Yes, Santoni does bespoke. Or close enough that I’m happy to give it that label.
Italian colour-meisters Santoni will do a bespoke version of most shoes in their collection (which of course changes more and is wider than any other shoemaker we cover here on Permanent Style). They don’t always create an entirely bespoke last, however – if the customer wants a model from the collection, they amend an existing last and cut it down or build it up, in order to get the perfect fit.
The welt and sole are both hand-sewn. This is done on the Fatto a Mano offering too, which ca be made-to-order or ready-to-wear. The bespoke service is called Fatto a Mano Su Misura.
I was measured at Harrod’s last year and did one fitting there a couple of months later. Santoni were keen to let bespoke aficionados know that they had a bespoke service too, and offered to let me try it out. The fitting was on a trial leather, but with a fully made shoe – sole and heel attached.
I then picked up the shoes in January this year in Milan. The turn around can be very quick – less than a month between stages – but it made sense to see them in January when I would be visiting the showroom anyway.
So what was the result like? Let’s break this down into sections.
First, the make. A Santoni shoe, even one that is Fatto a Mano Su Misura, does not have a bespoke make in many of the ways we have come to think about it. There isn’t much bevelling of the waist; the heel is pretty square (in pitch and in run-in to the waist; the hand-sewing isn’t really used in any way to refine the shape of the sole. The sole is essentially the same as a RTW Santoni shoe you would pick up in the shop.
Second, the fit. This was good at the fitting, and better with the final shoe. But in a similar way to the make, there aren’t any of the bespoke touches of other bespoke makers. The heel cup isn’t cut in to shape around my high, narrow heel – as it is with other makers (particularly Cleverley and Bemer). The in-step isn’t built up any more than normal. It feels like what it is – a ready-made shoe that has been adjusted to better fit my foot.
Third, the colour. This I specified, and Santoni really are masters at it. The depth, the shine and subtle variation of the patina are better than Berluti, Corthay, re-patinated Gaziano & Girling, or independents like Dandy Shoe Care. A beautiful, deeply shiny pair of shoes.
In suit terms, perhaps it’s best to think of this as made-to-measure, rather than bespoke. Even though there is lots of hand-work involved, it hasn’t produced the kind of refined manufacture we expect from bespoke makers elsewhere. The price also puts it at a disadvantage – €4500, and €900 for plain Fatto a Mano. I stand by the fact that much of the RTW is value for money; but it’s hard to say the same thing about the bespoke.
The colour is indeed beautiful. Such richness!
Are those the green moleskins from Calvo de Mora? A nice marriage to the shoes.
However, for those with ok foot proportions, i still maintain that bespoke footwear for most in an exercise in diminishing returns.
Yes, they are.
I agree generally on bespoke, although almost everything is a case of diminishing returns the more you spend. Companies tend to deliver the highest value stuff first.
It’s more a question of how fast they diminish, given an individual’s priorities.
I would like to have a question on you unrelated to this post but hopefully of general interest, if I may.
My question regards the length of a suit jacket. What is the proper length here? I was able to find a lot written about the sleeve’s length but not about the jacket’s.
There’s lots of guidance. For example it should finish halfway down your thumb. Or be half the length of the suit from collar to cuff. But the most important thing is to cover your arse
There are a number of fantastic shoemakers who do great work. In an effort to simplify, I’ll remind your readers that one can never go wrong with shoes from John Lobb, Bontoni, and Weston. These three makers provide timeless style,superb craftsmanship,and beautiful leathers. So gentlemen, simplify your shoe buying and enjoy it more by concentrating your efforts on these three companies.
I don’t think that’s entirely fair though. There are many more that, in my experience of all of them and of these, also make great shoes. Which you prefer depends on many things – most subtly, construction, and most obviously, style
With your burgeoning shoe collection? Is there a point where enough is enough? I recall an old GQ article (2012 i think) where you confessed you had around 30 pairs of shoes. In the three years since, that number must have increased greatly.
Also, which is more important to accumulate – Shoes or suits?
I tend to work on a one-in, one-out policy. So I have given away a lot of my old Lodgers in recent years, for example. Lovely as they were, they weren’t of the same construction level as more recent ones, such as these. (In the UK they were made by Cheaney and Sargent.)
