Since the end of the 19th Century until the current time men’s shoes have not undergone any substantial changes. Gaiters and long buttons have vanished, the height of boots has decreased, shoes can now be organised into a (few) styles, materials and colours.
Francesina. This is without doubt the simplest style, characterised by the way the vamp is stitched over the quarter panels. The term Francesina is used by purists; in general the style is known as Oxford, after the name of the English university city where it was adopted by students, descendants of the best English families.
The style can either be plain or ornamented with the classic brogue on the toe and bands of embroidered perforations on the toe. When the band of ornamental perforations doesn’t cut across the toe transversely (straight perforations), but follows the characteristic “wingtip” shape (toecap at the centre of the vamp, which descends towards the toes and then rises in a curve which follows the line of the foot as far as the waist, that being the narrowest part), in that case the model can also be called the Diulio.
Styles with ornamental perforations always strike a sporty note, more or less so according to the quantity of ornamentation.
The English use the term Brogue to refer to a sportier, heavier style, inspired by the imitation of the heavy footwear worn by Irish farmers which made use of holes in the upper to allow an exit for the water which constantly crept in as they walked on the soggy Irish soil.
Balmoral. A variant of the Francesina, also known as an inverted vamp: even though it ends with a curve, the vamp extends as far as the ankle, with an overlap which runs along the length of the quarter panel.
Derby. This is the other classic style of laced shoe; it takes its name from the county of Derby which introduced it at the end of the 18th Century. It is the exact opposite to the Francesina in that the quarter panels are sewn over the vamp, which forms a single piece with the tongue. The Derby too can be either plain or ornamented according to preference.
The Derby style however generally has a more sporty tone. There exists another very elegant variation of the Derby in which laces have been replaced with a side buckle.
Moccasin. Takes its name from the deerskin footwear worn by the Indians of North America, formed from a sole of extremely flexible leather which rises around the sides, encasing the foot laterally. The true Mocassin, or tubular Mocassin consists of a piece of leather which encases the whole foot from underneath, leaving open the central section, where the gathered-toe or puckered-toe would be sewn, whilst in the more widely available mounted Moccasin, the upper is usually fixed to the insole.
Slipper. Can feature a bilateral insert of elasticated material to make it easier to put on; likewise it can be made without an insert in which case the vamp is cut in order to better accommodate and enclose the instep.
Polachetto. Derived from the Balmoral the topline rises to ankle-height and the boot is secured with laces which pass through several pairs of eyelets.
Gambaletto. Completely covers the ankle and laces through eyelets and hooks. When the lacing is replaced with a bilateral insert of elasticated fabric to allow the foot to enter more easily, it is called Brocchino.
Ankle boot. Usually a hunting boot, it reaches to approximately mid-calf, and laces through eyelets and hooks.
Riding boot. Completely free from laces. The part which hugs the leg is made from stiff leather.
A well-made shoe arises from the harmonious fusion of a number of elements: style, material, colour. There doesn’t exist an elegant or sporty style tout court; there exist models which, depending on the material, colour or ornamentation can change from the most sporty to the most sophisticated style.