Sunday, April 6, 2014

Enzo Bonafe Burgundy Beauty: An Early Impression.

Who has a mustard seat cushion?  Me.
       I recently purchased a pair of Enzo Bonafe's Burgundy Beauty cap toe Oxfords from Skoaktiebolaget in Stockholm Sweden. skoaktiebolaget.  This was on my personal dime as the 2 people who might read this review, not counting my wife, are hardly leverage to get free shoes to review. Use that to assure you of my impartiality.  Plus, I have no problem sending a crap shoe sailing back to Sweden if need be.  Rest assured, I am on no one's pad here.

       According to Skoaktiebolaget's website these are a custom shoe made especially for them.  I am not sure if that means that the design itself was a collaboration between Skoaktiebolaget and Enzo Bonafe or if perhaps the "custom"  side of the equation was this imprint on the insole of the shoe.

Custom.  Yep.  Why is it in English?

      The shoes were ordered through Skoaktiebolaget's website with the ease that the internet has brought to buying a pair of shoes from Sweden, or anywhere else for that matter.  Being a bit older I still always find this to be a bit exciting. What will they think of next?  The website easily converted currencies and the ordering and shipping process were simple and painless.  Shipping was as quick as can be expected for a pair of shoes to travel across the Atlantic Ocean and two thirds of the USA. 

       I do like the idea that I could afford to spend 5,200 Swedish Kroners.  Sure, the USD conversion is a fraction of that but what I expect to do when someone is gauche enough to ask what my shoes cost I will say "5200," followed by quietly mumbling "Kroners."  It would look like- "5,200 Kroners."

         Currency conversion excess aside, the price of the shoe is completely reasonable for the amount of handwork involved in the shoe's construction.  Allegedly welted by hand, a process that is conducted by a machine in many other far more expensive RTW brands.  A check of Youtube clips shows a serious looking middle aged man cranking away with an awl and thread that looks strong enough to hold hay bales together. (Hard at it!) Clever marketers would expand this to include some sort of emotional music over it and occasional slips into black and white to demonstrate that this guy has been doing this since before color existed.  Kick in the Ye Olde Heritage Brand font for the captions and shit suddenly gets real.

Side view.  You knew that though.

      Construction quality, heritage aside, is quite good.  The leather, calf in this case, seems to be of excellent quality and has been lasted very well.  No wrinkles in the area where the upper meets the welt, brogueing is sharp and even.  The stitching shows no areas of uneven sewing or some sort of jerky application due to haste or an employee's dismay at their lot in life.  Having had a couple pairs of shoes that exhibited proportion issues between left and right, I can say that these remain consistent across the left and right shoes.  The sides and bottom of the sole have been carefully smoothed and dyed with an even coat of black.  There is no unevenness in the stacked leather that makes up the heel, which is capped with a slanted piece of rubber that covers about half of the surface. This keeps you from surfing leather when you step into a tiled bathroom.  Having once ended up under a sink in the john of a bar due to all-leather heels, I can appreciate this feature.

5,200 Kroners buys you the piece of mind that you wont end up under a sink, like me.
       One of the main features that I enjoy about the shoe is the fiddle-back sole.  This usually is accompanied by an extremely tight waist, a la Gaziano & Girling, but in the case of the Bonafe it is a much more subtle proposition.  In my search for this shoe I tried a variety of similar styles and found the extremely narrow waist to be a bit uncomfortable and also a bit faddish.  Combine that with a lengthy chisel toe that lacks only a bit of upward arc to look at home at a rodeo in Sinaloa and I am moving on.  Not that I cant appreciate the style, but that is for young men to combine with the extremely short and tight suit tailoring that is common in the iGent world.  Your results/opinions may vary.  The chisel feature of the Bonafe's toe area is much more mild, and when its my dollars getting sent to Sweden, thats a good thing.


Toe caps.  I like the wheeling on the topside of the sole.
      The burgundy color of the leather was another feature of the shoe that I found to be quite attractive. Having not found a pill that will suppress my disapprobation for shell cordovan like some sort of aid in the cessation of smoking, the field of choices in the hue is narrowed.  The other pitfall is the rendering of color through digital photography and a computers monitor.  Photos give some idea of what the shoes appear to look like but really fall short of displaying the depth and shade of the color.  I enjoy it immensely.  It is not a clownishly bright red, nor is it so dark to appear almost black in any light other than Palm Springs grade sunlight.  The key feature in the color for me was that it was just that little bit more red that more pedestrian quality shoes and the dye showed that a careful process of how to make a shoe appeal to me had been executed.  Color is always subjective, but my process of elimination included samples from the following brands- Gaziano & Girling, St. Crispin, John Lobb (RTW) and Edward Green.

       Also included was a slight amount of black burnishing on the toes that mostly has been rubbed away by my rather aggressive polishing.  Not a big deal to me as I wanted burgundy shoes.  As for the shine, the shoes came polished to a fairly high standard.  Usually I expect a lag, sometimes quite long, between purchase of shoes and reaching an acceptable level of shine.  These were actually quite good.  Certainly  to be improved on over time.  I would consider them to currently be a 6 on a scale of 10 being the best. I see no reason other than my allotment of time to bring them to an overall bright appearance.

The other side.  

       As for fit, the shoes are constructed in the UK standard of sizing.  A consultation of sizing conversion charts led me to a choice that I find acceptable.  The heel counter is snug yet not constrictive   of the rear of my feet.  There is no excessive tightness across instep and the laces close the facing to a nice even line.  I have worn the shoes for several hours on a few occasions, the majority of the time spent on my feet with no unusual foot agony as a result of construction deficiency.  Discussion of fit in a RTW shoe is hazardous at best, since the only way for the truest fit is bespoke.  Everyones feet are different, but in my isolated case the shoes fit acceptably well.  Have other standard lasts had a better fit?  Yes.  Is it a crippling defect in this shoe?  Not at all.  I am fully aware that they are within the acceptable range of fit that will improve with wear as my foot molds the shoe.

Out back.
     The shoes arrived in an unassuming box that included some fairly nice shoe bags.  Shoe trees were not included in the purchase price.  Skoaktiebolaget brand trees were purchased concurrent to the shoes and have proven to be an excellent fit.  They are the trees in the shoes in the photos.  The shoes are currently sold out on Skoaktiebolaget's website but a check today shows that they have been re-ordred and will be back in stock at a later date.  

       While I cant say that these shoes will fit you perfectly and make your hair grow back like some sort of miracle tonic, what I can say is that my impression of them is quite good.  The hand welting is probably the biggest sales asset in a world of 1200 dollar shoes that have one done by a machine.  The color, for me, is fantastic and the standard last for this shoe allows me to walk upright for extended periods of time.  The exclusivity factor, while not on par with bespoke, is appealing in that you wont see your shoes coming and going every time you go out.  Another plus, for me, was the fiddle back without the corseting look of the narrowest of waists.  I like them.  If you get a pair, I hope you like them.  

One for the road.  Thanks for making it this far.

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