Monthly Archives: March 2017

Andrea Artioli, shoemaker to the stars

It’s fair to say that George W. Bush and the late Saddam Hussein had very little in common. Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin don’t see eye-to-eye, either – except when it comes to their brand of shoe.

Artioli is the luxury Italian footwear label with a VIP customer list others can only envy. Donald Trump apparently buys 25 pairs each year, Pope John Paul II is resting for eternity in his. Nicolas Sarkozy appears a little taller next to wife Carla thanks to some special Artioli heels. In Australia, proud wearers include Simon Crean and Andrew Peacock

Andrea Artioli, 45, the grandson of the company’s founder, says 30-something men are becoming more interested in the brand, sold exclusively in Australia at Harrolds in Sydney and Melbourne.

“Yes, especially this younger generation, they appreciate the high quality of our shoes, because they are connoisseurs of the good taste that the world can offer,” Artioli says.

“My father used to say to me that the older generation in Australia was not spending that much on fashion, on their wardrobe, but this new generation changed it. They have a vision about the beauty, how to dress. If you dress well, you add quality to your life.”

Artioli was in Australia recently for one-on-one appointments for made-to-measure shoes that set the benchmark of handmade, luxury Italian footwear.

The starting price for a pair of Artiolis is $2690 (Harrolds sells 70-100 pairs in Australia each year) and custom-made shoes can add another zero to the price, depending on the leathers. Customers wait around eight weeks for their bespoke shoes to be hand-crafted in Italy.

Artioli started working in his grandfather’s factory when he was 14, after nagging him for seven years: “I was refreshing his mind every year that I wanted to work with him!” he laughs.

From father to son

He learnt the craft of shoe-making from his grandfather Severino and his father, Vito. Now at the helm, he’s introducing changes to ensure the company stays relevant and profitable.

Surprisingly for a company best known for its elegant classic shapes such as brogues and loafers, and for its exotic skins and leathers, the most successful and fastest-growing Artioli segment is the luxury sneaker.

“People are dressing more casually, so they appreciate a sneakers line that has an elegant appeal,” he explains. “I introduce it about six years ago as a request from customers who want to wear them on Sunday, with children, with family or also in the morning when they go to the gym.”

Working in a close-knit Italian family, however, comes with challenges. Change can be a dirty word and discussions can get heated. Artioli says he’s a born diplomat and, to implement some crucial design changes within the company, his tactics were slick.

“I suggested all the changes in a way that it was coming from them. Otherwise if you don’t have co-operation you cannot do it,” he says.

The luxury markets, too, have changed. The company no longer relies on the Middle East but is focusing on Russia and China. One of the highest-growth markets is Kazakhstan, while Moscow’s two boutiques doubled their turnover in the last three years, and China’s new Beijing boutique is selling beyond expectations, too. London remains the biggest hub for European travellers.

Hopes for the US market

Artioli hopes the US market will improve soon. That is, after all, where the company’s made-to-measure service germinated 30 years ago, when a young Andrea fell in love with all things American as a teenager and, at 16, persuaded his father to work in the US for a few months: “I stressed him very much!” he laughs.

In the sole San Francisco department store which stocked Artioli shoes, Andrea was thrown in the deep end, and after a month of training was in charge of the shoe department.

He observed the high-end suit salesmen offering customers different colours and fabrics after their off-the-rack suit was fitted perfectly. “So they could buy the same suit, in their right size, but in many different fabrics and colours, made to order from Italy.”

Andrea had his lightbulb moment. “I asked my father to send me all the leathers we had in the stock. I bought a book and attached all the different skins and colours. When the customers were choosing the suits, I was going to them with my book, and they were choosing my leathers to match the suits. This was the first step in the made-to-measure service.”

Slowly, customisation offerings grew, as the company concentrated on individual fittings and modified the timber lasts. Word spread and rich customers from Dallas, Texas, visited the San Francisco store – including one George Bush Senior.

“He became my customer at the time and I’ve never lost him. He’s still my customer,” Artioli says proudly.

“One day he called me and said, ‘I need your help – we have a new president, my son, and he wears very ugly shoes.’ I answer, ‘Of course, my pleasure to help you, Mr President’ and I did the first pair for George W. Bush as my gift.”

