Admired for its unabashed elegance and unique style, Italian shoes are often revered as the antithesis of English craftsmanship but with no lesser emphasis on quality. There is truly a plethora of Italian brands and shoemakers scattered across the boot-shaped country.
Therefore, this guide will offer you a top 10 list of the Best Men’s Italian Shoe Brands:
- Ace Marks
- Antonio Meccariello
- Paolo Scafora
- Salvatore Ferragamo
- Enzo Bonafè
- Riccardo Freccia Bestetti
- Stefano Bemer
- Edhèn Milano
You can use the links to jump ahead or scroll down to read more. You can also learn more about the Italy’s shoe-making history and industry.
Edhèn Milano Double Monk Straps
What Are The Best Italian Shoe Brands For Men?
After the menus below, we’ll explore the top 10 best Italians shoe brands. Each of them were individually researched, contacted, and tested when possible. Moreover, please note that they aren’t necessarily featured in any particular order of preference.
See All Bespoke Unit Dress Shoe Guides
Although founded as recently as 2012, Ace Marks works with a 4th-generation factory so to provide high quality albeit affordable Italian shoes to the worldwide market. Benchmade with a closed-stitch Blake flex construction, their footwear is made from full-grain calfskin that has been hand-dyed and burnished.
Ace Marks operates solely as a direct-to-consumer business, which means that you can only buy their shoes through their site. As a result, they have been able to significantly reduce costs for customers while also having greater control on how they are properly distributed.
Furthermore, Ace Marks have sought to not only create accessible shoes but universal ones too. Their proprietary lasts have been crafted according to American Brannock sizing, which ensures a standardised fit. Similarly, the site has a comprehensive and easy sizing guide, which you can simply print off to use at home.
Two years after launching his own designer brand in partnership with Ciro Paone and Antonio de Matteis, Antonio Meccariello sold his shares in order to focus on his own workshop.
Meccariello offers a variety of services from his Airola workshop. As well as a rich selection of ready-to-wear shoes, he also provides a comprehensive online made-to-order service. Similarly, both made-to-measure and bespoke shoes can be ordered on appointment at surprisingly affordable prices.
There are also a number of ranges with their own types of construction such as Goodyear and hand-welting as well as other types of stitching.
Operating just outside of metropolitan Naples, Paolo Scafora was established in 1956 and is today run by his grandson of the same name. The brand is well known for crafting affordable ready-to-wear shoes and has introduced a bespoke service 10 years ago.
Furthermore, their bespoke shoes are quite affordable at start at $2,000, which only take 4 to 6 weeks to produce. Unlike traditional shoemakers, Paolo Scafora uses plastic rather than wooden lasts, which contributes to the much faster production process.
Founded by Andrea Santoni in 1975, the ready-to-wear and made-to-order brand is now run by his son, Giuseppe. Santoni is well-known among other designer brands and has previously partnered with IWC and Mercedes AMG on a number of creative projects.
Like Panerai, Santoni has made a leap towards the future while still remaining loyal to its traditional roots. Their new head office in Corridonia is an eco-sustainable centre that it built from 90% recyclable materials.
Furthermore, overall energy consumption has been reduced and the building’s electricity is sourced from a local solar power station.
Salvatore Ferragamo was a celebrated luxury goods and shoe designer who was well known among the Hollywood stars of the 1920s. After initially opening a made-to-measure shoe business in California, he returned to Italy in 1927 to establish his eponymous Florentine brand.
Although Ferragamo passed away in 1960, his legacy remains and has become one of the biggest designer brands that still embraces its Italian roots. The brand is still owned and operated by the extended Ferragamo family, which includes no less than 23 grandchildren!
While there are a number of Ferragamo factories dotted throughout Italy, the premium shoes continue to be crafted in their Florence workshop.
Although founded all the way back in 1963, Enzo Bonafè continues to run his company alongside his wife, children Silvia and Massimo, and his son-in-law, Roberto. Another family-owned Italian business, Enzo Bonafè excels in expressing the spirit of the country’s craftsmanship.
