Shark Leather Shoes? Yes!
Paolo Scafora is one of my favorite shoemakers in the world. He can create the most luxurious shoes with exotic leathers and complicated constructions while maintaining a unique southern tasteful verve.
In today’s article we will examine and review a pair of Paolo Scafora Shoes from Genuine Shark Leather. A magnificent unique piece of footwear showing off what is possible through made to order.
Join me as we find out why you might want to invest in such a shoe.
Who Is Paolo Scafora?
Paolo Scafora is a legendary shoemaker from Naples in Italy whose family history in shoemaking began in the 70’s.
The heart and soul was Gennaro Scafora who decided to name the brand after his son, Paolo. For over 3 generations the Scafora family keeps making works of art for the modern man.
One difficult choice that Paolo faced was to either modernize his business and prioritize sales or keep the traditional small workshop alive. It goes without saying of course that he chose the latter!
What makes Paolo Scafora stand out from most shoemakers is the meticulous eye for detail and classic refined constructions. He is a master of the Norwegian and Tyrolese Welt while the embossed family crest on each sole is instantly recognizable.
Sharp designs, aggressive lasts and subtle flair on classic models help create his own style and visual composition.
Tip: Read more about Paolo and his shoes on the previous Review (Click Here)!
How Do You Get Shark Leather?
Firstly I must say that this is a very valid question that I get a lot. How does one get their hands on Shark Leather and is it ethical?
Unfortunately this is a very complicated answer that depends on your perspective. To begin with, Shark Leather is a byproduct of the meat industry and nobody harvests the sharks purely for their leather.
Many people do not realize that but it is true for most animal hides such as calfskin, goat and kangaroo. One can argue that the meat industry often treats sharks poorly, cutting their fins and tossing them back into the ocean.
Shark Leather often comes from Prionace Glauca which is a type of blue shark and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) does not consider it an endangered species.
Nonetheless it is very important to regulate shark fishing to ensure this remains as such. Currently the CITES agreement regulates exotic animal hunting to not threaten their existence.
I must admit I am not sure which exact type of Shark Leather Paolo Scafora uses but it does need to adhere to these protocols.
Qualities Of Shark Leather
It is definitely worth mentioning some of the unique features and qualities of Shark Leather:
- Waterproof: Quite self explanatory as sharks live in water!
- Unique Texture: Tooth-like sharp formations and a grainy texture. Just like Stingray they even used it as sandpaper!
- Durability: Shark Skin is a very strong yet surprisingly supple material
Additionally Shark Leather usually has softer and smaller scales allowing to flex more while being more scratch resistant.
Anyways let’s get on with the actual show!
Before we look at each section individually it is customary to list the specifications:
- Brand: Paolo Scafora
- Model: Art. 797
- Style: Split-Toe Derby
- Last: BUK
- Leather: Genuine Shark Skin
- Color: Montella Brown
- Construction: 360 Norwegian Welt
- Sole: Half City Vibram Sole
- Shoe Trees: Lasted
- Eyelets: 4 Blind
- Lining: Leather (Fully Lined)
- Size: UK 6
- Origin: 100% in Italy
Such shoes are usually Made To Order and this one was no different. I will discuss availability later on however if you want an idea, such a shoe would cost you anywhere between $2500-$3000 depending on the features.
Lastly, each Paolo Scafora pair comes with a high quality box, extra laces and premium packaging.
Styling & Initial Impressions
It was challenging to envision the finished product based on the original image. Richard (who commissioned the shoes) saw them on Paolo Scafora’s Instagram but they had a suede apron.
Instead he wanted the full shoe in the Montella Brown Shark Skin and it was a good choice in my opinion. I believe that the shoe is already a statement piece and the suede part might accentuate that even more.
However some people might do that for that particular reason! Nonetheless when I opened the box it really surprised me how much more subtle it actually looked!
It is genuinely fascinating that it retains its own personality but looking rather low-key until you check them out. In many ways these can look like a more fancy grain leather.
