It might be surprising to see Santoni here. Their aesthetic is not of the kind normally featured on Permanent Style – a little too bright perhaps, a little too brash. But Santoni deserves a few words in its defence. It is a great company, and produces well-made shoes with, occasionally, a nice technical touch.
The shoes are all made 100% in Italy, in an age when some cynics will point out the Romanian number plates streaming in and out of Italian factories. And the factory in Corridonia is beautiful – one of the greenest out there (it is entirely run on solar power).
Neither of these things really matter to me – it’s about quality, nothing else – but our discussion on Sunspel last week clearly showed that they matter to others.
The construction of Santoni shoes varies with the price, as it does with a lot of makers: Goodyear and Blake, closed and open channels. But one thing that sets all of them apart is the colouring – particularly the depth of colour, given the softness of the leather.
Unlike the vast majority of English shoemakers, the shoes are painted rather than burnished or dyed in the leather. And unlike most French and Italian companies, the painting is done slowly and individually. It is this care that creates that depth.
On the technical side, Santoni will often include things like skeleton stitches, where the thread can just be seen pushing against the surface, or hidden seams. Some English makers highlight their only similar technique – hand sewing a split-toe Norwegian – as the jewel in the crown of the whole company. (And their only attempt at colour variation is the pre-washed look best known from Lobb’s Museum Calf).
The range of designs available, every season – from summer slip-ons to camo-patterned monks – also gives the buyer a broad range at a decent quality. Very few European shoemakers have this combination – they are mostly fashion companies or very traditional shoemakers. When Santoni was founded in the 1970s, it was with the intention of injecting a bit of extra quality into this market.
Most Santoni shoes are not to my taste. I don’t like bright colours or most of the technical details. But I often see Santoni compared to faddish European makers that are much more poorly made. It deserves a few words in its favour.
Photos: Luke Carby
Hi Simon, have you heard of O’keffee shoes? They have gotten a lot of press and Trunk carried them
I have one pair of Santoni shoes from their Goodyear line. Its a dark brown half brogue, very elegant shoe with nothing showy about it. While the materials and construction is top class, they are rather wide in the heel and as a result not very comfortable to wear. Their heel sizing is quite surprising as I have relatively wide feet to begin with and don’t have this problem with any other maker, be that EG, G&G or Cheaney!
I have always seen santoni as incredibly pointy shoes. Thoughts?
I wouldn’t say so, no. They are slightly more influenced by fashions, and European shoes are generally more elongated than Northampton ones, so might appear or have appeared more pointy for those reasons. Importantly, unlike many cheap European makers, they also have the right construction in the toe (a solid toe puff) which retains that elongated shape and stops them curling upwards
On the same subject of patina And shoes generally would love to hear thoughts regarding Septieme Largeur. (http://www.septiemelargeur.fr/en/)
I don’t have any experience of them I’m afraid Rabster. As you know I don’t usually make any comments on things I don’t know that well
Interesting post Simon. Seeing that they are often of sale on flashsites such a Gilt, could you comment on their value (from your perspective) and which of their lines is worth it. Thanks.
They’re all decent value – some in the industry in Italy tell me it’s what they wore growing up, as they appreciated make but couldn’t afford the top brands yet
Interesting to see Santoni on here Simon. Not in a bad way. I wear Santoni as often as I do Cleverly or Edward Green. Glad to see the defence of what is a great Italian brand when the snobbery infecting various enthusiast groupings has become so pervasive. Tailoring, horology, shoes….it seems that social media has created a new generation of “taste makers” who when they decry a certain thing (be it a style of dressing, a blake welt or a non-vintage wrist watch) generates a group think mentality that excludes those of differing opinion. Thanks for giving honest appraisal of craft without allowing such group think to invade this website. Cheers!
Yes, you can quite easily get into that mindset. The ‘rules’ are the most obvious example of that in clothing.
The key is understanding, as I’ve always said – understand why that rule or view exists, and decide whether you agree with it.
I’ve found this photo of some of your Rake colleagues, and other industry names:
Is a lighter colour windowpane a very bold fashion statement? More so than, say, a lighter color pinstripe?
Yes, it’s certainly bolder and more striking. Edward Sexton and I were also wearing matching suits, though in DB charcoal flannel, which wasn’t quite as bold
For consistent quality of workmanship, materials, and design my two favorite shoemakers are John Lobb and Bontoni with an honorable mention to Weston. One cannot go wrong with these fabulous companies and between them, the gentleman will have plenty of choices.
Thank you Scott. Always useful to have an idea of how many companies of a similar price point you have tried, and more specific reasons on why you prefer those ones, if that’s ok. The more objective information the better! Cheers, Simon
Simon, I came to this decision several years ago with the idea of idea of trying to keep things simple. I’ve tried Edward Green, Stephano B, Gravati,all American makers in addition to Lobb, Bontoni, and Weston. I’ve also evaluated several other high end shoes, such as Berluti, and found them to be either just not my style really or overated and overpriced. I find Lobb to be a superb example of english shoe making, always tasteful with understated style and fantastic craftsmanship. I settled on Bontoni as having similar attributes as Lobb,but from an Italian prespective. This is a small company that only produces 8 to 10 pairs of shoes a day. Weston also makes an outstanding shoe,but I like just a very few of the company’s models, thus the honorable mention. I hope this helps.
It does, thank you Scott.
You’re welcome. Of course I realize that by limiting myself to these three makers there are other quality shoes that I’ll not try as a result. However, I’m willing to accept that tradeoff as I constantly get comments about my shoes concerning their beauty and style and they just get better with age. For example, today I have on a pair of black Lobbs, the Chapel model. I can’t tell you how many compliments I’ve received on this shoe over the six or seven years that I’ve owned it. The idea of timeless style has a lot to recomend it, at least to me.
Have you ever tried Vass shoes Simon? I’m not sure if they are easily available in the UK but the quality is outstanding and they have a very flexible MTO programme that allows you to make pretty much whatever you want. Admittedly they are not quite as elegant as EG, Corthay, etc. but they look amazing with jeans, cords, flannels, etc.
Hey – no, I’ve seen them in person and met the company a couple of times, but never tried them. As you say, not quite the style for me.
Vass is my favorite, U last oxford is so elegant!!! And super comfortable.
I find it interesting that you find Santoni a little full on and was wondering if this is a more recent development.
I bought a couple of pairs at their boutique in NYC about ten years ago and have never had more comfortable, well made and beautiful shoes. Not at all too flash.
Frankly, I think they are way ahead of Berluti which I consider to be overpriced and incredibly uncomfortable.
These days, I wear mostly Chelsea boots that I’ve been getting from Tods, they are just so damn comfortable and have a good price/quality equation.
That said, I’m interested in trying Lobb but wonder how long term wearers find them in the comfort stakes?
Lobb will be very different from either of those makers, being a Northampton factory. More structured, stiffer to start with but lasting better and more comfortable over long term. No different to any other English shoe though
Very comfortable indeed
I like and own many Santoni, they produce different type of models from the Northampton guys. As reference, I own several, Church’s, Zegna, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, O’Keeffe, and other brands, I know, I will get some Bontoni and Saint Crispins when my wife is not watching.
Who know O’Keeffe? This brand deserves some attention. And the customer service is increíble.