Enzo Bonafe Review: Handmade Shoes From Bologna

Enzo Bonafe Shoes Review The Noble ShoeFinally, They Are Here!

My first ever Enzo Bonafe Shoes are here and I finally can review them.

Not one, not two but three pairs of shoes each with their own lovely twist.

As I am working remotely for a few weeks, I rely on my photographer’s photography.

Join me in this Review as we further explore the beauty that is Enzo Bonafe.

Background

Many of you might (or might not) know that I live in Florence, Italy.

Less than an hour away you can find the historical city of Bologna where Enzo Bonafe has his own eponymous workshop.

A legendary shoemaker still working there at the age of 87 with his family and showing no signs of slowing down.

Recently, I covered my visit to the workshop in a small article which I encourage you to read (Link).

While I was there, I commissioned my first 3 pairs of Bonafe shoes with the help of Massimo who is Enzo’s son.

Enzo Bonafe IntroThese served as the new exclusive GMTOs that I launched in my shop, The Noble Shoe.

Now that they are ready, I get to wear them and explore the finished product in detail.

I will try to cover as much as I can without overdoing it but I feel the result speaks by itself.

Specifications

As always, let us begin with a tear-down of some of the features of each shoe.

I’d rather not make a massive table, so instead I will divide each shoe in the specifications list:

  • Brand: Enzo Bonafe
  • Model: Adelaide Oxford/Cap-Toe Oxford/Tanker Boot
  • Shop: The Noble Shoe
  • Leather: Museum Calf/Bolet Calfskin/Inca Grain
  • Color: Dark Brown/Mid-light Brown/Mid-Brown
  • Construction: Handwelted/Handwelted/360° Norwegian
  • Last: 946/946/804
  • Sole: Leather/Leather/Rubber Studded
  • Extras: Shoe Trees
  • Made In: 100% Italy
  • Price: $650/$650/$850

At the time of writing these shoes are all available as a Group Made to Order at The Noble Shoe.

They are also available as a single MTO with a 20% Surcharge on the price above.

Juicy specifications and fairly priced for what you get.

Unboxing Experience

I should also include a small section where I talk about the unboxing experience.

They come in a burgundy/maroon box that reminds me of the one from Vass.

Enzo Bonafe Shoes Box
The Box that comes with Enzo Bonafe Shoes

It has a very clear and large sticker on the side with all the info.

As for accessories you get some nice creme/beige shoe bags and a complimentary shoe horn.

Enzo Bonafe Shoes Experience
Enzo Bonafe Shoes Review: The shoes come with nice dust bags and a complimentary shoehorn

Everything fits well and secure while arriving damage and scuff free.

Initial Impressions

The turnaround time for Enzo Bonafe Shoes is usually 4-5 months.

It is slightly longer than what you might be used to, but remember this is a smaller, lean and traditional operation.

In my case, since these were samples that I would feature on the shop they were much quicker.

I would say I received these in approximately 2 months which I am grateful for.

Enzo Bonafe Adelaide Shoes Review
Enzo Bonafe Shoes Review | The first picture I ever took out of the box

When I was at the workshop, I only looked at the base models in other colors and leathers so the end result was harder to visualize.

But each time I pulled a shoe out of its bag and box my eyes sparkled like a little kid and time stood still.

Everything was as good looking and refined as I expected it to be and more.

The Adelaide in particular had this gorgeous museum calf color that had the slightest reddish hue under the sunlight.

Looking at the Tanker Boot (I call this affectionately) the Norwegian stitching was perfectly executed and the grain rich.

Enzo Bonafe Tanker BootLastly, in third place a beautiful modified reversed stitched oxford with a medallion toe in brown calf.

I did my usual quick tests of balance, feel, detailing and even checked out the shoe trees.

I must admit I spent a little more time admiring the Norwegian stitching which is fabulous.

Overall, this was a very satisfying experience for the price.

Design Elements & Thinking Process

Since I was the one that designed these models with advice from Massimo, I’d like to talk about the process a bit.

