market with his considerable experience, creative designs, and indomitable spirit.
What else ?
+ + : Magnificent shoes, strong personality, impeccable construction
- - : Nothing really
This right and honorable Northampton house has reached a quasi-religious level of adoration from its steady and faithful community of followers, and represents, for many gentlemen, the quintessential British quality shoemaker.
After a difficult patch that followed the unfortunate death of owner & creative-mind, John Hlustik, and a few stylistic faux-pas that were fortunately abandoned as quickly as they arrived, Edward Green is back with full force under the impulse of Hilary Freeman, the wife of the late John Hlustik.
Eminently classic, the house epitomizes the concept of « discreet elegance » as only few houses can. What is more, the build and quality is beyond reproach, as are the finishing touches ; the leathers are gorgeous and as sturdy as it gets. And even if the patterns tend to be on the safe side, they are always tastefully designed.
Though classic in spirit, EG shoes are not boring by any stretch of the imagination. Some models are particularly exciting, cue to the « Malvern » spectator shoes, eminently stylish and osé, even more so in their bi-color version.
An essential house without which, the overall landscape of men's shoes would not be the same. A house that everyone should consider at some point.
+ + : Impeccable products, absolute classicism
- - : Nil
Saying that Aubercy is different from any other shoemaking house is an ultimate understatement.
The Aubercy family does things their way, especially concerning the family's passion (obsession?) of making of high-end men's shoes.
Founded in 1935 at number 34 Rue Vivienne in Paris (and no, they haven't moved), Aubercy produces incredibly elegant shoes that are technically beyond reproach. The shoes are made in a small family-owned workshop in Italy (as you'll learn, with Aubercy everything is a matter of family) in which they have their own production line, their own lasts, their own leathers and their own methods and habits.
The house is known for offering a wide range of constructions - Blake, Good-Year, Norwegian welt and hand sewn welts - and also for more experimental projects like this very interesting "Hybrid" construction which combines Good-Year at the front and Blake at the back of the shoe, for a sleeker and finer silhouette.
The end result is a great range of shoes, ranging from complex models of extreme classicism (as in above « James » model, a supremely elegant Cap Toe Oxford) along with daring models, some even sporting asymmetrical designs (which can even be a bit destabilizing, even for yours truly).
A surprising house, particularly endearing and addictive, with an emotional element. Once you experience the legendary Odette Aubercy, who aside from her uncompromising reputation, proves to be a kind, charming and clever woman – you may also be lucky enough to meet the entire family, Xavier of course, but also Philippe, the endearing father, who is still as excited as a young boy when you discuss shoes with him.
A truly unique, touching house, led by a family of passionate people, well deserving of a much broader audience than the one they currently enjoy.
+ + : Strong personality, pure Parisian chic, some models are very unique.
- - : Some models are a bit « too much », but that's a very subjective matter.
John Lobb is the house of superlatives. One of the only houses in the sector to be practically unanimously praised by amateurs and connoisseurs alike, which is quite the achievement, to say the least.
Created in 1866 in London and installed in Paris since 1903, the house was bought by the Hermès group in 1976. Launching its ready-to-wear line in 1982, they opened their manufacturing shop in... Northampton (surprised?) in 1994, where Lobb's beautiful collections are handcrafted. Numerous models are heavily inspired by the bespoke creations of the bespoke salon, Rue Mogador, which remains to this day arguably the most beautiful bespoke workshop in the world.
The collections are full to the brim with iconic models - like the double-buckled William and the Lopez loafer – as well as more contemporary creations so as to make the brand more accessible (stylistically speaking) to high-end shoes addicts all around the world.
Special mention goes to the sublime Philip II Oxford (see above) and the Saunton, which is probably, in my opinion, the most beautiful Oxford in existence.
The leathers are outstanding, amongst the very best in the market (thank you Hermès!) and the fabrication is beyond reproach.
Timeless elegance embodied. A summit of classical men's shoes.
+ + : Extremely stylish shoes, the best leathers in the sector, a real boot-making culture..
- - : Nil
Pierre Corthay is one of the heroes of the current high-end shoe renaissance.
Celebrated in the world by a customer base of passionate gentlemen, Corthay shoes are instantly recognizable by their lines, lasts and unique designs, which literally came tumbling out of the sky into the then very conservative world of men's shoes.
The Arca derby (see above) with its mind-blowing last and its immaculate pattern has become the emblematic model of the House and of a whole new generation of shoe enthusiasts.
After going through some difficult moments a few years back, the company is back on track again, thanks to the work of Xavier de Royère and his team – a strong second wind followed by an impressive growth that has seen the opening of physical shops all around the world (London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Tokyo).
