A New High-end Shoe Brand
Welcome to my Review of Passus Shoes Budapest.
Yet another exciting, new Shoemaking Brand that this time aims for the high-end segment and has impressive specifications. Reviews are still scarce so I am proud to be able to bring you this type of content first!
In today’s article I will Review the Passus “Tom” Derby in Black Hatchgrain. It goes without saying that we will discuss history, quality, fit and value among other things.
Keep reading because it is worth your time I promise.
Passus: Latin For Footstep
The history of Passus Shoes is a little more complicated than I will mention today. There are some recent changes which I will not share with you in-depth.
Our story begins with Vass Budapest, another legendary shoe brand created by Laszlo Vass. It’s a company that still offers incredible value for purely handmade shoes even today.
Vass’s problem had always been online presence, marketing and customer service. Rezso Kuti, Legendary Sales Manager at Vass worked hard to change all this with his experience and passion.
Eventually though, he left to pursue other projects such as in Heinrich Dinkelacker. In the end though, he had a vision to create his own project and make something truly high-end and magnificent.
And this is how he co-founded Passus Shoes alongside the Hungarian owner (Gabor Halmos) of Sartoriale New York in 2019.
As you might notice from the sub-heading, they named their company after a Latin word. Passus then really means “Footstep” and aims to pay homage to the shoemaking of old and every step you take (literally and metaphorically) in life.
It also seems to be a good blend of classic Austro-Hungarian influence marinated with a bit more modern elements.
In order to remain discreet, yet truthful I have to mention that Rezso is no longer working at Passus so it will be interesting to see the direction they take.
(Truly) Handmade Shoes
Before moving forward with the Review it’s always important to discuss the “Handmade” debate.
These days very few shoes are actually handmade. If you include hand-sewing the uppers (which makes no sense) then probably no shoe is handmade anymore outside true bespoke.
In my book, a Handmade shoe in 2021 has to have the following features:
- Handwelted & Hand-Lasted Uppers
- Handsewn Soles
The sole is yet another controversial debate and to be fair it doesn’t play much of a role for me personally. However the reason I am discussing this again is because Passus Shoes are really handmade.
Sporting a Handsewn sole, Hand-Lasted uppers and very interestingly a half Handwelted front with high density wood pegging at the waist.
In many ways Passus Shoes have the same build such as Saint Crispin’s but for a much better price.
In fact just like Saint Crispin’s, Passus also has their workshop in Transylvania with a small curated selection of RTW (Ready to Wear) and MTO (Made to Order) offerings.
Whether that is true will be the outcome of today’s Review!
Passus Shoes Review | Specifications
As I mentioned in the previous section, Passus currently has a more limited selection when it comes to style.
You have chukkas, lace up boots, loafers and variations of derbies and oxfords. I can see a lot of influence from various Vass models yet I am excited to see what they come up with.
Let’s begin by meeting today’s model which is called “Tom”:
- Brand: Passus Shoes
- Model: Tom
- Style: V-Front Derby
- Color: Black
- Leather: Hatch Grain Russian Calf
- Tannery: Horween
- Last: 2000
- Construction: Handwelted with Wood Pegged Waist
- Sole: J. Rendenbach Oak Barked Tanned Leather
- Eyelets: 2
- Lining: Natural
- Origin: Transylvania, Romania
- Size: UK 8 (US 9D/EU 42)
- Price: ~$900/€750 Non-EU (€953 EU Price)
Great specifications for a very competitive price considering the competition. Passus competes directly with any shoes between $900 and $1500 with superior specifications than many of them.
I look forward to inspecting them!
Disclaimer About This Pair
Just like in my Saint Crispin’s Review, I received this pair from a reader of the blog.
I can only thank him enough for this opportunity since these shoes arrived to me directly from the factory. Which means they are brand new and unworn.
This further reinforces my desire to make a great review but is also yet another fantastic chance to be unbiased about them. I have no affiliation with him, Passus, nor I retail these shoes at The Noble Shoe.
Lastly, I should mention that this particular model was Made to Order and comes with shoe trees.
Ordering & Website
While I cannot speak for the actual ordering, it’s very easy to talk about the experience on the Passus Website.
It is very minimalist and very straight to the point. Surely it is a work in progress but I actually welcome the simplicity behind it.
The customer journey is rather easy and judging by the checkout page it’s a custom Shopify theme.
Some criticism or suggested improvements include a bit more work on the history section and a bit more work into the product descriptions or information.
Lastly, a very interesting realization is how “dumb” or inattentive people can be. I would definitely find a way to have a visible menu rather than a sandwich option.
You would be surprised how often they miss things! Being able to filter models and lasts would also be great.