Given that Lamborghini was also founded in the same yearn, both brands have collaborated with a unique made-to-order shoe line. Otherwise, Bonafè offers both ready-to-wear shoes as well as an Ad Personam made-to-order programme with all featuring hand-stitched welting.
Riccardo Frecci Bestetti developed his unique brand alongside Marco Facchinetti with a view to incorporating the spirit of American boot-making into Milan’s craftsmanship and heritage. With a very hands-on approach, Bestetti would make many of the shoes himself alongside the workshop’s craftsmen.
Unfortunately, Bestteti passed away at a young age in 2016 but his legacy lives on through Facchinetti. Entirely made by hand, Riccardo and Marco’s designs feature details like high fiddle waists, wide welts, and hand-stitched lasts. Finally, a hand patina will provide the shoes with their final alluring finish.
An exclusive third-generation shoemaker based in Sant’Elpidio A Mare near Italy’s east-coast, Bontoni only produces between 9 and 12 shoes per day. To put this into perspective, a single pair of ready-to-wear shoes will take as much as 13 weeks to complete whereas they bespoke shoes will require at least 10 months.
Bontoni has been run by Franco Gazzani and his second cousin, Lewis Cutillo, since 2004. When it was founded by Gazzani’s grandfather and uncle, the house would only produce its shoes for family, friends, and select customers.
Despite its measured expansion, Bontoni remains true to its roots with its careful in-house construction using homemade dyes for their signature patina finishes. As a result, only a few retailers in the USA will stock Bontoni shoes, which includes Bergdorf Goodman in New York or Wilkes Bashford in San Francisco.
Since Stefano Bemer sadly passed away in 2012, his eponymous house has been operated by Tommaso Melani who brings his legacy to life. Since it was founded in 1983, Bemer’s shoes represented a particular level of quality that attracted celebrities such as Daniel Day Lewis.
From their Florentine workshop, the craftsmen produce handmade ready-to-wear, made-to-order, and bespoke shoes. Their affordable $3,000 Blue bespoke shoes offer excellent value for money and require only 5 months to be produced.
Furthermore, Stefano Bemer was a renowned mentor for apprentices. As such, the brand continues to offer exclusive training workshops for passionate shoe enthusiasts.
Edhèn Milano is young albeit promising brand that offers an intriguing mix of Italy’s finest heritage and unique contemporary designs. Operating from Parabiago’s historical shoe-making district near Milan, the brand debuted during Milan’s 2016 Men Fashion Weekend.
The company was founded by Filippo Fiora and Filippo Cirulli when they were just 29 and 28 years old respectively. Entirely handmade, each shoes requires 10 days to make, which consists of 200 individual steps.
Their designs are an expression of their own identity, which is particularly recognisable in their double monk shoes. From the low-profile and vamp to the thin and elegant straps, this model is nothing short of unique.
Italy’s Shoe-Making History
Today, elegantly designed Italian shoes are often associated with metropolitan areas like Milan and Naples. However, the country’s historical shoe-making hub is firmly rooted in the Fermo-Macerata district in Sant’Elpidio a Mare towards the east.
For many centuries, Italy’s approach to shoe-making was considerably more rustic. While England’s Northamptonshire was a growing industrial centre, most Italian shoes were made by local village craftsmen.
Historically, Fermo towns such as Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Monte San Giusto, Montegranaro, and Monte Urano, were domestically reputed for their “ciocie” slippers.
Meanwhile, leather tanning was and is still currently a major activity in Italy. With easy access to affordable goat, pork and horse leather, these were particularly affordable choices for the domestic market.
Although popular during the 1700s, the modern shoe as we recognise it today started to emerge during the turn of the 19th Century. With evolving tastes, the horse leather ciocia faded into obscurity in favour of full leather shoes.
Nevertheless, Italian shoe-making remained a relatively rural and domestic craft that didn’t gain its international recognition until the following century.
Italian Shoes In The 20th Century
By the end of the First World War, Italian shoes began to garner their contemporary reputation. This was largely thanks to pioneers like Salvatore Ferragamo and Guccio Gucci who travelled to the USA to make their craft known to the American market.
