A brilliant-white, three-storey building close to the central Italian town of Corridonia is pretty much a consecrated building to shoe intelligentsia. It is here, at the Santoni shoe factory, that high-precision methods of artisanal shoemaking – the rigorous standards one would expect from top-draw bespoke shoes – are applied to large-scale production, with results that delight the most stringent of cordwaining snobs.
It’s a place where elegantly masculine design is a divine calling; where leathers are scrutinized painstakingly for suppleness, consistency, grain and a lack of imperfections that could later be exposed with a stroke of a patina artist’s brush; where centuries-old artisanal methods – hand-stitching, upper-cutting, outsole shaping, Goodyear welting - are executed with state-of-the-art technology, but never at the expense of the human touch.
The Rake was more than a little spoilt for choice when it came to curating a repertoire of Santoni’s current offerings, across the formality spectrum, to feature here: but have hopefully come up with a selection, any pair of which would furnish the most exhaustive of wardrobes with extra panache – and, crucially, options.
No gentleman should be without at least one pair of double monks – the “little black skirt” of men’s footwear, when it comes to versatility and eye-catching elegance. “It’s our icon, our signature model,” CEO Giuseppe Santoni – whose father, Andrea, founded the company in 1975 – tells The Rake of the company’s Carter model. “It embodies the essence of men's elegance, especially in its more classic and authentic version. The shape is slightly sharp and elegant, and the Goodyear construction confers comfort, durability and preciousness.” Leather soled with a reversed toe cap, the Carter comes in varying, hand-applied shades of blue and brown calfskin. It’s hard to think of an ensemble – assuming one’s shins aren’t exposed – that these wouldn’t complement, and a blue pair with chinos or jeans and a smart blazer is just one staple deployment.
The lace-up calfskin version of the Carter (which comes in the same hues) also suits casual get-ups, while the brown shades add a flourish to less-than-strict formalwear – as does the Oscar model: a calfskin Oxford, also hand coloured and polished with Goodyear construction and leather sole, in tones of black and brown. The exquisite wingtip, perforations and fretwork, on close examination, really show off the level of artisanal flair that goes on each day in Corridonia.