Their delivery was with FedEx and the package arrived in 1 day in Sweden which was very impressive.
Passus Shoes Review | Unboxing
The excitement that one gets just before opening a new arrival is intoxicating.
Passus Shoes arrive with some nice, snug packing. Their box is black and plain without any sign of branding apart from the classic sticker at the side.
However the box itself is terrific and very sturdy with a smooth black finish. Inside the experience is slightly lacking compared to some manufacturers but nobody would complain.
In a very bold move the shoe bags are actually turquoise! Possible a very smart stylistic choice as it’s certainly very memorable.
However I must say that the bags feel thinner and seem to have a smooth cotton texture. Nothing wrong with that just be aware that they might not protect your shoes as good as say Saint Crispin’s bags.
Lastly, other than the tissue paper you only get a small piece of rectangular pamphlet that functions as warranty and certificate of excellence.
It’s a very bold move to offer 2 years of warranty in this industry and a risky show of confidence. Some people can chew through shoes in months or a year or might try to benefit from such a thing.
I do appreciate it and it seems they really believe in their product.
The Tom Derby | Initial Impressions
Other than the traditional Cap-Toe Derby I am not a huge fan of Derbies in general.
However there are exceptions such as the amazing Carlos Santos V-Front Derby and the Crockett & Jones Highbury. I mention them because they appeal to me and look smart yet stylish but also look aesthetically similar to the Tom by Passus.
To begin with, the Tom is a 2 Eyelet Derby wit what seems to resemble a “V” side stitching. It has a leather sole and is welted on the 2000 last which seems to have a sharp almond look.
When I first looked at it I had mixed feelings.
Initially I thought that it looks very sharp with excellent curves but at the same time, I could spot a couple of things that I was not so fond of.
Of course I will discuss everything in detail in its respective section but the one thing I noticed was the natural light brown lining. I mention it because in a Derby shoe the lacing system is open so it’s much easier to spot the lining when it has a contrasting color.
I would personally dye it black at least along the edges as I feel it blends better. Then again someone else might love it right?
Lastly, the sole looked to be very high end yet the shoe trees are nothing special.
That concludes my initial impressions of the Passus Tom Derby. Now it’s time to discuss every part of the shoe!
Passus Shoes Review | Quality & Construction
In this section I will divide everything into subcategories and different components while focusing on Quality & Construction.
One can certainly debate what goes where but I have enough experience now to back up most of my arguments.
Leather Quality | Horween Hatch Grain
During my Saint Crispin’s Review one of my gripes was the uneven finishing of the color and the delicacy of the leather itself.
The Passus Shoes seem to have a nicer finish across the board in every single area. Their leather comes from the famous Chicago Horween Tannery so it comes with a great reputation.
A little thicker yet supple enough nonetheless which I prefer over the Saint Crispin’s version I tested.
Once more the tiny grid of the Hatch Grain finish fades in certain areas such as the toe but also at the bottom of the facing. At the tip of the “V” and certain other areas alongside the seam the grain fades unevenly.
Nobody will notice of course under regular use. What is difficult to show in pictures though is how the Hatch Grain appears to have a tiny “spider-web” motif in certain areas. It could be my imagination or maybe just a detail of the leather.
If I get more feedback on this I will make sure to correct it. Other than that on a shoe that costs this much and uses one of the best Tanneries in the world I would expect it to be good.
Time will tell!
Construction & Feel
Learning more about shoes comes naturally by handling many of them.
Holding a shoe can give you a nice idea of what goes in it and for me it comes from the feel and the weight it carries.
The Passus is certainly not the lightest but it feels substantial, robust yet well-balanced at the same time.
It seems not as structured at the side of the vamp and much more pliable and flexible. The heel cup though has a proper shape that looks like can hug your heel well with a strong reinforcement.
Lastly, the sole is superb but looks incredibly slippery. Most of the weight of the shoe seems to go towards the middle and the waist.
Other than that there is not much to say and you won’t be able to discuss more unless you see the actual process.
Which by the way you can see in their affiliate thread on Styleforum. Overall, the Passus looks like a substantial, very solid shoe.
It also looks great from afar!
To be fair I already said what I thought but after spending more time with the Tom I wanted to write more.
I personally think the design is spot on and that the Black Hatch Grain is a great fit. I also like that they chose 2 eyelets instead of 3 as the proportions look great.
The 2000 Last looks superior on this model for me than the 1000 counterpart. It just looks sharper and more modern.
Other than the lining color showing up however I can’t figure out what bothers me with the “V” shaped front. Maybe I would like it to have a sharper pointier edge or go a little further forward?
