Giuseppe Zanotti's Ankle Boots Are Part Cowboy, Part Mod, and All Cool

Nick Sullivan
·3-min read
Photo credit: Ben Alsop
Photo credit: Ben Alsop

From Esquire

SHOP $1,250, giuseppezanotti.com

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"Lately, when I design men’s and women’s collections, I don’t really think of two distinct worlds—men’s and women’s—they are just part of the same story,” says Italian shoe designer Giuseppe Zanotti, “This boot, for instance, could equally work for men and women. It’s also the right combination of two different cultures: the American cowboy boot and the British Chelsea boot. The heel is higher than usual, and this gives the shoe a special twist and enhances the silhouette.”

The boot in question is the Sheldon Buckle ($1,250), an ankle boot with attitude, and our latest obsession on The Investment. Made in black suede (as you see here) or in black leather, it carries Western flavor in the double steel buckles and slightly raised heel. But the streamlined, elegant shape is all Mod. It makes them ideal—if you’ve a yen for upscale dressing—for a jet-black suit. But they will also sharpen up a pair of jeans to no end, whether it’s 11 in the morning or 11 at night. In both cases, they call for narrow, narrow pants.

Photo credit: Ben Alsop
Photo credit: Ben Alsop

Zanotti occupies his own self-carved niche in the rock 'n' rolling-est end of luxury shoemaking. In many ways his training is old-school—his HQ is in the heart of Italy’s shoemaking region, Reggio Emilia—but that solid sense of make and quality is the springboard from which he can zoom off into flights of fantasy to make one-off, gravity-defying women’s shoes for an A-List celebrity following in music and movies. But especially in music. These are the sort of killer heels in which J-Lo, Rihanna, and many others prefer to sashay up the carpet at the Grammys, the Met Gala, or the Oscars.

Similar—if slightly more restrained—creative license is applied in men’s, where Zanotti has a strong business in shoes with a party atmosphere and enjoys favored status amongst hip-hop artists like Swae Lee, Khalid, and even Kanye. Now sneakers, partly thanks to the latter star, form a big part of the Zanotti men’s line. Meeting Kanye and showing him round his factory in 2012 was a pivotal moment for Zanotti.

Photo credit: Ben Alsop
Photo credit: Ben Alsop

“It was amazing; he wanted to know everything about the process,” says Giuseppe. “At one point, he got so into it that he asked one of our women—they of course had no idea who he was—to teach him how to use a sewing machine. He wanted to get into understanding every element. At the same time, while he was walking round the factory, he was composing raps with Virgil Abloh, who he had brought with him. It was a real inspiration to learn how much of a talent Kanye is. Everything is wide open. He pushed me to go more bling with my own sneakers.” Zanotti subsequently made the shoes for West’s debut runway show in 2011 and credits Kanye with persuading him to get into the sneaker market himself.

Photo credit: Ben Alsop
Photo credit: Ben Alsop

“I always try to stay away from the boring stereotype of men’s shoes,” says Zanotti. “I try to think of new, exciting features to make shoes more interesting. It’s all about the balance between the right proportions and captivating silhouettes. But there is no perfect recipe to make the perfect shoe. It’s like a good plate of pasta: It is all about the right ingredients in the right proportions.”

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