Category Archives: shoes and boots

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.”

Luxury sneakers the biggest trend in men’s style

The recent Paris Fashion Week was no exception. French luxury giant Hermès led the way by presenting half of all looks for its 2016 fall men’s wear collection in sneakers. Combined predominantly with a tailored look, the sought-after effect is known as ‘high-low’ dressing and is all about interweaving street style and high fashion, for the purpose of taking the latter down a rung or two.

Searching high and low

But the last thing luxury labels want to take down, even a single rung, are the prices, which can easily jump into four figures.

As Guy Trebay from the New York Times wrote last month about the uber luxury design houses: “A problem develops when, instead of being reasonably priced kicks with a great heritage back story, the sneakers you offer also cost a million bucks. Irony is essential to high-low dressing: It works only when something exclusive and costly is taken down a notch by something cheap enough for the hoi polloi.”

Regardless of Trebay’s assessment of those who choose not to stump up for a pair of luxury-priced kicks, the reality is that the widespread adoption of high-low dressing has been a boon for sneaker manufacturers, especially those producing refreshing minimalist designs at more palatable prices.

Notable examples are Common Projects and Buttero, whose Italian handmade sneakers (retailing between $400 and $600) have both taken on a cult following. And illustrating that megabrands aren’t trailing hopelessly behind the times there is Adidas, which in recent years has wiped the floor with its ode to simplicity, the Stan Smith sneaker ($120).First introduced in 1963 as a humble tennis shoe, it certainly ticks the heritage box.

New interpretations

But such is the way in sneaker-world, a new interpretation must always be released each season. Rob Ferris, head buyer at luxury department store Harrolds, says the collaboration between Belgian designer Raf Simmons and Adidas on the iconic Stan Smith (which sell for upwards of three times the price of the base model) has been especially popular for igniting high-low dressing.

“A lot of people are wearing them with a cotton suit with a t-shirt underneath their jacket, or they’re wearing a smart pair of trousers with a shirt and a knit or a blazer,” says Ferris.

Lovers of pared-back style will be pleased to know that the sleek, minimalist aesthetic doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

After attending the influential Micam shoe fair in Milan last week, Anthony Barbieri of Sydney and Melbourne-based luxury shoe retailer 124 Shoes says minimalism remains very much in vogue.

Minimal fuss

“Signature colour palettes are black, white and blue, with tan also being prominent,” Barbieri told Executive Style from Italy.

“Many designers are also deriving their styles from the large sporting brands like Nike and Adidas, but the materials and fabrics used are of the highest quality and give a greater edge to the shoe.”

With the quality of sneakers coming out Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, many Australian sneaker lovers have had their attention diverted from major US sportswear manufactures.

Watching this switch take place has been British-born, Melbourne designer Christian Kimber. After arriving in Australia in 2011, Kimber saw a gap in the luxury sneaker market and designed his own eponymously named range that are handmade in Italy.

It has only been eight months since he launched his often richly coloured sneakers, but already they are being carried by major New York department stores Barneys and Bloomingdale’s. He has also designed a select range for the emerging and widely popular tailoring label Eidos Napoli.

“I met them at a trade show in Florence and out of the blue they said can you design a collection for us? And so I’ve been going to New York to present a collection for the last three seasons,” Kimber says. “It’s been wonderful working with them.”

Monk straps are the hottest trend in men’s shoes

Worn with a sharp suit, it’s about a suave a look as you can get, says William Church, joint managing director of esteemed English shoemaker Joseph Cheaney & Sons.

Graduation style

“We’re definitely seeing a lot more now than we were two years ago, because it just became a fashion within a fashion,” he says.

Church sees it as a ‘graduation’ style; that is, something men make the step up to when they’re already fielding a pair of traditional Oxfords or brogues in the wardrobe.

“The double buckle monk offers that opportunity to just have a shoe that is still classic, but just a bit different from the run-of-the-mill look for a Goodyear-welted shoe,” he says.

For a pair in the classic English style, Cheaney’s Holyrood double monks in bronzed espresso are undoubtedly a timeless classic.

Supply and demand

While the monk strap has always been a popular shoe, the huge spike in recent popularity can be put down to one retailer: Suitsupply.