Doesn’t matter, I think it actually looks great and is a nice everyday shoe for most occasions.
Might as well add that I like how there’s no backseam since it has such a clean look. The heel cup is so tight and well-trimmed it’s on another level. Possibly the cleanest I have seen so far.
Inner Lining & Lacing
There is not a single bad thing I can say about the inner lining. It’s superb.
Looks and feels very high quality with a full insole perfectly trimmed and interesting contrast white stitching on the walls.
On the side you can see some handwriting that reveals the size, order number and the production date of your shoe.
The heel area is very smooth and not sueded and yet another thing that fascinates me is the tongue. Underneath the tong there is proper lining however there’s space around the edges.
No idea if this has any functional use but it’s just interesting to observe.
Additionally, the trimming on the top of the shoe connecting the uppers and the lining is perfect. Right on the top of the tongue is a little uneven and slightly sloppy but none of that matters. I am trying to nitpick.
The only negative I can find about this area is the shoe laces. They are way too long, thin and lack width. It’s just doesn’t feel as good as some others but then again I have bigger hands.
Personally I would put some slightly wider flat laces instead.
Stitching Quality | Excellent
Continuing their very good performance so far, Passus deliver more excellence in the stitching area.
There’s not much stitching on the uppers but everything is high density and with good clicking.
If someone looks at the welt they won’t see such a high density SPI (Stitches Per Inch). But quoting Jesper from Shoegazing they use stitch prick marking rather than a fudge wheel.
The latter can make the stitching appear tighter but each whole and marking here has a purpose.
Look at the welt closely and you can see each individual stitch with detail and admire their consistency.
Sole Quality | (Almost) Excellent
Passus Shoes has a real gem with their soles. It’s absolutely magnificent and can put a lot of higher end brands to shame.
It looks and feels impeccably built with a nice fiddleback waist, handpainted finish and a really good heel stack. Nice beveling at the inner waist as well!
Controversy incoming. I think it’s better than the Saint Crispin’s one.
Not everything is perfect however as there is one thing that I need to talk about.
This is the first closed channel sole I see where the channel cut is so visible. I suppose for visuals it could be better on this pair at least.
Lastly, the channel is not even compared to the painting of the edges with a few millimeters difference here and there.
Honestly, who cares and don’t forget they actually hand-sew the sole.
A lot of reinforcement around the toe and the heel with multiple well-placed nails and of course the wood pegged waist.
I talked about wood pegging many times before but it’s simply the use of wooden pegs to attach the waist to the midsole and insole.
A very old form of construction and Passus seems to use the same old traditional methods like 100 years ago.
In fact I counted almost 32 nails on each side for a total of 64. In comparison Saint Crispin’s had 38 if I remember.
I will say I like this waist more and find it superior while waiting for the haters to attack.
Shoe Trees | Confusing Yet Functional
Here’s the deal. There’s nothing wrong with the shoe trees.
They serve their purpose, are functional and actually fit the last. However there is some confusion surrounding them which might not be relevant anymore when you are reading this.
When I looked at the launch of Passus back in 2019-2020 the pictures showed different looking shoe trees. You know, the ones with the curved top that allow you to easily grab them like a handle and lift them out.
Instead the ones here have a ball and also a single bar connecting the two pieces together. On the bottom there’s also two round shapes that make no sense and almost look like were filled afterwards.
To be fair I would not be happy if the shoes costed $1200-$1500 but at this price point it’s good but could look nicer.
Once again nitpicking however from what I hear Passus is overhauling their shoe tree design and construction in the near future.
On the flipside they are so much easier to put in and out compared to the Saint Crispin’s ones. I really had to wrestle those!
Update: After discussion with Passus, they are indeed working on a higher end, properly lasted shoe tree.
Passus Shoes Review | Fit & Last
We are now entering the last sections of the review however this is one of the most important ones.
So far Passus aced everything but the most important part is the fit and the last.
The Passus 2000 Last
Unless I am mistaken, Passus currently has two lasts in their arsenal: The 1000 and 2000 Lasts.
The 1000 Last seems to be more classic and contemporary with a more medium round toe shape.
On the other hand the 2000 is more modern with sharper angles that begin at the waist and contribute to a very slimming silhouette at the front. It looks like a very well-balanced last with an almond shape that is borderline soft-square.
When you look at it from below you can see the tiniest bit of curvature that denotes that. On the front it slopes nicely along the vamp before a sharp drop at the toe area.
It’s quite tasteful and with a more Italian “temperament” or influence to it which is refreshing.
My only question is if the last is actually shorter than usual. You can see it next to the 348 by Crockett & Jones which is visibly longer.