Tough question. You need both, but most men have a more personal thing for shoes.
Again, a side-bar question. Being well-dressed is obviously primarily about a practice of the eyes rather than the deepness of the pockets. However, given the superiority of bespoke in terms of fit and handwork, do you believe that it is, in reality, impossible for one to be well-dressed, as defined by the standards of this blog, without the deep pockets?
Would be interested to know your philosophy on this.
PS: what has happened to your GB commissions, now that you have moved on to Savile Row items?
Absolutely not. Get anything altered and it will fit better; most men don’t bother to do that. Pay basic attention to classic styles and you will look better; most men don’t bother with that either. And avoid silly, unflattering trends (guys with tiny jackets, I’m talking about you)
As with Lodger below, some of my GB suits I have given away. I still have a few though – particularly the very first one I had made….
Can you offer a quick guide on getting things altered? Whenever I have something to be altered a seamstress casually tightens the tummy and thats about it. what should you ask to have done, and what should you be looking for in someone doing your alterations? v important for us that arent in london and cant swing by graham browne!!
Worth having a search on the site for such things, eg:
Your outfit there Simon looks great. A question on shoes – if you use a darker brown polish or cream on lighter shoes will the colour last? Is it a mistake to try and alter the colour in this way?
No, you definitely can do it over time. Do it very subtly though (the closest polish you have, but darker) and make sure it’s worked into the leather
Lovely colour indeed. Aren’t sides a bit high and square for an Italian make? Seems more Austro-Hungarian. You had mentioned earlier that you dislike Vass because of their aesthetics…..this shape seems quite close to them.
Perhaps the photography. No, it’s a lot sleeker than Vass, particularly the last shape
A complete newbie question here – I noticed the way your trousers appear to have been hemmed in these pictures; essentially just folding the material inside the leg and tacking it a few inches above the ankle. I recently moved back to the UK after 2 years in Tokyo, where I also noticed this style, particularly on suit trousers. I think the visible line of stitching around the trouser leg looks rather odd so I was very surprised to find you sporting the same thing. Is there some benefit that I haven’t thought of? Thanks!
It’s not a style, merely how trousers are taken up, but the line shouldn’t really be that visible. It is only here because of the high contrast of the shots
Without meaning to be pedantic or unappreciative, I find the way in which these photos have been processed distracting. Maybe it was just the lighting but it’s difficult to appreciate what the shoes actually look like.
Thanks for the view Giffen. We inevitably try to make the shots, and therefore the product, look attractive in the imagery, but I appreciate that there is a need for accuracy throughout as well
I notice that there is not the classic Italian “double stitching” on the seams…is something that is neccessary or can be specified? I have always heard it is a sign of quality construction (certainly all my better shows have had them).
And what sort of welting do these shoes have, and again, can you specify the type?
Do you mean the seams on the upper?
And it’s a standard Goodyear-welt construction, but obviously sewn by hand.
Yes, the stitching on the upper parts. They all appear to be single row, as opposed to two parallel lines of stitching.
It’s not necessarily a sign of quality, no.
sorry “shows” = “shoes”….
Interesting to read about Santoni’s Fatto a Mano Su Misura. Your conclusions are pretty much what I had got for impression of them. I’d call the offering semi bespoke (as this is more common used in the shoe world than MTM), last adjustments are the same as the semi bespoke offering from Bestetti or Vass for example, where standard lasts are modified but only to a certain extent.
I’d agree on the make, but less so on the last-making. The last can be entirely bespoke, made from scratch, it’s just that the bespoke is normally made off an existing RTW model and therefore adjustments make more sense – it, that is, you don’t prioritise aspects of the normal bespoke fit such as a close-fitting waist, closer heel cup etc
I’m curious about the the benefit of having a last made from scratch versus adjusting a last. The former involves rasping until the desired shape is reached (and maybe adding back a little based on fittings). The latter would rasp and add as needed until the desired shape is reached (refining it in fittings). In theory, why wouldn’t the exact same result be reached both ways?
Is the real difference that a maker adjusting an existing last may be trying to preserve that original shape as much as possible, and so is holding back from fully making the changes needed to get to the desired shape? Or do you perceive there to be more to it than that?
