This January I’ll be in Italy for several weeks, spread mostly between Milan, Florence, Biella and Perugia, but I’ll be try to get to Domodossola to visit Davide Miserocchi and his families small shoe-making factory. They epitomise so much of what I love about authentic craftsmanship, quietly going about creating something of high quality, without fanfare, but with real care.
Miserocchi is a small, family owned company, which is unfortunately and undeservingly far less well known than some of its later to the scene peers, namely the likes of Tod’s and Car Shoe (Car shoe is now owned by Prada). But Miserocchi (Giulio Miserocchi, specifically) is the inventor and creator of the driving shoe, from which every other driving shoe has descended.
Giulio created the first shoe in 1942, based on a very simple concept of making a shoe which was both comfortable and ideally suited to driving. Light in construction, completely sewn by hand, soft to wear and characterised by the signature rubber studs which protrude through the perforated leather sole, along with studs in the heel (depending on the model).
Where almost every other driving shoe lets itself down, is in the added bulk they carry. Be it a heel which angles too far beyond the heel of the actual foot, raised stitching along the forefoot (where the sole is sewn to the upper) creating an unattractive ridge, or a toe which curls up slightly, caused by too much tension in the stitch or a more rigid technique.
The traditional car shoe works best when it’s light in construction, molds to the foot and creates a slim silhouette. No shoe does this better or with more style than Miserocchi.
Being completely hand sewn, they are slightly less refined or clinical than other brands. But to think that this is less desirable is to misunderstand craftsmanship. Small imperfections from another human being, sitting at their bench, sewing your shoes, brings warmth and character to the finished product. Perfectly imperfect.
With that said, all of the hand work in the world would be wasted if the shoes weren’t comfortable. Fortunately this is the real strength of a pair of Miserocchi’s. In short, they’re just soft and comfortable. Due to their lightness, hand sewn construction (which gives greater softness and flexibility to each stitch than a machine can) and proclivity to mold to the foot, they are as close to (read: better than) any pair of slippers you’ll find. Comfort is helped by the studs (technically, they’re called “nipples” but but I’m not having a bar of that) which act as dozens of tiny springs with each step.
I wear mine every day during the warmer months of the year, even if it’s just walking around the house first thing in the morning.
To me, they are the ideal summer shoe, best suited to slim cut trousers (think tapered jeans or chino’s, mainly). As there’s no bulk around their periphery they continue the slim, fitted aesthetic of the trousers, where the bulk of other driving shoes throw everything out of proportion. They are capable of taking a beating at the beach or pool and bounce back easily from most situations of urban life. The only noticeable issue I’ve seen with my Miserocchi’s is that the leather of the sole can wear away slightly after a while, but it’s invisible to anyone else and it fits with the slightly worn in look which suits a pair of Miserocchi’s so well.
To wear them with tailoring and to do justice to what is authentically Italian summer dress, the “Agnelli” loafer is best suited. Made by Giulio specifically for former Fiat President and perhaps Italy’s greatest ever style icon Gianni Agnelli, it has a slight heel which Agnelli preferred and adds a degree of formality to what is traditionally an informal shoe. Again, the slim lines of the shoe are best suited to a tapered leg, anything wider and you’d likely want a more substantial shoe.
It would be nice to see Miserocchi’s reach be extended in the years to come, as it is currently difficult to find and try a pair, save for a few boutiques and a small offering online, but I’m sure that will improve in the years to come as the brand gains more recognition. For now, Finaest.com is a good starting point (though their stock is dwindling). Make sure you buy a size which will be snug at first, they’ll soften up and expand slightly in a short space of time.
For now I’m content with my growing collection of Miserocchi’s in various colours and leathers (suede, calf and grained calf) but I’m looking forward to visiting Davide and Riccardo in January, where I’ll try to pick up a few more pairs.
edit: Readers have mentioned that they’re having significant issues with delivery, when buying directly. Probably best for anyone else to buy through a retailer until/if the issues with dealing directly are resolved.