Laszlo Vass is probably a familiar name for anyone interested of men's quality footwear. If you ask from anyone who has ever been in touch with the menswear-scene, you will most likely get the same answer. Vass is widely recognized as maker of one of the best shoes available on the market. Mr. Vass himself is also known as the co-author of his exceptional book "Handmade shoes for men".
It had for quite a while been on my list. But finally earlier in the summer I got in hand my first ever pair of Laszlo Vass shoes. After quite long consideration I made up my mind. Instead of going for some of the most iconic Vass models such as Budapester derby or some classic choice such as cap-toe oxford I ended up ordering a pair of Laszlo Vass plain toe double monks in antique cognac color.
Laszlo Vass in a nutshell
Hungarian Laszlo Vass was born in Budapest in 1946. As a teenager he decided to head to vocational school for four years to study and learn shoe making. After that Vass continued his studies at the Hungarian Fashion Institute for five years. After nine years of studies at the age of 23 Vass completed a master's degree in shoe making. To get the degree Vass needed by hand make a pair of budapest-shaped shoes. That happened under supervision of the old masters.
After completing his studies Vass worked for a Hungarian tailoring house until 1978. At that point, almost 40 years ago Vass decided to set up his own workshop and so the story of his enterprise, Vass shoes began. In the first place - almost for ten years the business focused manufacturing women's shoes. Then Mr. Vass decided to return to his roots and started to work again with men's footwear.
So as said by themselves, they are representatives of generation of shoemakers adventurous enough to return to the roots of their craft. Laszlo Vass has revived a rich old tradition which has added impetus to the art of shoemaking in a new age. The primary aspiration of Laszlo Vass Shoes is to make ready-to-wear or bespoke handcrafted shoes in a variety of styles that are both comfortable and elegant, but also sturdy and long-lasting.
Today Laszlo Vass shoes - as mentioned are recognized as one of the best alternatives on the market. At the moment Vass has two retail stores in Budapest and their shoes are sold all over the world in various high-quality menswear and footwear stores. One of best features if one can say so is the price-quality-ratio of the pairs made by the company. Prices start from 400 euros for the ready-to-wear models and if you can't find the particular combination of leather, color and last you are looking for on their website, you can order the wanted combination through their mto-programme.
Making of Vass shoes
Unlike many other manufacturers who use the term "handmade" even though there would be many steps made by machines - Vass shoes are in fact mostly made by hand. Only thing machines are used for is to join the upper and lining leathers. According to Vass the same kind of tools are used in the workshop today than were already used by shoemakers centuries ago. With these tools they perform hundreds of meticulous operations, with great attention.
All the shoes are 100% hand-sewn in the Vass factory in Budapest. There are approximately 20 shoemakers working at the moment. For example clicking, welting, sewing and even strucking the brogue holes to the shoes are all made by the hands of those Hungarian artisans.
Leathers for Laszlo Vass shoes are acquired from the best tanneries of world. The box calf from France, the original Cordovan from Chicago, and all the special type of leathers (suede, shark, ostrich, caiman) from Italy. The vegetable tanned leather for the soles come from Jon Rendenbach jr. in Germany.
Vass shoes - different lasts
Vass shoes is mostly known for their Austro-Hungarian classic designs like the Budapester (wingtip model) or so-called Alt Wien (punched cap toe model). For many these might seem quite clunky or bulky especially if one is used to classic Italian or British designs. Even though I admit that I am not really fond of those Budapester shoes myself, it is still a fact that the rounder shape and higher toe of the above-mentioned models are a perfect match for that more robust construction and goyser welt construction.
If you want to know more about the different lasts and models of Laszlo Vass shoes I highly recommend to take a look of this introduction of Vass Shoes. There is basically said all the information you need to know.
Luckily for us - friends and fans of more sleek and aggressive lasts Vass a few years ago partnered with Italian shoemaker and designer Roberto Ugolini. Together they wanted to design a series of "Italian" lasts that marry hand-welted construction with refined shapes based on the existing Vass models and last types. According to Vass the foundation for this cooperation was provided by an order they received from the Iseatan company in Tokyo. Isetan intended to expand its shoe collection with a high-quality product that would combine the shoe craftsman tradition with a dynamic Italian design. To honor this cooperation Vass named those new 'Japanese' lasts with the letter 'U" as Ugolini for more square toe shoes and "F" as Firenze for round toe shoes.
My choice - U-last double monks
Before making the order in the summer I had no personal experience of Laszlo Vass shoes. I had seen my friends wearing them and got some sneak peeks during trunk shows and visit at retailers who sell them. In terms of lasts I was sure from the beginning that it is the U- or F-last that I would go for. After browsing through the pictures of different models at Vass website, at other retailers websites and blogs I finally made up my mind. I ended up choosing the model number 5125 - plain toe double monks featuring diagonal straps. For material and color I wanted something that would look good already when opening the box but also something that would create a nice patina over the years. So I chose calf leather in antique cognac color.
From the order the delivery took about two months. The model in this particular color was something Vass did not have in stock but which they were able to produce as custom order. Well, as you know - good things are worth the wait.
In terms of sizing - as said I did not have any experience of Vass shoes before. During e-mail conversations with the sales manager of Vass, Mr Kuti (who indeed was very kind from the first message I sent him to and asked them to visit Finland for a trunk show and which hopefully will take place at some point in the future) I told him the sizes I wear for most of my shoes from different makers. Based on that he advised me to go for my usual euro size and so I did. Even though I know there are information on some forums for example that with the U-last one should size up. I usually wear size UK 6,5 which basically means EU40 and that was the size I ordered. After a couple of months of use I can say that the suggestion in terms of sizing was definitely on point. My advice would be that if you are considering the size - go for your normal size. This keeping in mind the fact that my feet are quite narrow and for example the Simpson last by Carmina fits my feet pretty much perfectly in size 6,5UK.
But why to choose a pair of double monks. Why not go for some formal cap-toe oxfords or those classic Budapester shoes. Well first of all I don't like the latter. Secondly, I already have in my rotation "enough" pairs of dress shoes (although right now I am actually considering to buy some new ones). And I was still missing a pair of this kind of plain toe double monks.
Thanks to the last which comes with a square toe but is not too aggressive, the diagonal straps and the overall aesthetics - the shoe is in fact quite versatile. First of all it is easily combined with a suit to wear at work even for more business-oriented occasions. Secondly, I can without a doubt pair it with some jeans and sport coat. Simple, multi-functional and restrained but still elegant. Pretty much the exact things I personally prefer and value when making new purchases.
And if you are looking a new pair of Laszlo Vass shoes all the possible models are shown at the company's own website. In addition to that American No Man Walks Alone has a fine selection that is definitely worth taking a look. I have now got my first pair but if I had to guess there will some additions to my rotations from Hungary in the future.