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
Ah Simon, you’ve stepped into one of the final hidden gem streets. Tell me you went a few doors down to Aloisio. May well be the best in Roman bespoke….
I’ve already covered him JM – have a search on the site
Would you regard crocodile as a comfortable leather,Simon? With (very) limited knowledge, it seems one of the tougher leathers. Are there any practical advantages -apart from it looking very smart.
I find it very comfortable, yes, no different to fine calf. Perhaps you’re thinking of a thicker hide used for a bag or something?
One small advantage is that it retains a shine well, but it’s also a little more delicate than calf usually.
Overall though, no you’re just buying it for the look. I do particularly like the little asymmetries of the scales
Ah, yes. That’s it,but my experience was in belts.
If I could ask , are you familiar with Zelli? Below the price point of usual PS, but I have my eye on a pair of nicotine crocodile.
I’m not, sorry
Very interesting as always Simon. Do you know the price level of MTM knitwear (of course depends on the material) ?
Good point, no I don’t. Let me ask
It’s a little pricey – the cashmere starts at €1200
Another informative article. This may well be the sort of hybrid model that will sustain high quality production and retail going forward.
On a sort of related note, your writing always demonstrates your passion for what you do, never appearing superficial, however it’s the pictures where this really shows through. I mean this in a nice way, you so often look like the proverbial’kid in a sweet shop!’ Long may it remain so.
Err, just wondering – what is the image at the top of the blog of?
Skins for shoes, laid over the top of a leather couch
Very interesting shop, thanks! Perhaps it is a broad stroke but it doesnt seem like the interior matches the level of their product?!? For a minute there i thought that was the Maasai chief with the candelabra on his head : )
Ooof, that’s a bit of a remark to make.
Ooof says the …. : )
Actuallyt think your ‘oof’ should be redirected towards their interior decorator. They choose the ali baba candelabra, not me?!?
Says the… Go on, don’t be shy now.
No, I’ll keep that one directed at you, thanks.
Its not a matter of bravado or lack there of (as seems apparent in your case) rather a disdain of curating.
Doubt you will see any such decor on saville row let alone any high street establishments.
BTW, I know the rhyming word wont get published here but am sure your lot has heard it plenty of times, and justifiably so imo.
OK guys, let’s leave it there please. This is needlessly personal. Thank you
Nice article Simon, seems like quite a gem of a place. You look fantastic in that Deerskin A1 style jacket, looks like top quality leather of course.
I appreciate your comments about understated luxury, I think we can all learn a lesson from these concepts. Now, to find a way to incorporate those beautiful black crocodile pennies into my outfits…
Interesting that you’ve come across Gianluca’s shops. I actually discovered him in 2010 on my first trip to Rome when he was still proposing his shoes out of Sartoria Ripense boutique on Via di Ripetta. I have a lot of respect for Bocache Salvucci and ordered 6 pairs as well as a work bag over the years. The work has been nothing short of beautiful.
The price value ratio was second to none at the time. Although the price is now higher, there is still no comparable offer on the market. It’s also wonderful to be able to go browse through their available leathers. It doesn’t hurt that the pair if gentlemen whose name is on the shop is absolutely charming.
I wasn’t too sure about the Blake montage at first but these shoes turned out to be incredibly more comfortable compared to my bespoke pairs from Paris and London.
I have had a variety of Richelieu, loafers and even boots made by Gianluca made in antelope, alligator, calf and grained leather. They all aged rather well and are still strong. I have the chance of having a rather large collection of shoes so the rotation is high but even the two pairs that have been resoled felt like new afterwards.
Thanks Paul, very useful to have the experience of having been a customer for a long while
A question prompted by the cream db in the above image. I was thinking about getting a db suit for a wedding but wanted it in a more relaxed Neopolitan style. Would you recomend that, using someone like e.g. Solito, or do you think that more structure is required in a db? If so, what would you recommend.
I think a DB can look great in either style – I’d go with Neapolitan if that’s what feels natural to you. Have a look at my Ciardi cord for an example, or Caliendo hopsack
I love that unlined, white double breasted jacket Simon. Was it part of a suit or a separate, and do you recall the price?
It was a separate and I didn’t inquire the price of that specifically. I don’t see why it would be that far from the general pricing though
Does anyone know a good maker for the type of ‘driving shoes’ I used to have in the late 90s (sold under the Jaguar brand a.o.)? They were a cross between a chukka, a sneaker and a moccasin. A suede ankle boot with a rubber sole, and a relatively elegant last. More casual than a chukka because of the sole but more stylish than a desert boot because of the last shape and the sole… I’ve added a pic of my last best alternative for this type of dogwalk-in-the-Netherlands-in-late-summer type of shoe – unfortunately not in the quality I’d like. Tods has some models that come close and Loro Piana has a range of alternatives but a strange colour selection in my opinion. Thank you very much for your input all.
Michael Jondral usually have stocks of driving shoes- I bought my Tods from him. Mine were a dark brown suede boot with the bumpy sole. I added the sanders boot link but it has a crepe sole.
Have you tried Aurelian? Their boots are quite elegant.
My late summer dog walks in Rotterdam have often utilised wellingtons. I love an optimist.
Excellent, many thanks Peter. Wellies starting the week after that late summer I guess 🙂