Best of the Best 2002: Style: Best Shoes

<< Back to Robb Report, June 2002
  • William Kissel

Finishing Touches
Silvano Lattanzi wants it known that he uses genuine, top-grade cordovan leather in his new footwear collection. The bespoke shoemaker located in Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Italy, feels so strongly about making this point that he purposely leaves the skin supplier’s “Genuine Cordovan” branding clearly visible on his new collection of shoes rather than polishing it out. Few shoemakers today work in genuine cordovan, a split horsehide, which originated in Córdoba, Spain, hence the name. Lattanzi is known for dyeing exotic skins with multiple layers of stain to achieve unprecedented gradations of color. In addition to concocting new patinas for unique materials such as ostrich, alligator, and snakeskin, the 49-year-old shoemaker is often considered the mastermind of the Neapolitan-style shoe, with its thick, sharply cut leather soles and hand-sewn contrast rope stitching. Two years ago, he became the first Italian bespoke shoemaker to use Cord Air comfort technology. And for a truly custom finish, Lattanzi is the only shoemaker who regularly sets a customer’s initials in brass nails on the instep of the soles.

Silvano Lattanzi, +39.0734.810213

Best Westerns
Michael Anthony Carnacchi—whose label reads simply Michael Anthony—may be one of the few bootmakers to make house calls, though he usually works his magic in a tiny, 500-square-foot shop in Sebastopol, Calif. Here he fashions German Freudenberg calf and rare saltwater crocodile into one-of-a-kind cowboy boots for well-heeled men who, he says, are more inclined to “punch the pedals on a private jet than jump on the back of a horse.”

Carnacchi, who learned his craft from retired veteran Texas bootmaker Jack Reed, is especially enamored with exotic materials—kangaroo, saltwater crocodile, python—that are generally illegal to sell in the United States without government authorization. But Carnacchi is the only bespoke bootmaker with connections at Gordon Choisy, the Hermès-owned French leather goods supply house that sells him these skins. And he is the only U.S. bootmaker licensed with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to sell these materials Stateside. Carnacchi’s leather confections require 50 hours of labor and are embellished with customized seams, pullstraps, and fancy stitching.

Michael Anthony, 707.823.7204

Boots to Bet on
John Lobb
on St. James’s Street in London made custom boots—from riding styles to work varieties—before it began producing bespoke shoes. The company’s namesake, a crippled farm boy, got his start in 1849 making prospector’s boots for Australian gold miners.

Today, John Hunter Lobb, the founder’s great-grandson, oversees the business in the same building where Lord Byron spent his bachelor days. A dozen cobblers work in the shop to ensure that what passes through its hallowed doors is, as Lobb says, “a Rembrandt compared with a penny print.”

John Lobb’s boots are made on custom wood lasts and are often identified by the company’s subtly beveled toe. The firm invented Wellington boots—a 3-inch leather prototype pair was sent to the Duke of Wellington for approval as his troops drilled before the Crimean War. Before that, Lobb made riding boots for both King Edward VII and King George V, and the firm holds royal warrants to produce boots for the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Charles.

John Lobb Ltd., +44.20.7930.3664

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