By Mary Mullaj
Some things are chosen for their purpose rather than their looks. Shoes are one item of clothing that is usually selected for practicality and comfort. In the case of custom-made shoes though, function is fused with form. John Lobb and Berluti both hand-craft footwear that integrates functionality with masculine beauty.
The elder of the pair, John Lobb Ltd., has been fashioning made-to-measure shoes for men (and a few pairs for the ladies) uninterrupted since 1849. The British division, with its wood paneled premises on St. James Street, is the original shop. The only adjustment to the company has been the handing over of its Parisian division to the Hermes group. The Parisian section by Hermes (motto: “The Bare Maximum for a Man) includes a ready-to-wear collection in addition to the traditional made-to-measure. This collection is also sold in John Lobb boutiques, and department stores such as Harrods and Bergdorf Goodman. Whether made-to-measure or ready-to-wear, John Lobb shoes and boots are handmade works of art, thus unique to their owner. A series of nine craftsmen, who serve long apprenticeships to acquire their particular skill, work on each pair, and the result can cost upwards of $6000 (in the case of pair of crocodile shoes). Once the boot maker of King Edward VII, who lent his name to the Edwardian era, John Lobb Inc.’s famous past customers include Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter, George Bernard Shaw, business moguls, and political leaders from around the world.
Berluti is another member of the exclusive men’s shoes club. Based in Paris since 1895, it is another company that has been kept in the family in order to uphold traditional practices. Also handmade, Berluti shoes are known for their unique leather finish. Essential oils are used to bring out the sheen of the leather, creating a patina that keeps on improving with wear. While John Lobb shoes are rather understated in their elegance, many will recognize the inimitable leather of a pair of Berlutis. Likewise, the shape of a pair of John Lobb shoes is typically more classical, while a pair of Berluti shoes could take on a more avant garde shape such as a square toe. Distribution of the brand is very limited, which adds to its allure. In the US the pret-a-porter shoes can only be found in Berluti’s own New York store and selected Barney’s. Well-known clients include Robert de Niro and Andy Warhol.
The difference in style between the two brands will offer something for almost everyone. So get measured and get ready to indulge in a luxury experience created exclusively for you.