Get your kicks with 20 of the best boots of 2015

There is no such thing as a standard boot. Apart from the generic types – be it the Chelsea or the Chukka – there’s a plethora of hybrid models such as the hiker boot with a Derby sole, or the biker with a cowboy decorative inlay.

There are varying finishes, textures and details across each model, as well as a difference in colour and fabric. Exhausted? Don’t be.

Read on to unlock the key styles for this year (and how to work them), before clicking through the gallery above for the 20 best boots for men out now.

Chukka boot

The chukka is named after a period of play in polo and rides seamlessly as a smooth choice with smart casual attire and suits, depending on the sole.

Traditionally made in suede or calfskin, the chukka is appreciated for its short shaft, which also makes the boot an easy choice to be worn with tailored shorts.

How to wear it

The chukka wears well with this season’s double denim trend, suiting raw denim jeans, a chambray shirt and a black denim jacket for an American workwear look. Otherwise, white chinos and a polo shirt offer something more quintessentially preppy. This boot is a wardrobe staple for 2015.

Chelsea boot

We have the Beatles and London’s ’50s rock/pop culture to thank for the Chelsea’s resurgence into men’s fashion all those years ago. Named after the borough in the south west of the English capital, the Chelsea boot’s sleek, laceless designer makes a functional beauty for the stylish time-poor.

The Chelsea is recognisable for its elastic side panels for ease of slipping on and taking off, and in contrasting colours against the leather, the panels make for an instant style statement.

The boot also comes in different heel heights – from chunky and durable, to slim and formal, meaning the Chelsea works just as well with selvedge jeans and workshop coat, as they do with tailoring.

How to wear it

The Chelsea takes it’s lack of laces, and absence of eyelets and metallic hardware, in its stride. Made in polished leather, the Chelsea pairs with a super wool suit, shirt and tie – perfectly office or wedding ready. The rider-inspired Chelsea looks best in suede and look to brown for a change away from black.

Biker boot

Drawing inspiration from the original bad boys – Brando and McQueen, the biker aesthetic rides ever so well in to 2015. I’m not talking about gang member tats and handlebar mo’s; more chic leather and sleek black. It’s all part of being a modern biker sans bike.

Always in leather, and in black or dark brown, the biker boot is distinguished by a side, asymmetrical zip or a leather strap with metal buckle detail – the latter being a slip variety, rather than zipped.

How to wear it

Unlike other types, the motorcycle boot looks best kept to the tune of the biker. That means, black jeans and perfecto jacket, or washed grey denim with biker leg details paired with a plain tee. Don’t roll the cuff on pants with the biker, as you would a Chukka or hiking boot, it sabotages the care-free attitude needed to pull this look off.

Hiker boot

The hiker boot has been modernised this season – for a look that is a little more adventurous but without the harsh practicalities needed to climb a mountain. Made from leather with the occasional synthetic panels for a sporting edge, the eyelets and laces of this boot are super sturdy and extremely practical.

The hiker boot is crafted with a mid-rise shaft and leather outer sole with a grippy heel for traction. Other hiker boot styles a have a flat sole, made from crepe, leather or rubber, and often come in a contrast sole colour such as white or black. This type of boot also features coloured laces. It’s the most casual of all boots, and should be kept far, far way from a suit.

How to wear it

Paired with chinos or slim fit denim, the hiker boot works well under wax-coated jacket or duffel coat, making hard work of a smart casual look. Loose jogger pants and a satin bomber jacket accentuate the active vibe of the shoe, treating it more like a sneaker than a boot.

Dress boot

The dress boot is the most formal variety of the bunch. And, like its shoe counterpart, it comes in two styles: the Derby or Oxford. The Derby has eyelets stitched on top of the shoe vamp, creating an open front, appearing more casual (almost militant) compared to the Oxford variety.