In recent years, the Dutch company – which manufactures its own suits in China – has taken the menswear world by storm. And, like any successful business, a key part of its success has been its marketing.

A key pitch for any clothing brand is its imagery, and Suitsupply’s are among the most influential in global menswear. Suitsupply models are regularly photographed wearing monk straps, and particularly double monks, typically from revered Italian shoemaker Antonio Maurizi.

Name of the game

Best known as quite a formal shoe, the monk strap’s popularity has spurred some Italian labels to create more relaxed and eclectic versions, says Anthony Barbieri, the co-owner of Melbourne’s 124 Shoes.

“Some of the Italian shoe makers such as Officine Creative and Lagoa are pushing the envelope with their left-field interpretations of a monk strap,” Barbieri says.

“With Officine Creative, these include two-tone and buckle-less varieties, and Lagoa even make a stylish double monk espadrille, which has been very popular in this summer in the northern hemisphere.”

If you’re after a new pair of shoes, ask yourself if you really need another pair of Oxfords or Derbies. It might be time to leave them aside and go for the shoe with the best name in the game.

Ermenegildo Zegna launches bespoke range of footwear for men

The new, four-story location, designed by architect Peter Marino, has more than 6,500 square feet of space and seamlessly blends the brand’s commitment to sustainability and quality craftsmanship while preserving the 18th-century, predominantly Georgian architecture of New Bond Street.

Even bigger cause for good cheer is the return of Alessandro Sartori as artistic director. He was creative director of Z Zegna, the brand’s more casual, minimalist line, before departing for Berluti, where he helped turn the elite cobbler into a fully integrated lifestyle brand.

A shoe for every man

Debuted at the opening party, the bespoke shoe collection will be exclusive to the London flagship store. It includes nine styles designed for nine different types of men, such as “the art dealer,” a laced casual loafer; “the sommelier,” a dress Oxford; and “the biker,” a jodphur black boot. In total, there are three types of Oxfords, two takes on the loafer, a Derby, a gusset, a double monk, and a boot.

Sartori invites customers to think of these styles as mere jumping-off points: Each is fully customisable, and he suggests combining two-or even three-of the styles to make a custom shoe.

The most versatile style is the loafer, he says, and it’s the easiest one to wear in either casual or formal situations. You can have it made in one of 10 different leathers, ranging from calfskin, leather, suede, ostrich, or crocodile, in 60 different colours and 10 different lining options.

You can adjust the heel higher or lower, or customise the construction of the shoe from a technical side and choose goodyear welding-which fuses both leather and rubber into the shoes to better seal it from the rain-or go with a leather-only construction to create a lighter, softer fit. Because they are handmade, the options are endless.

Though the shoes are designed by Sartori, they will be made by one of England’s most respected bespoke shoemakers, Gaziano & Girling .

Balancing heritage with innovation

The duo of Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling started their English-focused brand of bespoke footwear 10 years ago but already have their own shop at 39 Savile Row and have attracted fans ranging from Fiat heir Lapo Elkann to billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. The duo also runs a factory in Northampton where all the shoes will be made. Each pair for Zegna will start at roughly $8400, require two fittings, and take six months to complete.

It is this balance of heritage and innovation that inspired Sartori when designing the collection, and it seems indicative of things to come.

“One of the things that I always adored when working at Zegna, both in the past and now, is to visit their archives in Trivero,” he said. “To see so many different and interesting designs, particularly from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, was a moment in fashion when the combination of craft and style became so very important. “

Though Sartori plays with Zegna’s rich history, his real strength is his ability to marry modern design to classic silhouettes. “I don’t want to be nostalgic; one thing is to have the feel, the other is to have the modernity.”

White leather sneakers are the new black

Jerry Seinfeld was once lampooned for his fashion sense, especially his character’s habit of wearing white Nike sneakers with jeans. It looks like Jerry was well ahead of his time, because nowadays white leather sneakers are the must-have accessory for every man’s wardrobe. There are even sites like this one dedicated to chronicling every sneaker the comedian ever wore on the show.

It seems everywhere you turn blokes are slipping into the white sneakers before heading out on the town.