Fit & Comfort
Unfortunately here’s where it falls apart from me as the fit was one of the most uncomfortable experiences so far.
But before I write why it is very important to remind you the fact that this is not my shoe and my experience might not be similar to yours.
As with most of my regular width shoes, the Passus is also a UK 8 (EU 42/US 9D). Slipping my foot inside was very easy and a great remind of how easy it is to work with only 2 eyelets rather than 5.
I proceeded with lacing them which showcased a couple of minor annoyances of mine. If you remember I mentioned both previously in the Inner Lining section.
First of all the laces were way too long and if you use a simple method of just a couple twists the knot will be huge. Secondly, the laces were too thin for my liking. I assume they wanted to keep a smooth clean aesthetic but I felt I would break them.
Now for the fit itself, my first thought was how excellent the fit was on the heel. Far superior to the Saint Crispin’s Classic Last on the same size for MY foot. There was not an inch of additional space but also was perfect and not uncomfortable.
Then my attention shifted to the instep, which was very snug. You know when something presses against a vital point and you feel that pulsing sensation or the blood flowing?
I do have a higher instep especially on my right foot however so it won’t be an issue for most people. If anything, it is accommodating.
So if everything is good so far where is the problem?
Unfortunately it is on the most important spot which is between my metatarsal and phalanges. Or you can just refer to my little toe and the wide part of the foot behind it.
The last feels so narrow and pushes my small toe which almost “folds” underneath the other one next to it. There is no way I can wear this for more than a few minutes without discomfort, let alone walking.
Saint Crispin’s Classic Last fits me much better but none feel as good as the Crockett & Jones 348. The latter feels divine for my foot.
Size Advice For Passus Shoes
From my understanding, the Passus 2000 fits the same way the Gaziano & Girling Deco or TG73 would fit me.
It’s common practice that you need to size up half and the same applies for most of the Antonio Meccariello lasts.
My only issue is that I cannot guess if a UK 8.5 would suit me better or if I would have heel slip. Usually when you go up a size the length changes approximately +/- 0.42 cm.
Remember once more that these are not my shoes and I would always consult Passus about finding the perfect fit.
However, as it stands this is far from a True To Size Last for me. On a general consensus I would recommend you to size up half unless you really have narrow feet.
Of course, as I receive more feedback hopefully from Passus I will update this section.
Regardless, on the same size the Crockett & Jones 348 absolutely trumps the Passus 2000 Last for me in comfort.
Always ask the retailer about fit, it’s their job to assist you with it!
Update On Fit!
Thanks to the power of the internet, Passus was able to confirm my suspicions that this is indeed a narrow last.
To quote them: “The “2000” Last is quite narrow, we strongly recommend going half size up, compared to different brands and our other lasts.”
This means that what I speculated in the previous paragraph is correct and you should indeed go half a size up from your regular UK size.
It doesn’t change the fact though that this last will not be for you if you have wide feet.
Passus Shoes Review | Value
So who are these for?
If we totally disregard the bad fit I got, these shoes are fantastic. In fact it is quite unreal that you get so much for this price.
One can argue, so why not buy Vass instead? Much cheaper and also fully handmade.
A reason would be their depressingly slow or non-existent customer service. On the other hand with these constant sales they also offer immense value.
What you seemingly get with Passus is a more personalized experience and refinement in most areas. Specifications wise they blow the “Englishmen” away. All of them are pretty much fully machine made.
I said multiple times that Gaziano & Girling is the only British Brand that appeals to me aesthetically.
To sum up, if you want a fully customized experience without the markups, a fully handmade shoe for less than $1000 and a wide array of choices this is a brand you need to keep on your radar.
Of course, your budget dictates if you should purchase these or not. If you are new to the shoe world or have a limited budget you will be just as happy with $300-$500 shoes. If on the other hand you are ready to take the next step this is good value.
However, be extremely careful with the size and reach out to Passus for size advice. I don’t want to use harsh words as this was not MY personal pair but the fit was horrendous.
I look forward to one day getting my own unique pair though with half a size up!
Update: Read the updated fit section in the previous paragraph!
As always, for those of you that prefer the video format here it is!
First of all I would like to once more thank my fellow shoe enthusiast who trusted me once more with his shoes. It gives me a fantastic opportunity to show you more amazing content but most importantly an honest review.
Looking at shoes from an unbiased neutral perspective is a great way to convey feelings and thoughts. Overall this was yet another tremendous experience that I hope you all enjoyed reading through.
Stay tuned because there are many more to come with a lot of surprises this year. Subscribe so you don’t miss a thing and I will see you in the next one!
Thank you for reading,