Over time, Italian shoes grew in demand and became recognised as an expression of quality craftsmanship. Consequently, a great number of humble Italian manufacturers evolved into the designer brands that we recognise today.
However, it wasn’t until following the Second World War that Italian shoe-making became an accessible commodity. With young men returning from war and abandoning their agricultural background in favour of the city, a workforce began to establish that allowed for industrialisation.
Consequently, the Italian shoe-making industry flourished and many shoemakers began turning to more industrialised processes. What began as small family-run workshops grew into larger factories with Goodyear and Blake machinery.
That said, the shoe-making districts were originally organised somewhat differently to England and France.
Instead of brands making entire shoes in a single factory, some complex processes were outsourced to specialising workshops. In the 1970s, the result was often a network of firms in close proximity that formed a complex supply chain.
Nevertheless, the pride of the Italian shoemaker should not be overlooked. Despite the temptation for fast growth, the heritage brands retained their loyalty to their roots by only crafting quality shoes.
In order to protect the industry from international outsourcing, the Italian government introduced strict certification. By 2009, the system IT01 ensured that only products totally made in the country could be labelled as made in Italy.
Today’s Italian Shoe-Making Industry
Today, Italy is the leading shoe manufacturing country in the European Union and the tenth worldwide. In terms of value for leather shoes, it is second only to China.
In 2018, the Italian shoe-making industry consists of approximately 4,500 companies, which employ over 75,000 people. Meanwhile, the country produces a yearly turnover of around 14.3 billion euros.
However, the majority of this impressive number companies produce footwear for international designer brands while only 3% are headquartered in Italy.
Spread over 23 provinces, there is no central hub like the United Kingdom. Instead, factories are scattered across the Marches, Tuscandy, Lombardy as well as a number of others.
Nevertheless, modern day Italy has a much greater concentration in the north of the country. As for the historical Fermo-Macerata district today, it represents a comparatively small amount of production with a greater emphasis on quality over volume.
In recent years, the Italian shoe-making industry has experienced only a slight yearly growth of 0.7%. Similarly, a disproportionately high number of business were forced to close in 2015. Given that 85% of Italian production is exported, there have been growing concerns of the market stagnation.
Fortunately, the impending crisis has largely resulted in a greater focus on quality and an investment in innovation in order to overcome the challenges ahead.
Why Buy Italian Shoes?
Overall, Italy’s reputation for elegant yet high-quality shoes is well-earned. Indeed, the country produces a plethora of shoes, which aren’t all of equal quality. Nevertheless, the brands that stand out from the crowd do so for good reason.
Italian shoes have developed their own unique identity over the years with the design standing notably at the forefront. Compared to either British or French footwear, Italian shoes have their own distinctiveness that can be almost immediately identified.
While some brands have curbed this eccentricity for more formal and accessible styles, they still retain an element of extravagance that turns heads.
Furthermore, Italian shoes are ideal for wearing in hot climates. From lighter construction to suppler leather than its northern European neighbours, they tend to be more comfortable when worn in the heat.
Similarly, the typical Italian construction tends to be more flexible compared to the rugged and robust English shoe, for example. Therefore, if you’re looking for an elegant and streamlined shoe, Italy’s manufacturers may offer something more adapted to your needs.
Although the prices are usually similar to their neighbours, Italian shoes can occasionally be more affordable. This is certainly the case when it comes to bespoke shoes, which can often be half the price compared to their equivalent in England.
Finally, Italy’s late industrialisation of shoe-making is often reflected among its more premium brands. Therefore, you’re likely to acquire truly handmade Italian shoes for the same price as those that are still bench-made in the United Kingdom.
Now that you have read about the best Italian shoe brands and their history, feel free to explore our other related guides:
- Best English Shoes To Buy Online
- Top 10 French Shoes To Buy Online
- Best Custom Shoes To Buy Online
- Most Comfortable Dress Shoes For Men
- Bespoke Unit Shoe Homepage
"A delightful read. I really enjoyed the comprehensive background on Italian shoes to accompany your brand recommendations. Well worth taking the time to read it."Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★