“White leather sneakers are everywhere,” says D’Marge founder Luc Wiesman. “Matter of fact, I’m wearing a pair of Givenchy white leather sneakers at my desk right now.”

Sneaker ground zero

Wiesman says the trend was hot in Europe in 2015 when the now eponymous adidas Stan Smiths hit the catwalk. As white leather sneakers go, the Stan Smith is ground zero.

A simple design trimmed with grass-green padding and with the adidas stripes rendered as perforations, the shoe was launched in the early 1960s and originally named the Haillet, after French professional tennis player, Robert Haillet. In 1971 the sneaker was renamed after American tennis star Stan Smith and has remained largely unchanged ever since. “The adidas Stan Smith is an affordable classic you should invest in,” Wiesman says.

Wiesman says he tends to team his white leather sneakers with a suit, albeit dressed down with a T-shirt. “White sneakers have become the go-to smart casual fashion statement that will take you from the office to the BBQ. The key is to always keep them really clean. As soon as they become dirty they cease being smart casual and just look scruffy.”

Rare Kingdom

One of the newest and rarest white sneakers on the market comes from the Melbourne studios of Kingdom Sneakers. Founded by brothers Ross and Paul Meeuwsen, the pair have recently launched a premium-luxe version tentatively dubbed the 3184 after the postcode where the design was born in Elwood, Melbourne.

“The design is a nod to heritage silhouettes from the late ’80s to the mid-’90s combined with premium fabrication,” says Ross Meeuwsen. “The 3184 is created from the finest grade leather available and is all hand-sewn. It features a custom sole, and an innovative rare earth magnetic strap.”

Although not yet officially launched, the 3184 is already creating a buzz with sneaker freaks and serious collectors; especially as it is limited to just 990 pairs worldwide. Meeuwsen says he wears his with a suit and to business meetings when he wants to make a statement. “Our design is not so conservative as the other leather sneakers on the market, even the packaging is unashamedly over-the-top.” (The shoes come in a full-metal gold box with laser engraved, individually numbered D-rings)

The world’s most expensive sneakers made by Bicion and Mache

Rock solid sneaks

Dubbed the Li-Ning Way of Wade “The Fire Monkey” (we have no idea what it means either, but it has something to do with NBA basketballer Dwayne Wade) the shoes are covered in hundreds of carats of white diamond pieces and blue sapphires set in 18 carat gold. You also get a solid gold hang tag depicting the logos of Bicion and Mache.

World’s most expensive sneakers

Covered in gold, diamonds and sapphires, and valued at US$4 million, the world’s most expensive sneakers are unveiled in New York.

Thankfully this extreme excess is for a good cause. The sneakers were launched in New York City with the announcement that the money will go to Soles4Soles, a charity that collects and distributes shoes and clothing for those in need.

According to rumours, an interested sneaker buff from China is flying in to buy them. We’re tipping they’re unlikely be seeing any jogging action.

Collectable kicks

Chris Kyvetos, the founder of Australian retailer Sneakerboy, says expensive sneakers are not unusual, especially in the world of collecting. He once collaborated with luxury French fashion house Balmain to create a men and women’s hi-top that featured a waxed hide with python accents. It sold off the shelf for $2800.

The most expensive sneakers he stocks are a mid-top leather with rabbit fur ankle by Buscemi. Handcrafted in Civitanova Italy, they sell for $2280.

It’s when rare sneakers are resold to avid collectors that prices start to get really crazy. Kyvetos nominates the Nike Air Mag as a case in point. The shoe was made famous in the movie Back To The Future 2, in which it supposedly had self-fastening laces. Nike released a limited edition run of the shoe (albeit without the self-fastening laces) in 2011 for around $US800, examples of which now fetch in excess of $US10,000 ($13,300).

Kyvetos says another example is Kanye West’s original sneaker for Nike, the Air Yeezy. “That shoe sold for $US300, and now they arefetching up to $8000 for a pair,” he says.

How R.M.Williams became the Australian brand the whole world wants

Boy from the bush

Times have well and truly changed and now the bush outfitter is just as much the outfitter to the big smoke. Indeed, the brand, which dates right back to 1932, has reinvented itself as a must-have luxury label. Since being taken over in 2014 by L Catterton, the private equity arm of fashion goliath LVMH alongside IFM and private investment partner Hugh Jackman, R.M.Williams seems unstoppable.

