Finding good shoes – that is, classic but stylish, in fine leather with high quality dyes and an artisan’s details – is harder than it ought to be. In these days when most high-end designers reckon they’re also shoemakers (pointless buckles all over the place, endless amounts of rubber, intentionally distressed features) it’s important to spend a little extra and get the real thing. Ever in the service of men’s style, we’re going to do a few occasional articles about shoemakers we like – that is, shoes you can trust, probably love, certainly wear for life.
If you don’t know Bontoni, you should. Less well known than Berluti and John Lobb, Bontoni is the last word in discretion, which may be a little surprising since they’re Italian. So far, they’ve mostly relied on word of mouth, but this particular mouth is pleased to spread the word, so get in there early before everyone else does. This third-generation, family-run business doesn’t rely on glossy advertisements and they don’t employ teams of press agents, which is just as well since the craftsman at their bottega in the Marche region of Italy make only about 12 pairs of shoes a day, not quite the numbers needed for global domination. But that’s what we like about them…that and the fact that the shoes are handcrafted, and combine simplicity with sophistication. Even better, they’re a bit secretive about the handcolouring that gives their shoes unique, rich, deep shades and colours. A little mystery is always nice in a shoemaker.
They really are beautiful. If you’re in New York, you can pick up a pair of ready-to-wears at Bergdorf Goodman; if you’re in London, you’ll have to wait until next year.