I looked at the vast number of samples scattered around the room before I decided on these three candidates.

Some elements were easy for me to decide.

For example, I wanted a hand-welted construction for the shoes and Norvegese for the Boots.

A Fiddleback waist on a leather sole and Studded Rubber respectively.

What we call a blind inner waist for a curvier, more refined look.

It was harder to decide which last to use, since Enzo Bonafe has a huge collection.

But after seeing and feeling the 946 I decided that it was the one with a great balance and sharpness.

For the Boot, it was going to become a “Tankier”, chunkier big boy so a bit of a rounder shape was appropriate.

The 804 was an excellent choice as you see from the images.

I would say that the hardest part was choosing the leather as it can make or break the design.

Museum calf is popular and beautiful, which is perfect for a design such as the Adelaide.

Inspired by the Alden Indy and the Crockett & Jones Coniston in Tan Grain, I chose a tighter Inca Grain leather for the boots.

The reversed stitched oxford was more of a wild card and I checked how regular calf is on it.

It still looks lovely but if I had to choose again I would pick a darker brown or museum calf.

Hopefully this small insight on the design process and flow will help you understand how we make new models.

Leather Quality

Playing the tape again since it’s something I need to repeat every time.

It is hard to see how the leather will age unless you spend a significant amount wearing the shoes.

This can also happen if the leather is of terrible quality as well.

Enzo Bonafe Review Leather Quality
Enzo Bonafe Review | Leather Quality

Judging from the excellent reviews from wearers plus my own experience, I think I am in for a treat.

The museum calf is from Ilcea (if I am not mistaken) which sets a standard for this type of leather.

Regular calf often comes from French Tanneries (Du Puy, Annonay) or Germany (Weinheimer).

I do need to inquire where the Inca calf comes from but the grain pattern is rich and supple.

I briefly tried all shoes on to verify the fit and took a few steps and as you can see there’s no visible creasing yet.

If I had to set my expectations I would expect similar performance to my Vass shoes which were excellent.

Construction

Enzo Bonafe can make a bunch of different constructions.

Blake Stitched, Bolognese, Hand-welted and Norwegian for example.

In some cases, Italians call hand-welted “Goodyear by Hand” which sort of makes no sense.

A hand-welted (or partially hand-welted) construction involves sewing the welt by hand and rapid/cementing the waist.

The Norwegian construction on the other hand is a 360° fully handmade process with a chain stitch.

Norwegian Stitch
The Chained Norwegian Stitch

Especially the latter, is a complicated process involving folding the uppers outwards and stitching through.

Having tried it myself, let me tell you it’s not an easy thing to do consistently!

Fudging details and a clean welt joint makes the shoes look very presentable.

Handling them, they feel hefty and solid.

I pressed around the sides and checked the stiffeners in the front and back and there’s a good amount of structure.

Stitching & Balance

All three shoes have terrific balance which is always nice to see.

I can say the same for the stitching of the uppers, which is a relief coming after the eyesore that was Allen Edmonds last week.

Having three models gives me the opportunity to look at different details at the same time.

In the Adelaide for example, you can notice how good the closure of the uppers is.

Bonafe shoesThe jagged edges and the broguing is perfectly aligned and the medallion looks fantastic and a little different.

You probably don’t know about it, but there were at least 8 variations of medallions at Enzo Bonafe.

In the regular oxford, things are much simpler but you can focus instead on the way they make and finish the reverse stitching.

Lastly, on the boots there’s a double row stitching on the uppers with a lovely contrast stitch.

Enzo Bonafe TankerNot only that, but the hand-sewn apron and Norwegian stitching is phenomenal.

Those that follow the blog know how much I love chained Norwegian constructions.

For their looks, handiwork, craftsmanship and reminder of the care and effort that goes into making one solely by hand.

Enzo Bonafe has specific fudging on the welt, which produces a distinctive appearance.