Manufactured in a the house factory located in the outskirts of Paris (the quality assurance of which has dramatically improved in the past two years), the ready-to-wear models of Corthay are growing in popularity exponentially, for their uniqueness and their dramatic « dandy » feel.
The Formula One of men's shoes.
+ + : Shoes with strong personalities, flawless designs, and -finally !- a fantastic construction quality.
- - : We are all expecting more new models from Mr. Corthay !
Saint Crispin's is an Austrian house (originally a Bespoke house) from Vienna that crafts its shoes in a Romanian workshop they own, where 19 craftsmen work tirelessly to produce handmade shoes of the highest quality and technical value, the heights of which few houses can pretend to reach outside of traditional bespoke offering.
Even if this selection is ready-to-wear only (the MTO and the bespoke will be treated in another article), the Saint Crispin's models we have been lucky enough to see and try blew our expectations away. Handmade with beautiful leathers (not quite up to par with Lobb's, but still), with a fantastic build quality and impressive finishing touches that complement perfectly the beautiful selection of lasts and designs, which though relatively classic, are always tastefully interpreted.
The criteria that sets Saint Crispin's apart from the rest of this selection, is that every pair of shoes is produced as an individual unit as everything is hand-made and no series are produced. And guess what ? There are no price discrepancies between ready-to-wear and made-to-order. If you like a model, but you'd prefer it with a different kind of leather, or with another design altogether, or if you wish some details altered, the pair will still be made in 10 weeks at no additional cost.
A very unique and different approach that could be best described as « custom hand made shoes on modifiable preexisting lasts ».
A clever offer that is perfectly and meticulously executed. A house fully deserving our closet attention.
+ + : Incredibly qualitative offer, an experience close to bespoke.
- - : No price difference between MTO and RTW (and vice-versa), which is great but which also means that distributors often have limited stocks of off-the-peg shoes.
Berluti is, without a doubt, the high-end shoe brand around which constantly looms the most passionate of debates, diatribes and panegyrics, as sectarian and violent as it gets between the proponents and the opponents of the venerable Rue Marbeuf house.
And there is a simple factor to account for that : emotion.
Like it or not, Berluti shoes convey an emotional dimension that is absolutely unique. Anyone who has experienced the emotion of walking in a pair of Berlutis, will easily understand what I mean. This unparalleled feeling attained by wearing jewels such as Berluti, can take you to a place where you feel that you are at your very best.
The house became incarnated under the impulsion of uproarious Olga Berluti, who litteraly reinvented the men's shoes market in the 1980s with the introduction of lasts, designs and patinas never before seen. Berluti offers a wide range of shoes strikingly unique and refined in style.
One such model everyone should own once in a lifetime : the one-cut Alessandro.
Berluti shoes can be fragile (please don't sing in the rain with your Berlutis...) but of a breathtaking class nonetheless. All that remains to be said is secondary.
+ + : Unique, exceptional designs and patinas.
- - : Fragile. Shoes that one should wear with care and discernement.
This selection is as careful and meticulous as it gets, composed after five years of observing and writing about the market. We could have easily added a throng of probably ten additional houses--but did not, for a few good reasons :
- The offer might be still too young, or too hard to come by. This is the case, for instance, for Paul Bolten's offer, though very creative, it's anyone's gamble to successfully come by a pair.
- An excessive use of « tradition-washing », as Wildsmith is wont to do – though a very respectable British shoemaker, its claim of having invented the loafer is a bit preposterous, especially considering that the house has just been bought by people who have nothing to do with the founding family. This is a shame nonetheless, because their shoes are undisputedly well-crafted (at Sargent's).
- The house doesn't fit into what we at PG consider as within the boundaries of our (very loose) definition of men's style. This is the case for Allen Edmonds (great shoes, but extremely heavy designs), or for Alden (tanker boots aside) ...
- The products, as magnificent as they can get, are almost impossible to come by in Europe or in the USA. This is the case for most Japanese houses, like Perfetto (and its mind-blowing Balmoral boots), Otsuka or Spigola.
And then, there's the Italian case. A country that literally generates the most celebrated geniuses of shoemaking (Ugolini, Bestetti, Meccariello), but whose companies seem incapable of reaching an international audience for various reasons, including an often disastrous organization and family issues like, for example, Bontoni, a beautiful house but only available in the US because the family refuses to distribute the off-the-rack lines in Europe.
This result of eliminating certain houses from the list is heartbreaking, really. Case in point, Riccardo Freccia Bestetti, probably one of the world's most talented shoemaker in the world, whose announcement of a RTW collection is two years overdue, considering that only a few models are available on the market ... in Korea only !
It is our hope that this brief overview will help you in finding a shoe that fits ...