The Heritage of Shoes

Few items of clothing have provided so much to chew on for psychologists, sociologists and semiologists as the shoe has. Born out of the need to protect the foot from the rough ground (the Italian word for shoe derives from the German skarpa, meaning pocket or leather bag, itself stemming from the Indo-European root sku or ku meaning to cover), the shoe soon assumed symbolic values; we will begin here with those of a sexual nature.

If it’s true that the shoe was a phallic symbol – but this is just one of many examples – then the dandies of the XII century pushed it to its limit, giving birth to the fashion of “la poulaine”, which gave place to the longest and most extravagant wave of folly in the history of men’s shoes: a low shoe or boot of silk, velvet or leather, which extended, along the line of the big toe into a long point, stuffed with horse hair to keep it rigid, and often curving upwards with a bell on the end.

As a symbol of power and riches the shoe has been endorsed since antiquity. In Egypt, the Pharaohs were depicted barefoot, followed by a servant whose role was to bear the sandals of the sovereign, symbol of his absolute power.

In Rome, the calceus was reserved for patricians and Roman citizens.
In the Middle-Ages shoes were entered in the Last Will and Testament as inheritances.

A great part of the fascination of men’s shoes, built to endure, lies in the leather with which they have been made. Soft and firm to the touch, its surface recalls silk, and the more it ages the more beautiful it becomes.

It was in the 19th Century that shoes began to assume some of the distinguishing features that define them today. High heels, buckles and sequins were swept away in the French Revolution and the shoe became an object of sober elegance, solid and dependable. Attention focused on construction, on the increasingly valuable skins and on the increasingly sophisticated detailing. If the poor wore wooden clogs or cheap shoes which had been frequently re-soled, the rich and elite ordered their shoes in London; they would arrive, months later, accompanied by the mythical hartshorn for polishing. And so the shoe was transformed into an investment, an asset to conserve and as such could be passed down from father to son. At the beginning of this century, Bond Street would witness competition amongst tens of talented Italian artisan-artists.

The great industrial revolution has made of our country one of the greatest producers of shoes in the world.

Neither the fiercest industrialisation nor the most advanced technology are capable of substituting the strong manual component necessary to construct a high quality shoe. Throughout production, especially of a luxury product, the manual tasks are so numerous as to constantly prompt allusion to a semi-artisanal shoe; and perhaps the success of “made in Italy” amongst foreign markets is a result of these considerations.

Notwithstanding the inevitable progress of the industrial product, the Italian artisanal shoe continues to have enthusiasts and admirers, because in an artisanal boutique the man of elegance possesses a guarantee that his dreams of perfection will be fulfilled.

This is the place for excellence, where creativity and patience, taste and ability compete in a great game, the result of which is a testimony and the continuation of a tradition which has rendered the ARS Sutoria of Italy world-famous.

Construction of a shoe demands the greatest number of hours of work: approximately thirty three compared to the nine required to make a shirt.
It has been calculated that approximately two hundred actions are completed from the moment in which the leathers are chosen until the shoes, carefully wrapped in tissue paper, are placed in a shoebox


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