The sole becomes thinner towards the middle and it is more than just aesthetics since it’s required to machine stitch the waist.

I love looking at good shoes and sharing their intricacies and beauty with you.

Outsole

When you create shoes by Enzo Bonafe there’s no shortage of customization.

These are merely examples of what you can do with a standard leather and rubber sole.

Both oxfords have a hidden channel stitching with a bit of decorative elements in the edges.

Leather SoleIt extends to the heel cup, which by the way has a great shape and is rather elegant.

There are decorative elements embossed with a hot wheel and at the seat of the heel block.

As for the boots, it’s a more standard studded rubber sole by Vibram.

Vibram SoleAll I can say is that the placement of the studs and the stitching is more accurate and careful than what you can see in the wild.

Enzo Bonafe Lasts

There are 2 billion Enzo Bonafe lasts, but today we will focus more on these two.

Last 946 was my favorite and everything I love about Italian shoes.

Enzo Bonafe Dark Brown Museum Adelaide ReviewA very tasteful soft square last with nice curves and especially good looking sharp sides.

It looks like a very expensive shoe and certainly wears like one.

The 804 is a close relative to the 946 but with a rounder shape.

804 Enzo Bonafe Last
The Enzo Bonafe 804 Last

I would say it leans more towards medium round with hints of almond.

Everything that sounds like a good cake is always a positive.

Enzo Bonafe Fit

I had the pleasure of trying a few different lasts at Enzo Bonafe already.

Luckily, most samples come in size UK 8 and that’s exactly my size for normal widths.

The 946 is a great fitting last for me.

I would say it fits very well, is true to size and has a regular accommodating instep and width.

It fit me nice and snug and actually was exceptionally similar to the Carlos Santos 389 last.

As for the 804, it is rather similar however you will be able to fill a little bit of extra room in the width and instep.

Reverse Stitched OxfordI find it negligible as I appreciate the space in boots and you would probably as well.

However if you have a flatter foot with low volume and instep, you might want to size down half.

My general advice would be to take your regular UK Size.

For example, I would take a UK 8 or a US 9D in my standard shoes.

As I collect more data I will become more proficient with these lasts and fittings.

Availability

Enzo Bonafe shoes are harder to find compared to more mainstream brands.

However this is their ethos, since they are very careful with picking their retailers and prefer quality over quantity.

Other than retail shops in Italy, there’s a few partners around the world listed in their official website.

For North America I would recommend Solegarb and ShopMehra.

Of course, as a new official partner of Enzo Bonafe I will be thrilled to help you with your next order!

You can always browse what’s available in our Enzo Bonafe Collection here.

Order Your Enzo Bonafe

How Do I Rate Enzo Bonafe Shoes?

Excluding customizations and Made to Orders, Enzo Bonafe Shoes will generally cost you around the $650 mark.

Boots will cost a bit more of course and the price includes lasted shoe trees.

For a handwelted pair of well-made shoes it is excellent value.

As a comparison a standard pair of good Crockett & Jones shoes will also cost you about the same.

It’s an excellent proposition and execution right out there with the best.

If you see Enzo Bonafe shoes going for cheaper prices, it might be a Blake construction so be careful.

However don’t think for a moment that it is inferior or not good enough either.

If you are looking to step up from entry level welted shoes, Enzo Bonafe is an excellent option.

Fantastic quality, endless communication, a small family traditional business and a product that never fails to impress.

All I wonder is why I didn’t own a pair earlier.

Conclusions

This brings us to the end of my Showcase/Review of my first 3 pairs of Enzo Bonafe Shoes.

I always talked highly about this brand in all of my lists and so do other respected peers in the industry.

Even for an enthusiast, Enzo Bonafe can provide nearly everything you would like from customization, to quality and implementing your requests.

I am extremely happy to own their shoes now but also to be an official partner.

Let me know what you think about Enzo Bonafe in the comments and I will see you soon!

Thank you for reading,

Kostas Mandilaris,
Misiu Academy

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