Paolo Scafora, The Ferrari Of Shoes
Uncompromising luxury, overflowing passion, family values and tradition. Welcome to the Review of the Paolo Scafora 17/5B Wholecut Norwegian Oxford Shoes in Montella Calf. Probably the most exclusive, high end pair of shoes I ever had the pleasure of holding, inspecting and loving.
The sheer look on your face when you unbox these is enough to give you goosebumps. It brings the child out of the shoe enthusiast just like admiring the delicate finesse, raw power and craftsmanship of a Ferrari supercar. As Keanu Reeves would say: It’s Breathtaking.
Light your fireplace, grab some fine whiskey and a Cuban cigar along a copy of The Rake Magazine because we are about to find out why these the best shoes you will ever own.
True Neapolitan Shoemaking
Naples is Italy’s third largest city after Rome and Milan around the mid-south part of the country. Delicious food, beautiful vistas, Diego Maradona and passionate football fans are just some of the things Naples is famous for. There is one more thing however.
Naples also hosts some of the finest tailors in the world. The epitome of style, elegance lending its name to defining styles like the “Spalla Camicia Napoletana” shoulders. However, Naples is also the home to my two favorite shoemakers in the world: Paolo Scafora & Antonio Meccariello.
There is something which draws me to small artisans that refuse to go mainstream and stick by their values. The Scafora family began making Hand-welted shoes after World War II but as business boomed made the transition to Blake stitched models. In fact they could produce up to 800 pairs a day which is double the capacity of Carlos Santos today.
First Generation Builds, Second Consolidates, Third Destroys It
Gennaro Scafora was a gifted young man that inherited his family’s passion for shoes and a small workshop in the 70’s. It was then that the current name “Paolo Scafora” came to be in honor of Gennaro’s son, Paolo. Since 2005, Paolo is the third generation Scafora that runs the company and steered it back to its roots and traditional values.
“Passion for the craft, obsessive attention to detail and a refinement that can only be learnt by doing – a Paolo Scafora shoe embodies traditionalism with modern trends to stay abreast of the ever-growing market”
Paolo’s choice was between becoming just another factory or one of the most exclusive shoemakers of the 21st century. And boy am I glad he chose the latter. The company reflects it through their gorgeous family crest. Roaring Lions for vigor and strength. The Terra di Lavoro coat of arms. And finally the heart and soul of the local Neapolis.
What Does Paolo Scafora Make?
To keep it shorter since I can write a whole essay, Paolo Scafora can make you everything. Any construction, any leather and any feature you request. Their main focus is Bespoke which they base their RTW collection on. However they do focus on 6 main constructions:
- Bologna: Lightweight and comfortable
- Hand-welted: Simply put a handmade version of Goodyear without the machinery
- Half Norwegian: 270 Braided Norwegian stitching
- Full Norwegian: 360 Braided Norwegian stitching
- Tyrolese: Possibly the most complicated construction of them all with triple braided stitching
- Extrema: Often called Goodyear Flex, Extrema is a lightweight flexible welted shoe
One thing to note is that the Hand-welted line up goes by the name “Goodyear Welted”. I am not sure what is the reason behind that but no machine touches the last or the welt. It might be an homage to the technique but rest assured it is Hand-welted!
Tip: Unsure about shoe constructions? Check out this detailed article!
Introducing Today’s Contender
Since May 2020 I am a proud Official Stockist of Paolo Scafora Shoes and you can currently find 3 models at The Noble Shoe.
Let me introduce to you the features of this mind-blowing wholecut for today’s review:
- Brand: Paolo Scafora
- Model: Art. 17/5B
- Style: Wholecut Oxford
- Origin: 100% Italy
- Construction: 360 Norwegian
- Last: Q Soft Square
- Color: Montella Mid-Brown
- Leather: Full Grain Calfskin
- Eyelets: 5 Blind
- Sole: Closed Channel Leather
- Reinforcement: Real Leather Heel Stiffener & Cap Toe
- Size: UK 8 (US 9/EU 42)
- Price: $1240 Including Lasted Shoe Trees & Free Shipping
- Shop: The Noble Shoe
For a Handmade shoe with Bespoke level standards and lasted shoe trees it is a very good high end deal. More on that later.
With Paolo Scafora everything is an experience and it begins with the box. It has a dark sort of plum color to it and the logo on the top. On the side they write by hand all the details such as last, model and size. The box itself is of very good quality though a little more prone to scratches around the corners.
