The high quality of Italian-made shoes continues to make them sought-after, but how can you know from simply looking at a pair of Tod’s driving moccasins purchased off the shelf or online whether they’re the genuine article, and not a knockoff by a non-Italian competitor-impersonator? Because many shoe designers share the same construction methods, it may be difficult to discern which shoes are actually of Italian make. However, there are some tipoffs that could help point out the real deal from those that are counterfeits.
Observe the construction of the shoe. Although Italian shoe designers have a vast repertoire of shoe construction methods at their disposal, the so-called Blake method is one of the mainstays of the industry. You can recognize the Blake construction from the flexible, close-cut soles and a somewhat less waterproof shoe. A construction similar to the Blake is the Blake-Rapid, which tends to have a rugged appearance and better waterproofing than the Blake, but isn’t as flexible and the soles aren’t as close-cut. Martegani is one example of an Italian shoe designer that specializes in the Blake-Rapid method, but this method is popular with many Italian shoe manufacturers. Another Italian specialty is the Bologna or tubular construction, which produces an even more flexible shoe than the Blake and an exceptionally close-cut sole. The result is a “slipper-like” shoe with convex-shaped outsoles. Italian manufacturers that use this technique include Santoni, Gravati, Testoni, and Artioli, among others.
Look for the “True Italy” label and verify authenticity at the TrueItaly.com website. While it seems simple to just search for a label on a shoe as definitive proof that the shoe is Italian, the “True Italy” verification system is designed to do just that. Only those shoes that are “completely designed and manufactured in Italy,” and optionally also made of Italian materials and components, are allowed to bear this label. If your shoes have this label but you’re still dubious, you can go to the independent third-party website TrueItaly.com to check the authenticity code and serial number found on your True Italy label against the ones on the website. If there’s a discrepancy, you can file an Anomaly Report and True Italy will investigate the retailer and otherwise assist with resolving any errors. In the end, you can determine decisively whether your shoes are Italian-made.
Familiarize yourself with major Italian shoemakers, check the inventory on their websites against the shoes you have or plan to purchase, stay attuned to developments in the Italian shoe industry, and join discussion groups that exchange personal thoughts on individual shoe designers. While the presence of a True Italy label is more likely to decide conclusively whether your shoes were actually made by the name on the label in Italy, you can forearm yourself with a basic sense of what to look for. Build confidence in identifying at least those brands that are of interest to you. Then, purchase from a reputable retailer or ascertain authenticity through impartial third parties for an extra measure of confidence.
Note that the Blake, Blake-Rapid and Bologna construction methods aren’t specifically Italian, and may also be used by legitimate craftspeople from other countries. Moreover, that’s not an exhaustive list of the myriad construction methods Italian artisans or manufacturers employ. While you may not be able to tell the specific origin of the shoe from the construction alone, you will find that Italian shoemakers have “tendencies” and specialties. If you like a particular Italian shoe designer, become familiar with its construction methods so you can more easily spot an imposter.
References and ResourcesAsk Andy About Clothes: Shoe Construction
True Italy: The True Italy Concept
Italian Legacy: Italian Shoes