It’s a few things, but one is that you can’t add as much to an existing last – unless you take an existing one that’s rather bigger, and at that point you might almost create one from scratch. There is your point that you don’t necessarily want to make a huge number of changes (again, it might be almost as much work). And then there are more fundamental changes – the lean or balance of the foot, rather than just making some bits bigger or smaller, more 3D changes – that it’s hard to do well on an adjusted last.
Thanks Simon, most of those make perfect sense. The one I’m struggling to understand a little is the final point on lean/balance of the foot. I think most fundamentally, I’m not understanding how a last maker measures for those–the measurements they take (in my very limited experience) don’t account for that, though I recognize that I may just not understand that part of their process.
It’s not necessarily something you measure for, just something you see from the other measures. Like the fact that if you have a shorter front to a jacket than a back, it may well be because you stoop forward
Thanks, that makes sense then. I can see how a taking the same measurements, but adjusting the last (rather than making a new one) wouldn’t be able to account for major differences in the lean and balance. Would it be fair to say, though, that since there is no measurement, and presumably once a new last is made and used for the first fitting, there’s no real adjustment that can be done (similar to how it can’t be done for a pre-existing last)? Therefore, any last maker is only roughly getting the lean/balance right based on their observation and memory (with no measurement of it)? So if an existing last is close, there’s negligible benefit to a purely custom last in terms of the balance/lean?
Much appreciate your time and patience to discuss such a fine and technical point!
No, I’m saying the measurements encompass that balance, as in my jacket example.
Anyway, I think this is probably getting too technical to be of much use.
Thanks for this instructive post.
A question: since leather stretches, I wonder whether at a certain time the pitch at the level of the heel wouldn’t simply disappear the more you wear the shoes. I have a 10 year-old Grenson. I don’t remember how they looked like at this level when I bought them. But right now they look exactly as if the heel had been bevelled by the maker.
So I’m not sure whether even for esthetic reasons the bevelling around the heel is really worth and a good idea for those who do not plan to have 20 or so shoes.
Leather shouldn’t stretch much in this area, as it has an extra leather structure inside. (You can feel that in the difference between the stiffness of the shoe here and in the middle, again versus the toe where there is a toe puff supporting it.)
I’m not sure exactly what you mean by bevelling the heel though. I’m talking about the heel stack – the bit you walk on. It sounds like you might be talking about the heel cup, the part of the shoe that actually holds your heel? There are fit reasons why this should be cut tight around your heel, and the bottom of it shouldn’t stretch that much either as mentioned (again if properly made and looked after)
Bespoke aside, there are even high-end shoes such as those made by G&G, St Crispin, etc. which are made in such a way that the entire part of the heel really looks like as being made using a Blake construction, while using a goodyear one. I guess, this esthetic feature is what you were refering to in your post. So I wonder whether this kind of achievement – while being esthetically lovely indeed – is really worth the bother when the shoes are not only worn on specific occasions.
It’s done by G&G, St Crispin etc to mimic the effect on a bespoke shoe. Those makers in particular are very good at taking some of these bespoke niceties and using them in RTW – elements Santoni in contrast doesn’t consider that important
How would you compare this with say, a dark brown museum calf finish?
I don’t like Museum Calf, or any patination effect like that which is done on the skin rather than the shoe. It looks artificial.
So a lot nicer, in other words!
Hope life is treating you well Simone; I recently purchased two pairs of Santoni’s from Nordstrom during their half yearly sale; the Stafford model a black and brown pair. They are RTW hand made . I also really like the Bartlett model, but they are pricey and not on sale, while I do like the shoe , but I’m not a fan of paying full retail, I usually wait until Nordstrom have a sale
Actually I’m thinking of returning one pair of the Staffords and buy the Bartlett.
Need your advice , first on the quality of the Stafford and if the Bartlett is a better shoe/value for the money:$875.00 . Thanking you in advance.
Simon I’m elated over the fact that during Nordstrom’s recent fall sale the Bartlet by Santoni was on sale for 33.5% off of $875. Yes I bought them , now I have three pair of georgeous Santoni’s
I really enjoy reading PS newsletter, always great style information. Irv