Open it up and you see they didn’t spare any expenses there either. Branded tissue paper (a lot of it!) and two gorgeous, silky smooth shoe bags in a smokey charcoal color. When you pay so much money for a pair of shoes, you request the best and Paolo Scafora delivers that exclusive experience.
Underneath though is where the magic happens!
The wow factor when you first hold a Paolo Scafora shoe is incredible. I own shoes more expensive than these (Heinrich Dinkelacker) but the feeling these gave me – and frankly still do – is chilling.
What will strike you the most initially is the shape, the burnishing and the extremely squared last. The shoes have substantial weight to them and a packed box weights 400 grams more than my heaviest Carlos Santos Boots. That’s about 2.5 kg if you want the details.
After the initial amazement you get to the Norwegian Construction. Before Paolo Scafora I never saw someone marinate the elegance of a wholecut together with a bulky stitching and find the perfect balance.
The burnishing is on another level and blends in seamlessly with the rest of the hand-painted patina. This wholecut is my own Ferrari 458.
Lastly, you will notice how unique the sole is with the embossed crest on the bottom. It makes you not want to wear it rather than admire it on display. If you are a fan of extreme fiddleback tight waists and expect the same you will be disappointed. It’s there but definitely not as prominent as Meccariello or the super tight Japanese brands.
One of the strong points of Paolo Scafora is quality over quantity. When I spend over $1200 on a pair of shoes I want it Hand-welted and Hand-lasted at least. It is fascinating that shoes like Edward Green, John Lobb and Gaziano & Girling all use traditional Goodyear Welted machinery yet cost the same or much more.
Not that they are bad (they are excellent!) but I find British shoes a bit bland with the exception of G&G. Call me a shoe snob but that’s my own taste. I prefer Italian designs so much more adding just the perfect amount of sprezzatura.
The leather is excellent. It has no veins and you can see the rich pores of the full grain leather yet it retains this buttery smooth feeling. Paolo Scafora has dozens of fantastic hand-painted patinas and this is the Montella. A rich mid/dark brown color with substantial burnishing along the edges. Will you be able to tell the difference just by looking or briefly touch these, Carlos Santos, Carmina or Crockett & Jones? Probably if you are an expert or more experienced shoe veteran.
You feel the love and attention that goes into every part of the shoes. Paolo Scafora has more than 300 stages of control and I still can’t get over how good their Norwegian stitching looks. There is not a single loose thread and nor should there be one at this price point. Then again, the Dinkelacker shoes had uneven broguing so take nothing for granted.
The Q Last
One standout feature of this model is the last. It is on the Q Last which has an extremely – and I mean extremely – square toe. But not those atrocious Cole Haan kind of squared toes. The frontal area looks very structured and suddenly makes a very sharp turn towards the toe.
Initially you will wonder how on earth will your foot get in there. Fear not for the last has a more elongated shape allowing for sufficient space in your forefoot.
The Q Last is super sharp and aggressive and means serious business. People will notice and it screams $$$. I am the million dollar man and I want to feel like it. Mission accomplished Uncle Paolo.
So How Does The Last Fit?
This is the weakest point of Paolo Scafora for the uninitiated. There is a general lack of information about the fit of each last. Germano, who is my main contact to the family told me that their lasts have an equivalent G English fitting. It translates to a wider more spacious last and overall it is true.
I do have some comparisons to make it easier for you for the Q Last! Here is a list of my sizes in a few popular brands. Bear in mind that I have a slightly wider foot with a higher instep:
- Paolo Scafora Q: UK 8 (Perfect Fit)
- Heinrich Dinkelacker Buda C: UK 6.5 (Now too tight, would pick UK 7)
- Paolo Scafora VOLA: UK 8 (Perfect Fit)
- Paolo Scafora DOOR: UK 8 (Decent Fit, would size down to UK 7.5)
- Carlos Santos 401: UK 8 (Great Fit, can size down to UK 7.5 for oxfords/monks)
- Carlos Santos 234: UK 8 (Good Fit)
- Carmina Rain: UK 8 (Decent Fit)
- Loake Capital: UK 8 (Comfortable)
- TLB Mallorca Artista Picasso: UK 7 (Super tight, UK 8 should be fine)
- CNES Wholecut: UK 8 (Snug)
- Carlos Santos 316: UK 7.5 (Great Fit)
- Gaziano & Girling: UK 8.5 (Need to recheck this)
Quite a large list and a lot of changes from my previous reviews from last year. I understand fit much better now and prefer comfort over ridiculous tightness. Want my tips for Paolo Scafora?