How to wear it

The dress boot is the most versatile of the group; pair luxuriously with a suit for work; with cotton trousers, shirt and blazer; or denim and a tee for an off-duty vibe.

men’s shoes that shoe experts love

Tim Cecil

Managing Director of Henry Bucks, Melbourne

Wears Church’s Cowes Double Monk shoes, in walnut calf

“I am pretty hard on my shoes but Church’s make incredibly solid shoes that look better with age and become like old friends. These double monks are a couple of years old but I have a few pairs that are around eight years old and are yet to need resoling. When it’s eventually needed, you can send them back to Church’s for a full refurbishment. They will re-line the heel and any other wear points, put them back on the last, resole and reheel the shoe and give them a full polish, hand burnish before sending them back, ready to carry on strong for another decade.”

Josh Price

Co-founder of Feit shoe store, Sydney

Wears ‘PNTHA Hi’, a high-top sneaker by Feit

“This is a shoe we’ve been making for quite a while, basically since we started the company. The idea was to do a handmade version of a basketball shoe – the shape is particularly influenced by the first Air Jordan shoe. We use traditional methods but my brother [Tull] and I come from more of a streetwear background so my aesthetic is still in line with that. I like it when we apply these handmade techniques and natural materials to something that is a little more street.”

James Keates

David Jones men’s footwear & accessories buyer, Sydney

Wears RM Williams Craftsman boots

“I was seven or eight when my parents bought me my first pair of RM Williams, my mother being from country Queensland it was the natural choice and I have never looked back! They are comfortable from the first wear and can be worn with anything, dress them up with a suit for the office or wear them with a denim tee and a blazer like I do.”

Neville Colaianni

Co-founder 124 Shoes, Melbourne

“I love the wintery look of this boot, its depth of colour and hand burnishing. What I love most, though is the comfort and structure the Preventi triple-stitch goodyear welt construction gives me, as I’m on my feet all day. The softness of the washed buffalo upper is pretty special, too. These boots are ageing beautifully.”

Anthony Barbieri

Co-founder 124 Shoes, Melbourne

Wears two-tone Double Monk Strap Shoes by Officine Creative in T-Moro brown

“Whilst monk strap shoes have now hit the high street, Officine Creative’s interpretation is unique, left of centre and pure artisan luxury. I love the dip-dyed two tone effect and the absence of buckles. The handcrafted sole unit and the suppleness of the leather provide incredible comfort. These shoes always seem to draw attention and I can’t seem to take them off my feet.”

Rob Ferris

Head Buyer at Harrolds, Melbourne

Wears Maison Margiela Replicas, leather and suede sneakers

“These are my favourite shoes because they are iconic to the Maison Margiela brand and capture the essence of concept working alongside construction. As Martin Margiela designed the original Replica before he left the company, they provide a lasting connection both to the brand’s origins and founder. This gives them an important place in sneaker history.”

Manfred Schopf

Cobbler and owner of Manfred’s Shoe Lounge, Melbourne

Wears a selection of shoes by Jeffery West

“I’m a third generation cobbler and have been working with shoes for nearly 40 years. It was while working in Melbourne’s Hub Arcade in the early 1990s that I first saw Jeffery West shoes. I instantly fell in love with their style – the shape, the artwork, the gothic references – but also the brand’s high standards of construction and materials. As with all the best English shoemakers, nothing is spared. They use the best materials for every part of the shoe.”

Andrew McDonald

Bespoke shoemaker, Sydney

Wears bespoke, two piece, horse leather, zip-back boots by Andrew McDonald

“Like a lot of the boots I make, we go to a lot of trouble to make them look like they’ve already had a bit of age. The way I approach shoemaking is that the leather is the canvass we build the story on. The thing that really drives us is this constant experimentation with the material and the way we can create different effects, not only in the leather but also by challenging the boundaries of footwear design.”

Peter Parkinson

Owner of McCloud Shoes, Melbourne

Wears Finsbury Oxford Brogue in Espresso & Walnut by Joseph Cheaney & Sons

“Joseph Cheaney & Sons is an interesting story. In 2009 the company was bought by Jonathan and William Church, who used to be on the board of Church’s, another highly celebrated English shoemaker. I’ve been to the Cheaney factory and I know the Church boys – known them many, many years – and with their shoes they’ve bought a slight touch of fashion into the realm of classic English shoe making.”

