It has been a while since we reviewed Herring Shoes, but in the coming weeks, we will write about a number of interesting shoe companies.
We want to restart our shoe review series with Franz Baron – a shoe company which many of you have probably never heard of before.
Franz Baron History
Originally, Franz Baron was a shoemaker who opened his bespoke shoe shop in 1869 in Vienna. Since he apprenticed in Paris and London, his shoes were a unique style blend between Austro-Hungarian design and the more delicate French and English silhouettes.
Today, Franz Baron is headed by cosmopolitan Czech native Petr Bystron, who stumbled upon the craftsman a number of years ago and decided to revive the brand Franz Baron.
At the moment, the new reincarnation of the business focuses on Goodyear Welted Ready-to-Wear shoes, but currently they are also working on a shoe line that is completely made by hand. Based in Munich, Germany, Franz Baron is more readily available in Europe, but you can also order shoes through their website from anywhere in the world. However, since fitting shoes can be very tricky, Mr. Bystron prefers to collaborate with bespoke tailors in various cities so that his customers can try the shoes on before making a purchase.
Franz Baron Shoe Extravaganza
When Mr. Bystron offered me to provide me with a pair of shoes for review, he insisted that I come and pick them up personally. Last year in November, I stopped by in Munich, were I was warmly welcomed at the Franz Baron office. Although it was his daughter’s birthday, Mr. Bystron showed me his shoe collection and had me try on a number of shoes.
Eventually, we settled on the Extravaganza shoe from their Fashion line. Now, some of you may expect a very unusual shoe, but Franz Baron shoes are very classic in general. While his Classic Line offers timeless shoe staples, the 1869 collection includes a few spectators and special double monk shoes, and the Fashion Line features slightly more contemporary lasts.
The model reminds me of an oxford wholecut shoe with a cap medallion, although it is not made out of one piece of leather.
Leather & Workmanship
The fine calf leather feels very sturdy and not too soft. It comes in a rich mocha brown leather, which is aniline dyed with just a little bit of pigment to ensure the leather will last for a long time. Overall, the leather seems to be a bit thicker and less prone to creases than the one used for my Herring shoes. The shoe is also fully leather lined in the same color, with a slightly softer leather. For stability, Franz Baron uses sturdy heel an front caps, and overall the shoe feels very solid. Mr. Bystron told me that he has always been interested in providing quality shoes that last for long time.
Initially, he tested many Italian shoes, but despite their good looks, after just a year or two they had deteriorated considerably. In my opinion, the workmanship of the shoe is very similar to the Herring premier collection. The goodyear welt stitching is visible on the sole, the welt itself is not cut out of one piece, the upper stitching is all very neat, and the medallion is centered. The Franz Baron shoe has slightly thicker soles and the heels have the right height, meaning that the ball of my foot touches the floor when the heel stands flat – unlike my Herring Shoes. It seems that the leather heel was not build up one layer at the time, but this is something I only expect from a bespoke shoe.
Overall the shoe seems to be very well made but I would also expect that from a shoe that retails for 420 EUR ($550).
Last & Fit
In the beginning the shoes felt a little stiff and I had to break them in. After this initial period, the shoes were much more comfortable. With regards to size, Franz Baron shoes run rather large. Usually, I wear a size 10 to 10.5 UK but this one is only size 9.5UK . The last is elegant and a little shorter and less round than the Herring monk strap shoe, without having a chisel toe. The fit is pretty good and I do like the heel, which seems to be slightly narrower than the average. Side by side, the Franz Baron has a better fit than the Herring shoe for my foot – but every foot is different and I could try on a number of shoes at Franz Baron, whereas the Herring shoes were mailed to me. Overall, the Franz Baron Extravaganza is a very classic shoe.
The shoe came in a simple Franz Baron shoe carton box, with a navy shoe bag and Franz Baron shoe trees. While theses trees are nothing special, I still think it is a great way to present shoes, because they will last so much longer if you diligently use the trees between wearings.
Altogether, Franz Baron offers a very good shoe at a reasonable price for the quality. Although they offer an online shop, they pride themselves on fit and hence offer a number of locations in Europe where the shoes can be tried on. Each pair purchased at full price comes with a lifetime warranty on the workmanship and materials, in addition to free shipping and a pair of shoe trees. A repair service is also available. The higher price seems justified, given the add-ons, even though the quality of the shoe itself is just a notch above the less expensive Herring shoes.
You can reach them at www.franzbaron.com