Definitely a conversation starter and an excellent casual shoe.
Split-Toe Derbies | An Acquired Taste
In essence this is your classic Split-Toe Derby. What that means is that it has an apron in the front and a noticeable split-toe stitch on the front of the toe.
Split-Toes have a very interesting reputation of love-hate among shoe enthusiasts. However as your taste evolves from the classic oxford and derbies you will begin exploring new styles.
A well-executed Split-Toe Derby is very pleasing to the eye but a lot depends on where the split is. Put it too high up the vamp (like Enzo Bonafe) or too low (like Vass) and it can look like a disproportionate mess.
In this model the last and position of the split gives it a gentle rounded look. I like that there is no hockey stick facing on the side and it always surprises me positively how Scafora can weave a 360 Norwegian Welt with such finesse.
Full 360 Norwegian Welt
Without going too anal about Norwegian Welts let’s say there are different variations and names.
For the average individual that might find this post interesting I will call it Full Norwegian just like Paolo Scafora does. If you do wish to learn more about Methods of Shoe Construction I recommend reading my helpful Guide (Link Here).
This is a construction you can only do by hand and uses a braided welt which is double or even triple. The truth is it can make a shoe look really chunky but when done right it looks impeccable.
In many ways (besides being more waterproof) it is only a display of skill especially along the south of Italy.
I am also certain that this shoe would not look just as good with only a Half Norwegian Welt (270). When you look up close you can see how perfect each stitch is with millimetric accuracy.
Seriously what a beauty. In 2022 when I will learn Bespoke Shoemaking I will make this my goal.
The Vibram Half-City Sole
When we discuss shoes most of us neglect the soles. It is there however where most of the “hidden art” goes into.
From fancy fiddleback super-tight waists to perfectly sanded metal-toe tips and embossed logos, there is something enchanting about a good sole.
At first look this might seem like just a regular sole. It doesn’t have the most beveled waist either and there are only hints of the hidden stitching.
However from the way they installed the nails at the front and the waist as well as the trimming and fudging beside the heel cup you know this is a high quality product.
It also gives you a hint of the BUK Last’s shape. More on that on the next section.
An excellent sole that is great for city life but also a good fit for this make up. Before moving on, I enjoy the small detail around the edges of the sole. It has this “wild” feathered jagged edge to it and is a nice touch.
The Paolo Scafora BUK Last
Unfortunately you cannot find adequate detailed information about the Paolo Scafora Lasts. And there are quite a lot of them!
However this was the first time I handled the BUK Last and it surprised me.
Why? Because it is one of the roundest Lasts they have and it is a massive stark contrast to the other pair Richard chose (the brown derby at the beginning of this article).
The BUK has a rather round appearance with a gentle curvy toe and reminds me of the more bulbous British Lasts. These tend to fit better with chunkier country shoes such as Tricker’s for example.
I am quite indifferent and would personally prefer it in a slightly more almond elegant shape.
You should bear in mind though that this is a small UK 6 shoe. It can look a bit more round and small due to that.
Sizing Paolo Scafora Shoes
The best way to find your sizing is to contact an authorized retailer like me. It can be daunting trying a new expensive brand especially when a shoe is non-returnable.
Some tips I can give you are that you will never find your correct size by comparing foot measurements or your sneaker size. Besides trying them you can only rely on dress shoes you own.
For Paolo Scafora I would say that almost all lasts run larger towards a more F/G Fitting. So very rarely you would pick your True To Size. The good thing is that most Scafora Lasts are comparable and often size similarly.
In the case of the Q, VOLA, DOOR and of course the BUK Last I would say that you need to size down half from your regular UK or 1.5 from your US size.
