9 Jul 2015

Vass - handmade shoes from Hungary

My adventures with classical gentleman’s attire, searching for inspiration, craftsmanship, history, art etc. bring me many places; I follow fellow enthusiasts at Tumblr, Twitter  and Instagram like Sartorialdoctrine, Swedishprep, and Ironistsf and well-known Gentleman’s outfitters like Savvy Row, Malford of London, and Skoaktiebolaget.

Looking for shoes names like the British Northhampton-based Gaziano&Girling and Edward Green naturally dominates the social media updates, but also Eastern European craftsmen like Romanian Saint Crispin and Hungarian László Vass are well represented with beautiful shoes worn by shoe enthusiasts and snobs all over – in Florence, Sweden and the like..  

I find Vass’ U and S lasts very appealing; and as a very opposite the traditional Budapester with its high toecap and wide forefoot is not my cup of tea. So I am glad that Vass at some point back in time took more inspiration from Italian design.

I acquired a pair of captoe oxford brogues ("Old English" style in Vass terms) on the U-last with a single oak-bark tanned leather sole. Colour is "antic cognac".
The fit is snug and much appreciated also a tight fit to the heals. True UK size (I am a UK size 8½)
I am very positively surprised about the quality, the craftmanship in the details, and the design. I cannot vouch for performance over time, but first hand impression is definitely good! 

I took a chance buying only with reference from Instagram, web-fora etc. but it was a one-time opportunity: Malford of London - who usually does not do much in shoes - had this one pair and in my size! and not even just at their usual low prices, but with an additional 50% discount on top!

A beautiful pair of oxford brogues 

Antique Cognac 

Oak-bark tanned leather soles from Johann Rendenbach

A tight fit to the heals

Beautiful brougeing 

The toes are succesfully balanced between round and square

László Vass started his business in 1978: Based in Budapest he pursues the vision of bringing well-crafted shoes made for comfort, durability and beauty (in that order I believe). I am given to understand that much attention is paid to achieve the best craftsmanship and that involves using a lot of manual work in numerous processes with focus on details. I also read an interview with Mr. Vass where he states that there are no machines at the workshop – all stitching, cutting etc. is done by hand.

To support the vision of comfort and durability Vass uses traditional oak-bark tanned leather soles. The leather soles are from the German tanners Rendenbach - four generations of tanners since Johann Rendenbach (hence “JR” impressed in the soles) founded the company in 1871. The oak-bark tanning is done by a traditional ground-tanning.

The Vass shoes are priced fair taken quality, durability and competitor pricing into consideration – and are available ready to wear from £420 in their Budapest store (or e.g. at Ebay-based Ascot shoes), made-to-order, or bespoke. Vass has a service of replacing the shoes if the online order turns out to be in the wrong size - only downside is that it implies another 5 weeks of waiting. 
A full refurb at Vass’ would approximately be £100.

Notice that burnishing is not something that Vass offers, so you will have to put in an effort with different layers of shoe vax, cotton balls and a splash of water - as inspiration a link to one of the best in that business https://instagram.com/erikged/

Craftmanship in details, but at the same time visible that it is hand-made
Standard Vass shoe trees

I am not sure how updated the guide is but here is a Swedish buying guide to Vass: http://www.shoegazing.se/2012/10/05/kopguide-vass-shoes/

Vass LastFitting Description
USimilar fitting to the F last, with a slightly narrow toe box. Has a lower instep and toe cap is elongated and chiselled. 
FThe elegant F last is popular choice for it's comfortable fit around the width and toes for clients with normal width. Features a high instep.
KOne of the newest lasts in the Vass workshop. This last is elongated and has a slightly stilted cap and higher instep. Similar to the U last
SOur latest and most elegantly elongated last. Similar to the U but with a longer and more slanted toe. 
Below lasts are wider & comfortable fitting around toes.
PeterThe default last for our Norweger and Slipper models. It is a beautifully formed last with a comfortable instep height and width.
P2Quintessentially English, thus, classical and comfortable. Thanks to its elegant lines and perfect proportions the P2 is one of our most popular lasts and recommended for use with our Derby and Oxford models.
Another English type last with a shorter round and flat cap and comfortable instep. This last is best suited to the Oxford type models.
BudapesterThe Vass trademark "Budapest” last with its high toe-cap provides exceptional comfort for the toes, and is suitable for models produced with both welted and reverse-welted technology. 
3636With its extra width the 3636 provides exceptional comfort. A round cap last that we recommend for our derby models.

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