Wardrobe: Sole Men
Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling are challenging England’s bench-made shoe establishment by defiantly cutting the cap toes of their new calfskin oxfords in the shapes of diamonds. They also are twisting the penny straps on softly rounded square-toe loafers, and making diamond-shaped perforations on classic wingtips and monk straps. G.J. Cleverley, John Lobb, or Edward Green, the most prominent of the country’s few remaining cobblers, never would include such unconventional design details—unless, of course, you were to request them. “We wanted to offer something a little more interesting than the classic oxford or derby styles” for which English shoemakers are known, Gaziano says of the launch this fall of Gaziano & Girling, their bespoke shoe label. “It’s a step in the right direction, anyway.”
In addition to including the aforementioned subtly subversive details, their updated interpretations of the classics are slimmer and shapelier. “They are also a little more elegant, almost effeminate, whereas old-fashioned English shoes tend to be quite stout and bulky,” says Gaziano, whose designs are as durable as typical English footwear and as flexible and as sleek as Italian shoes.
Both shoemakers say the true beauty of bespoke is that the possibilities are infinite. “We encourage our clients to add their own design specifications, suggest their own color combinations, even completely design the shoes themselves,” says Gaziano, noting that, to fulfill a request, he and Girling seek out tanneries anywhere in the world to find the materials. For those not ready to invest $2,900 to $5,600 for a pair of handmade shoes, Gaziano and Girling also introduced a half-machine-made/half-bench-made collection that is priced from $750. They offer both lines seasonally through private showings in Dallas, New York, San Francisco, and other major American cities.
Although still in their 30s, Gaziano and Girling collectively have accumulated two dozen years of training from other bespoke masters. Gaziano, 33, studied under the late John Hlustik, a shoemaker who reached his pinnacle in the 1960s, and later worked at G.J. Cleverley and Edward Green. Girling, 36, trained at the original John Lobb atelier on London’s St. James’s Street with veteran craftsman Ray Cook.
Unlike most bespoke shoemakers, Gaziano and Girling say tiny irregularities are not necessarily a mark of handmade quality. “We prefer precision,” says Gaziano, whose 10 in-house craftsmen labor without any time constraints at the company’s workshop in Kettering, Northhamptonshire. “There is so much precision detailing in these shoes, they make even the finest machine-made footwear look crude,” he adds. “These are like museum pieces—so nice, you’re almost afraid to put them on your feet.”
Pointed cap toes and diamond-shaped perforations update monk straps and other classic shoe styles.
Gaziano & Girling