Jess Wootten

Head Cordwainer at Wootten, Melbourne

Wears dark brown Balmoral Oxford, in calf and vintage lizard skin

“It’s a classic balmoral style shoe. It’s made from American vegetable-tanned cow hide, vintage lizard skin, and is hand-burnished. Over the last four years the business has really focused on designed dress shoes and it has been a great pleasure to offer a bespoke service for both men and women. The drawback of making other people’s shoes is that I tend to ignore myself – I’ve only three pairs. However, I did make a pair for my wedding last year, I felt that was a pretty important day to wear shoes that weren’t worn out.”

How to have the best shoes in the room

“A great shoe will elevate a blah casual look – and will be the right accent to the most curated outfit,” he says.

Derrick started his footwear empire in New York City’s Upper West Side as a cowboy boot outpost in 1979 and has since quietly built one of the best-selling footwear collections in better men’s stores, such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.

His secret is satisfied, loyal customers who spread the To Boot gospel, rather than celebrity endorsements and overpriced advertising campaigns.

We turned to Derrick for advice on how to maintain a great leather shoe-and how to build a collection of impressive, memorable pairs.

Shop for quality over quantity (and shop Italian)

According to Derrick, the average American man owns somewhere close to 12 pairs of shoes. But he doesn’t necessarily think most men need that many if they are being smart about their purchases.

“I may be biased, but I think it’s a mistake for men to not buy quality footwear,” Derrick says. “Unlike with a shirt or a jacket, your shoes have a big job to do. They have to regularly support your entire body weight while being comfortable and encouraging you to stay active and stand tall, and look great all at the same time.”

Derrick suggests two things: First, look for a stitched sole. A stitched sole is sturdier and more practical than a glued or bonded sole. Also, he suggests buying footwear made in Italy, period. “In general, footwear made in Italy denotes a production level that is of the highest quality, with more time and attention to the details of construction and comfort.”

He notes that most Italian footwear will prominently display the country of origin on the label because it’s an immense, notable measure of quality.

“Unfortunately, quality isn’t always something you can tell straight away by looking at a new shoe, but the difference will definitely be noticeable to the consumer in six months to a year,” he says.

Maintenance is key

Wipe, then wear. Derrick suggests wiping down your shoes with a soft cloth or paper towel before putting them on. “Dust can collect in the creases and will act as sandpaper on the leather as you walk,” he says. You could also try an all-natural product such as Shoe Rescue to keep your kicks extra refreshed.

Spray suede. “Lightly mist, not saturate, your suede shoes with a water- and stain-protector spray,” Derrick says. “And when they’re dirty, brush up the nap with a suede brush.”

Protect the colour. “A good neutral cream polish will suffice for cleaning and moisturising white leather,” he says. “Only if you scuff the leather should you match the colour.” For polishing a burnished leather – think a shoe that has two tones rather than just being solid – he suggests using the colour of the “body” of the shoe, rather than the darker burnished toe.

Always use a cedar shoe tree. “The shoe tree irons out creases and maintains the original contours,” Derrick says. “The unfinished cedar wood absorbs moisture and adds a fresh smell.”

Rotate. “Don’t wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row if you can help it,” Derrick advises. He says shoes should be rotated to let them completely dry out between wearings. “This more than anything prolongs the life of your shoes,” he says. “Another benefit to having a wardrobe of shoes.”

Modernise your options

“Even though there are more options than ever – which is great – I think it has become a lot more challenging for men to dress well today,” Derrick says. “The casualisation of the workplace has got men thinking, ‘How can I still look pulled together and successful when casual Friday has become the new everyday uniform’?”

Derrick suggests getting creative with bolder choices, like a streamlined sneaker, as well as circling back and modernising the classics.

“The classic tassel loafer is having a bit of a moment again,” says Derrick. “But today’s tassel loafer has a higher vamp – the front and centre part of a shoe that covers the top of the foot – so when you’re trying on a pair of loafers, look down at your feet. If you see a lot of sock showing, your vamp is too short.”

To try out the sneaker trend during your 9-to-5 shift, Derrick suggests a clean, polished calf sneaker or trainer. “Suede sneakers speak more to weekend wear,” he says.

But he stresses, “Know your audience, too. For instance, a trial lawyer appearing in court in a suit and tie does not need to be experimenting with a clean sneaker. Instead, wear a classic, straight-tip cap toe or wingtip and look the part.”