The brand is now sold in 15 countries around the world with more than 900 stockists and 50 retail stores, including a swanky new boutique in Westfield London, and a flagship store in SOHO Manhattan designed by Mika Utzon, grandson of Sydney Opera House architect Jorn Utson.

A boot like no other

Much of the success has been driven by the elastic-sides riding boots that were first manufactured in Percy Street Prospect, South Australia, in 1934, by bushman and entrepreneur Reginald Murray Williams.

The ‘Craftsman’ boots are still manufactured in Adelaide. What sets them apart from other Chelsea boots on the market, is the one-piece leather construction, involving more than 80 hand-held processes. The simplicity of the design means it can work just as well with jeans as a suit.

You can spot the Craftsman on some fairly famous feet too, including Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. Signature Craftsman (made from premium veal leather and retailing for $1000) are worn by former leaders, Bill Clinton and David Cameron.

A new luxury

Recently the company launched a new bespoke service, enabling clients to go online and select from 11 leathers and three sole types. The leathers include such decadent offerings as ostrich skin, crocodile and camel. Bespoke Craftsman start from $800, with the crocodile version a snappy $4000.

There’s little doubt L Catterton’s injection of funds has enabled R.M.Williams to transform the brand into a major fashion label on the world scene.

And it’s not only the boots that are gaining attention. R.M.Williams clothing is also starting to make an impression in the city. “I’m seeing more and more of the shirts and knitwear on the streets,” says fashion blogger and tailor, Miles Wharton. “The branding has done a complete 180-degree turn; it’s become a little more fashion forward and starting to tap into that market of young professionals.”

Aristocratic taste

Could R.M.Williams’ popularity herald a return of the Sloane Rangers? That British trend championed by Lady Diana Spencer (before she was the Princess of Wales), and characterised by equestrian wear – Drizabone jackets, johdpurs, Hermes scarves.

Some fashion watchers certainly have that opinion, with many believing Kate Middleton (the Duchess of Cambridge) is picking up where Diana left off.

Much of the credit for the upmarket direction of R.M.Williams must go to the talented head of design, Jeremy Hershan. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology graduate arrives home with an enviable CV after a decade in London that included a stint as senior formalwear designer with Dunhill, head designer with Aquascutum, and an assistant design role with Gieves & Hawkes.

New blood

Hershan’s debut collection (Autumn/Winter 2017) with the 85-year-old brand has just been released and is being well received by both consumers and fashion critics.

“I was always a big fan of R.M.Williams,” he said. “I’ve been wearing the boots for the best part of a decade. My first pair were inherited from my brother, and I bought my second pair in London. My personal preference is the Comfort Turnout with its round toe and finished in a rough-out suede tan leather, relating back to the saddlery.”

Before even putting pen to paper, Hershan ploughed deep through the R.M.Williams extensive archives for inspiration. “My intention with the collection as a whole was to go back to the roots of the brand, looking for beautiful and relevant details to bring them to life for a contemporary consumer, while not forgetting the lifelong customers from the heartland.”

Quality and utility

Careful attention was paid to cut and fabrication. An example of Hershan’s expertise can be found in the Windsor Tweed Sports Coat, where the designer utilised a long-term relationship with a UK woollen mill to develop a signature herringbone tweed, suggestive of the Flinders Rangers landscape. “It’s a piece that will appeal to our refined loyalist customer,” says Hershan.

It could also be just at home teamed with a pair of jeans and a crisp white shirt in the inner-city.

One of Hershan’s favourite pieces is the Classic Drover Belted Jacket; a waxed piece that is about as Sloane as you can get. “Yes, I can see why you would think that,” says Hershan. “A lot of born and bred West Londeners are big fans of R.M.Williams.”

Hershan has been careful not to mess too much with the signature half-placket Murphys Brigalow shirt, featuring military buttons. “It’s part of the brand’s DNA, and was cut as authentic workwear back in the day. Today’s consumer craves authenticity and R.M.Williams has it in spades, we’ve never had to make it up.”