Bocache & Salvucci was a bit of a surprise when I visited last month.
I’d come across the shoemaker at Jean-Manuel Moreau, in Paris, and had assumed that in Rome I would find a small (because relatively unknown) bespoke craftsman.
What I actually found was two shops doing much more: one making a huge variety of handmade shoes, and the other offering bespoke tailoring, accessories, and made-to-measure knitwear and outerwear.
The second shop opened seven years ago, in response apparently to requests from international shoemaking customers. And that was the other thing - those customers are many and varied. Nearly all visited privately - no trunk shows - but around the world and often keeping Gianluca (the founder) on the road for most of the year.
As you might guess from some of the styles you can see here, and the preponderance of alligator, the customer skews toward the very wealthy - the natural home of the private visit and multiple order.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some beautiful and understated things too. The range of shoes, for instance, is such that there are pointy single-hole derbys but also high-walled loafers, blue-suede summer slip-ons alongside conservative cap-toes.
Above, for example, is a gorgeous one-piece tassel loafer with handmade braiding, and an equally fine penny loafer in black crocodile.
But then by contrast, below, are the sugary blue suedes, and a rather pointy wing tip with red lining.
Interestingly, most of the shoes are made with the same handwork, and are usually Blake stitched rather than welted.
“We can do Goodyear as well, and many clients opt for that,” says Gian Luca Bocache (below), one of the founders alongside Roberto Salvucci. “But we usually prefer Blake because it is softer, and we can resole everything ourselves in-house, whether it’s a cemented crepe sole or Blake-stitched leather.”
The shoes are also hand clicked (cut), hand lasted and hand painted. Only the closing and the Blake stitching of the soles are done by machine.
The latter is one reason the prices are quite reasonable for bespoke, with shoes starting at €2200.
The lasts used are sized, plastic ones, with a different set for each model of shoe. But there is often extensive modification to a customer’s last, with leather added and plastic shaved away. One example is shown above.
Also below is one section of the last room. Customers’ lasts are grouped into geographical areas, with the US by far the biggest. Americans account for about 70% of bespoke orders.
“We see a lot of international clients in Europe when they’re on holiday,” says Gian Luca. “Usually we’re in Cap d’Antibes four times during the high season there, and then in Courchevel four times during the winter.”
Gian Luca and Roberto started the business almost 25 years ago. In that time the number of other makers in Rome has shrunk, with Marini (maker to Agnelli) the only one left, a few doors down.
“This whole street used to be the shoemakers area,” says Gian Luca, pointing up and down Via Francesco Crispi, which ends at the top of the famous Spanish Steps. “But now Gatto and Rampin have gone it’s not much of a quarter.”
So it’s good to see Bocache & Salvucci in good health. They opened their second shop (the ‘boutique’ rather than the ‘atelier') seven years ago - as a place where the more casual visitor could see a full range of menswear, rather than just order bespoke shoes.
The practicality of this was shown when we visited, with one visiting American couple asking whether any of the shoes were for sale. They were told that unfortunately they weren’t, but they could visit the boutique round the corner.
The boutique is something of an atelier too, because there is bespoke tailoring going on in the back (shown above). But the front is more like a regular shop, with a shiny display of everything from knitwear to belts, trainers to leather jackets, both ready-to-wear and made-to-order.
“Most of what we sell is made to order though,” says Gian Luca. “That was something we wanted to carry across from the shoemaking. So we work with makers that can do one-off pieces with a few sizing alterations.”
There is a range of knitwear to try on, but also books and books of cashmeres and silk mixes to pick from, with sleeve length, body length and waist size able to be specified.
Reassuringly, Bocache & Salvucci consciously follow the model I prefer for MTM knitwear and outerwear, of making alterations to standard models rather than starting from scratch.
In my fairly long experience, this is much more likely to lead to a product that meets expectations, whether it’s a V-neck knit or a deerskin blouson.
The quality of all the clothing is the absolute finest, as you’d probably expect with their clientele.
The blouson above, for example, was in deerskin similar to that I’ve had from Loro Piana or Seraphin. And the hand-stitching around seams and edges - although not something I personally like that much - also demonstrates the work involved, similar to a maker like Melina.
I was tempted by a few of the simpler and more restrained pieces, as readers will probably expect. That blouson, without the stitching, in the dark-brown deerskin. A sand-coloured suede overshirt. Those black alligator loafers.
All of them are examples of how any luxury menswear can be understated - and often more powerful for it. Wear that blouson with a pair of charcoal flannels and suede loafers, and it will be elegant rather than showy. Particularly as the deerskin starts to wear and age.
Same goes for the loafers. In an age when many guys don’t wear a jacket, well-cut trousers and beautiful shoes - not in brash styles or colours, but well-made and well-maintained - are effective ways to add sophisticated style.
If the alligator is too shiny for you, brush it but don’t polish it. Or only polish the toe.
The tailoring, by the way, is soft and light, but cleaner than most Neapolitan bespoke. More similar to luxury ready-made in that way, as you might see at Zegna (though of course, better made).
It starts at €3500 for a suit, which is also the starting price for a made-to-measure blouson.
The only place you can find ready-made shoes is at Jean-Manuel Moreau in Paris - he and Gian Luca are old friends - so if you are there it’s probably worth popping in to see them.
And overall I’d say if you’re in Rome it’s worth stopping into one of the stores. The range of the product is such that there’s likely to be something that appeals to you, even if it’s only the nice stock of Baracuta jackets. (Gian Luca: The only brand name we sell - they are my youth!”.)
Below, in order: A shoe hand-painted in coloured stripes; the tire-based shoes of a customer, a chief of the Maasai, which were replaced with B&S boots; the selection of alligator available for MTO belts; an unstructured alligator loafer.
Atelier: Via Francesco Crispi, 115A; +39 06 8376 6008
Boutique: Via Sistina, 46A; +39 06 8354 1553