Notable comparisons include:
- Allen Edmonds: Size down 1.5 from your US (Example: US 10D would take UK 8.5)
- Carmina Rain: Size down half
- Carlos Santos: If you already size down half for 234, 401, 316 and they fit snug then take the same in Scafora
- Crockett & Jones: Size down half from most lasts
- Gaziano & Girling: Size down 1 from your UK
- Saint Crispin’s: Size down half from your UK
- John Lobb: Size down half from your UK
I think you can safely see the pattern here right? Of course this is a general starting guide.
Thinking about the BUK Last it has a generous toe and width with a slightly generous instep. If you have less voluminous feet you should definitely size down half.
A lot of different factors can influence price but let’s begin with availability which is easier to tackle.
Since this is a Made To Order (unless a retailer stocks this specific model) the natural way is to do it through Paolo Scafora. You simply visit their Made To Order Page which is super cool and choose everything there.
Another solution is to contact me through The Noble Shoe and for a competitive (sometimes better) price we can create the same shoe.
The only difference here is that you support a small business or a retailer you like but also Paolo Scafora indirectly.
Made To Orders incur what is known as a “MTO Surcharge” and it usually is 20% for single pairs. It is a downside but single pairs tend to disrupt production as far as I understand.
Of course pricing depends so much on the features your choose. Some of them include:
- Leather Choice: More Exotic leathers like shark have a surcharge
- Shoe Trees: Lasted shoe trees cost €130 (about $160) and I highly recommend them
- Metal Toe Tip: Expect to pay an extra 30-40$
- Initials: You can create initials or designs with nails on your sole for €60 (about $75)
- Construction: Hand-Welted seems to be the cheapest but choosing Tyrolese can affect the cost up to €400 (about $485)
All in all you can see how it varies and for the Paolo Scafora Art. 797 in Montella Shark Leather and 360 Norwegian you would expect to pay around $3000. For a simpler construction you might be looking at $2500.
Tip: Paolo Scafora as well as many Italians say Goodyear but really mean Hand-Welted.
How Do I Wear Shark Leather?
Remember when I told you it looks surprisingly low-key compared to what you might think?
It actually does and one of the factors is the color. The Montella color has generally a mid-to-dark brown hue but due to the nature of shark skin appears darker.
Add some hefty burnishing at the front and you really get the appearance of a casual scotch-grain shoe. Well, not exactly but you get the point.
This combination means that it is very easy to match color wise because brown is extremely versatile. The choice of clothing is yours and barring a few items is free for all.
My personal favorites would be textured fabrics ranging from denim, heavier (or even dressier) chinos and of course flannel trousers. I despise corduroy but if you love it then it’s also a great match.
One can argue that you can wear these with suit separates and more casual suits. I certainly agree but that is the limit when it comes to suiting.
For formal wear stick to smooth calf leather instead.
Who Buys Shark Shoes?
Before we wrap this up we need to discuss this topic.
First of all the kind of person that spends $3000 on shoes has usually no problem spending that kind of money. They have a good life and more than cover the basics and look for excitement in the little things.
Secondly, it is for those that already have a good wardrobe and the core collection of shoes. A pair of Shark Shoes is not your first, third or fifth purchase if you get what I mean.
You are at a point where you buy quality over quantity and are ok spending a bigger sum for 1 special pair.
Lastly, it is a style for those that appreciate exotics and different leathers and want something truly unique. This is a surefire conversation starter!
Many of us (including myself) would never spend that much (or cannot!) for a pair of shoes and for good reason. However with a rare chance to show this to you we can all sit back and appreciate it together.
Watch The Video Review
If you prefer you can of course see the Paolo Scafora Shark Shoes in action on my YouTube Channel!
If you enjoy it make sure to leave a thumbs up and Subscribe! I post quite regularly now.
This brings us to the end of the Paolo Scafora Split-Toe Derbies in Shark Leather! It was a unique opportunity for me and you to see them so I hope you enjoyed the article and video!
There will be more exotics in the future as well as interviews and shoe reviews. Content wise it will be an exciting 2021 I believe!
Thank you for reading,