Here is the third part of my recommendations, this time, centered on shoes. Like in the previous articles of this series, recommendations are organized by price range so that everyone can find the right footwear for his budget.
As a long time shoe lover, I had to make drastic choices to keep this post legible and not turn it into a beautiful shoe anthology. Indeed, today’s masculine footwear sector is enjoying very prosperous times (to our great delight) and offers elegant gents a plethora of quality products. Indeed, where only 10 years ago the market was structured around a few heavyweights (Weston, Church’s, Berluti, Lobb) catering to a restricted pool of shoe fiends, today’s offer is exploding to accommodate for the new, more demanding and cultured wave of customers.
Now more than ever before, purchasing a pair of shoes is an aesthetic act of the highest order (at least as important as purchasing a suit). Another sign of the times is the strong increase of services centered around shoes, like the throng of new workshops specializing in high end shoe care, glazing and patina.
This would have been unthinkable at the end of the 90s. Back then, men’s shoe culture was so poor, almost to the point of non-existence, that men who were asked to name 5 brands of high end shoes went as far as naming Paraboot and Mephisto after Weston and Church’s (I swear this happened to me). In such a context, making a selection that is both serious (based on quality, durability, beauty and comfort criteria) and yet representative of the current market is a true challenge.
Like we did with the RTW suit recommendations, we followed a few preliminary premises:
-First, forget mass made shoes because, believe us, “you have to be crazy to spend less than 150 euros” on a pair of shoes. Under this amount (from which you can expect real quality), you are not buying footwear, let alone shoes, but objects for men who dress their feet by mere necessity (nothing wrong with that, but simply not what we are talking about here) and who haven’t yet had the incredible pleasure of stepping in shoes worthy or being called as such.
- Second, exclude my lost loves: labels who either didn’t see the new wave of male interest for beautiful shoes coming, or who, often after buyouts, took a wrong turn on the quality or aesthetics road. This category contains three labels of my loves past that I had to exclude from of the list (the two former probably forever): Church’s, Stefanobi and Edward Green.
-Third, omit any very high end Italian shoemaker, like Lattanzi or Bontoni, precisely because they are almost impossible to find outside Italy. Here are our recommendations (subjective and incomplete yet serious) for shoes.
PRICE RANGE: 150 EUROS
In the last few years, it has become possible to find quality footwear for only 150 euros thanks to a French label who made price/quality ratio its creed and obsession, allowing many gentlemen to discover the joys of owning and wearing beautiful shoes without having to rob a bank.
PG’S RECOMMENDATION: LODING
In full expansion, this French company is founded on a very strong commercial idea: unique pricing. This means that ALL Loding shoes sell for the same price: 150 euros. At this price, not only is there a lot to choose from (including very contemporary lines), but the quality is very good with a very adequate leathers selection, Good Year construction and a good choice of colours. Loding is an excellent choice for those who, temporarily or not, cannot spend more on good footwear. PG salutes this label with its quality-selection-price trifecta, unique in France.
PRICE RANGE 200 – 250 EUROS
Formerly controlled by ultra traditional labels of so-called “second rank” like Bowen, this category is in full expansion. It has recently started to attract more and more gents who just discovered the joy of owning a beautiful pair of shoes. In this category like in the first one, a French label clearly stands out, with what is undoubtedly one of the most impressive success stories of the last few years in the sector.
PG’S RECOMMENDATION: FINSBURY
With 80,000 pairs sold this year, the French (contrary to what the name suggests) label FINSBURY has become one of the biggest commercial successes in the sector in just a few years. The reasons for this breakthrough? Very fair pricing and a particularly wide range of models that cater to everybody, from the most conservative to the dandiest. Finsbury takes you to the brink of high end without heating up your credit card too much. With a consistent, controlled and qualitative development curve, this label surprises us with each passing season. Good job.
PRICE RANGE: 250-350 EUROS
In this other very “crowded” price range, a third French label stands out thanks to a very strong sourcing policy resulting in quality shoes at a fair price.
PG’S RECOMMENDATION: EMLING
In the last few years, this remarkable – and discreet – French label has been undergoing a quiet revolution that secured the loyalty of a classic clientele, while capturing a new client base, lured in when the label started offering bolder models. Under the creative lead of Marc Guyot, Emling is becoming an important player in the middle segment, which is certainly one of the hardest to control. Indeed, at 300 euros, we have moved up from downscale, but not reached luxury quite yet – such a positioning is challenging to secure from a communication point of view. But we can tell and feel that Emling is doing well, season after season, thanks to superb collections, impressively consistent in terms of quality. They recently opened an online store to reach to the non-parisian crowd.
PRICE RANGE: 500 EUROS
We are now both feet (!!!) into the world of high end shoes where connoisseurs pick their shoes in complete freedom (without any financial constraint) and often based on style only (at this price, quality is expected). In this segment, you can find everything from the most classic (Weston) to the most British (Crockett & Jones) to the wildly creative and bold (Marc Guyot). Speaking of which …
PG’S RECOMMENDATION: MARC GUYOT
It is no secret for our loyal readers: PG holds the work of Marc Guyot in high esteem. His suit, shirt and accessory collections are always very tasteful and well-designed. For his shoe range, MG offers, true to himself, a strongly 30s inspired line with enough character to rejoice the dandiest among us.
Impeccably sourced in excellent Italian factories, with bold shapes, a great attention to details and good leather quality, the entire Marc Guyot universe can be summed up in this very special collection that oozes good taste. A glorious and idealized tribute to a golden age, when even the paper boy was dressed with taste and distinction. Alternatives: WESTON (in full renewal) and CROCKETT & JONES.
PRICE RANGE: 700 EUROS and ABOVE
Having decided to only make ONE recommendation per price range (with the exception of the above section), we long pondered on the very high-end recommendation. Imagine our predicament: how to choose between Corthay, Lobb, Aubercy, Berluti and Gaziano & Girling? When I think about it, it seems anyone passionate about beautiful shoes should own at least one pair from each of these houses, as they were all involved to one degree or another (especially Berluti in the 90s) when the market of men’s shoes really took off. Unable to decide, we finally resolved to abstain, and to instead add a name to this exceptional “hall of fame”, a name that should gain popularity in years to come: Carlos Santos.
PG’S RECOMMENDATIONS: AUBERCY, BERLUTI, CARLOS SANTOS, CORTHAY, GAZIANO & GRLING, JOHN LOBB.
Gaziano & Girling