Sole Proprietors

One of Pantofola D’Oro’s stylish sneaks.

By Rebekah Sager
Photos By Brevin Blach

When it comes to putting their feet in their mouths, men seem never to run out of material. Putting their feet in shoes, however, is a different story, as guys have fewer footwear options than women do.

Clunky high-tops are hip, but Chuck Taylors can look too young. Sandals are cool and comfortable, but they’re often too casual. Dress shoes work with suits, but they clash with jeans, and faux-scuffed boots are too poseur.

What’s a boy to do?

Two San Diego outfits offer men the chance to slip into something a little more comfortable (and chic): imported Italian sneakers.

Get ready to tie one on.

Coming to America
Michael Lamb, owner of Carlsbad-based wireless company Ecolink Intelligent Technology, saw his first pair of Pantofola d’Oro (Italian for “golden slippers”) sneakers while traveling through Germany and knew he had to have a pair of his own.

Pantofola d’Oro was founded in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, in 1886. By the 1940s, Emidio Lazzarini, a cobbler and grandson of the company’s original cobbler, began crafting shoes he could wear while wrestling (his hobby). Local athletes got wind of how comfortable the shoes were, and Lazzarini began making them for the city’s soccer club-a move that helped position Pantofola d’Oro to become what it is today: one of the best-selling soccer and dress sneaker lines in Europe.

After returning from Germany, Lamb kicked up interest in the shoes among a few of his Rancho Santa Fe buddies, including Mark Baldi, John Bonano and former NFL linebacker Glenn Cadrez.

The foursome contacted the Pantofola headquarters and, after some wheeling and dealing, purchased exclusive rights to market and sell the shoes in the U.S. (The team also hopes to secure rights for Canada, South America and Australia.)

Next step: the sneakers are expected to arrive in Neiman-Marcus and Fred Segal stores in spring 2012.

A Foot in the Door
Capitalizing on introductions from their fashion connections in L.A., the Rancho Santa Fe foursome convinced Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine to get involved with the brand (an endorsement deal is pending).

Racecar drivers Mario Andretti and sons are in discussions with Pantofola to design a custom race shoe for the brand, and the men of Boardwalk Empire will be wearing the shoes on-screen in the upcoming season of the HBO hit series. In addition, the sister of clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger, Ginny Hilfiger, has signed on to design the women’s line.

The average American man may not look as hot as a professional soccer player, but, thanks to Pantofola D’Oro, now he can look as fashionable-and maybe improve his chances of scoring off the field.

Pantofola D’Oro shoes retail from between $200 and $400.
Best Foot Forward

A native of Naples, Italy, Nico Stanzione opened Stile Italiano boutique in Hillcrest to offer the men of San Diego a style intervention. And since even the police in Italy wear uniforms designed by Valentino, heeding Stanzione’s advice makes good fashion sense.

Stanzione says shopping at Stile Italiano makes men feel like they’re wearing Armani, while spending like they’re at Express. Everything in his store is imported from Italy-the suits, shirts, jackets and dress sneakers, including Stanzione’s own designs, the Roma and the Firenze.

“Italians are experts when it comes to color and fabric in shoe design,” says Stanzione, who imports from Milan, Rome and Naples. “My sneakers aren’t too Italian. I select them based on what I think is more in sync with tastes of U.S. men. It’s a balance of Italian and U.S. style.”
Stile Italiano’s sneakers retail for $100 or less 142 University Ave., Suite D, Hillcrest