July 11, 2019 by Ville Raivio
Silvano Lattanzi is an Italian artisanal shoe workshop founded in 1971. Its namesake, Silvano, hails from Italy’s village Sant’Elpidio a Mare in the Marche region, where his parents worked for a shoe factory and where he followed their lead at age 11, and left school just three years later. At age 21, he set up his own company named Zintala. Since then, they have managed to set themselves apart from other high-end shoemakers of Italy and become the most expensive one as well. In 1992, the Silvano Lattanzi company opened its first shop in Via Bocca di Leone, close to Rome’s famed Via Condotti road known for high and snooty stores. More about the man behind the company can be found in this old article.
The annual make is a few thousand pairs only, each takes some 20 hours of work or more, and the company is known for its range of colours, patinas, designs, and decorative sole stitches. The maker only uses the finest parts from each hide, which leads to bigger material waste but higher quality. The heel and toe stiffeners are leather instead of thermoplastics, and shoes are left on the lasts to take shape for two months. All non-sporty pairs are hand-welted. They’ve also aged shoes buried in earth pits for several years, because why not? Someone has to do it. All of this was enough to make me interested in the company, so a pair was in order to find out if the make matches the reputation.
The example pair from SL is the model Singapore, a split-toe penny loafer made from shell cordovan, with a double leather sole and a decorative Norvegese-welt. It arrived with a laminated profile text about Silvano himself, a six-page leaflet about the suggested first wear and care, a pair of rubber sole guards, shoe bags made from cotton flannel, and separate, slim leather soles for wear replacements. The leather feels very smooth and has an interesting colour not widely seen on Horween’s hides. I trust it’s a custom job made for SL or by SL. The oak-bark tanned soles feel and look heavy, as well as the wide welts, which together with the Norwegian stitch make up the heavy look of the pair. The split toe is hand-sewn to create a plump-looking squeezed, raised shape to the leather. I’ve yet to see machines repeat this nice plumpness. The penny strap has the regular look that all penny loafers share, but SL has sewn a decorative hourglass shape stitch to the sides. I enjoy it immensely.
The last is snug but average-looking. This means that it fits close to the foot, with a low instep and narrow toes, as all loafers should, but it lacks the curved and beautiful shape that Edward Green and Gaziano&Girling offer. The toe is fairly high, but the heel has a great, round side profile. The heel support is very strong, as is the toe stiffener. I trust the last shape is a conscious choice as a very delicate one would make an uncomfortable pair with the chunky sole and welt. Talking of which, the sole is very toned-down, with only the maker’s stamp as well as a few brass nails. The mid part of the welt is presesd down decoratively, the leather sock inside is understated, and the lining is light leather. The finishing is neat overall and the split-toe is neatly sewn in particular. I’m sad to say this pair has never become comfortable in the 9 years I’ve used it, the double leather sole is just too stiff and unyielding.
Silvano Lattanzi charges dearly for its off-the-peg pairs, especially so in China and the USA where they arrive with customs duties and similar expenses. I have owned three pairs from SL, all nice and lucky eBay finds, and feel that they are over-priced. The make is neat and truly artisanal, several models uniquely interesting, but with their higher prices one might as well buy bespoke shoes. What’s more, the finish is neater with EG and G&G, which I mentioned earlier in the article, and both also have shapelier lasts. It’s the lasts, really, where I feel Lattanzi fails. Most of what I’ve seen are blobby, with aggressively pointy toes or just plain fat and round ones. Still, there are exceptions — as always in life.