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.
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.
"Offering impeccable style and quality Italian craftsmanship, Ace Marks' competitive price point offers unbeatable value for money."
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.
Velasca shoes are handmade by local artisan families in the Marche, a region of Italy that has been called the birthplace of shoe-making in the country. Accordingly, Velasca employs exacting attention to detail and emphasizes the importance of high-quality materials in all of their shoes.
The brand offers a wide range of styles, though they all boast largely traditional designs. Instead, Velasca looks to innovate by putting the expertise of Italy’s best craftsmen within reach.
From their sneakers to the oxford styles and their Cordovan selection, the quality of Velasca’s shoes is palpable, as is the tradition and passion that goes into constructing them.
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.
Aurélien is a comparatively young brand that specialises in producing authentic Italian driving shoes. Produced by a family-owned factory in the Lazio region, their driving shoes feature distinctive pebble rubber soles, which extend to the heel counter for the ultimate driving experience.
There are a several styles such as penny or leather lace loafers and they’re available in a dizzying array of colours. Additionally, they’re all bench-made from alluringly soft French calfskin suede that has been tanned locally in Italy.
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.
Another new brand, Scarosso was founded as recently as 2010 by the German duo Moritz Offeney and Marco Reiter. Although headquartered in Berlin, Scarosso promises Italian craftsmanship with their shoes manufactured in a variety of family-run factories in the Montegranaro area.
Their shoes are only sold via their website by using a direct-to-consumer business model that’s somewhat similar to Beckett Simonon. Thanks to their online-only approach, Scarosso seeks to almost half the price of the shoes while still offering the same quality as the other brands listed above.
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.<