Take half a size down from your general true to size unless you have a wide foot. The Carlos Santos lasts fit extremely close for me compared to the Paolo Scafora Q Last and are great references. Since you size down half on the roomier lasts (401, 316, 333, 397 and often 234) pick those sizes and you are golden.
I Love This Sole
When I worked at Suitsupply every day after closure we prepared the suit-wave. Every suit arranged by color and with the shoulders pointing towards you in a fluid motion. The first customer that came in pretty much destroyed them, but the point was that you achieved perfection through details.
It’s the same with the soles of a great shoe. Nobody sees it or “cares” for it since the moment you take a step the sole will never be the same. This doesn’t stop Paolo Scafora from embossing their massive logo on the front of the sole as their crescendo of shoemaking touches.
As aforementioned the waist and fiddleback are not super tight or as prominent but I don’t care. I don’t want it to be. I just want to look at it and and wonder about the process and the care that went through to make it happen.
The 360 Norwegian Stitching
Few mastered the art of Norwegian Construction like Paolo Scafora. Let alone a 360 stitch that goes around the entire shoe, yet somehow keeping a rather low profile instead of a bulky mess.
Hand-sewn of course it is one of the most laborious difficult constructions and a showcase of craftsmanship and skill. Let me show you a quick picture of the same stitching from the Paolo Scafora Split Toe.
Absolutely staggering. Saint Crispin’s, Maftei and a select few can do such a good job with Norwegian Stitching.
Of course this extends to the rest of the shoe. Given that this is a wholecut there is not much stitching other than the backseam. But you do get to see how clean and seamless the interior is comparing it to the CNES Wholecut from last week’s article.
Italians care about decor. Whether you buy an Alfa Romeo or a Ferrari it will look magnificent. I already mentioned that the interior is very clean and polished to perfection. It has great lining and a handwritten note right where your heel rests.
Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures as I forgot to take out the lasted shoe trees. Which by the way fit each last individually and are super lightweight.
Remind me to add a picture of the insole will you?!
Who On Earth Wears Them?
One of my fellow Styleforum enthusiasts said that he needs more chest hair to wear these. I will not deny that wearing these shoes takes confidence. Why you ask?
For starters the very aggressive toe and construction make them more noticeable. This is not the shoe that you wear in your regular white/blue collar job but then again it’s not directed to you. It’s a high end shoe for the enthusiast, connoisseur and the person that wants to expand their shoe collection beyond the norm.
Every day people will get the most value out of Carlos Santos, Carmina, Allen Edmonds and enjoy them so much. But for those of us that want to ascend to the next level, want only the best or appreciate the hours of work that go into such a pair of shoes they are worth every penny.
For me as a small business owner I will wear them when I want to look and feel my best. The Montella Brown Calf is very versatile and will look superb with navy or lighter shades of grey among others. I dare say that from time to time I will put on some dark denim and let them do the talking.
I will wear history, tradition and carry the history of a whole brand with me.
A Matter Of Taste & Value
I know what you might be thinking: These are too much. Hell yes they can be! But you can get a regular Hand-welted construction instead or a darker color to blend in more if you wish.
But where Paolo Scafora really stands out in my opinion apart from design is value for money. I cannot justify spending over $1000 for Edward Green or John Lobb for something “inferior” construction wise. Call me a snob, call me an elitist but I admire brands like Saint Crispin’s, Antonio Meccariello, Stefano & Mario Bemer, Yeossal and Vass that go the extra mile. For this kind of money, I want my shoes Hand-welted and Hand-lasted. Period.
For $1240 you get free shipping, lasted shoe trees and a handmade pair of shoes with the highest quality materials and Norwegian Construction. Quick comparison:
- Edward Green Dover: $1500
- John Lobb City II: $1350
- Gaziano & Girling St. James II: $1150
It’s been a while since I was so excited about writing an article and I think it shows. I recommend watching a recap of my latest YouTube Video! Consider subscribing will you?!
Paolo Scafora Allows Me To Be Me
Paolo Scafora allows me to be who I want to be. A person that forges their own future, takes control of their own life and dares to stand out and express themselves. It is the reason I quit my day job to become something more and free myself from the shackles of normality and the mundane.
Of course this is subjective and my own taste so your opinion might be different. But you can’t deny this is a spectacular piece of footwear! I would really love to hear your opinions about these in the comments down below. Which brings me to the end of the “Paolo Scafora Wholecut Shoes Review”. If you would like to see more of these I might showcase my other two models in the future.
In the meantime stay safe and I will see you next week with some more amazing shirts from Apposta! If you are new to the blog and you enjoyed the content please consider Subscribing for your weekly article or sharing this post! It’s just a hobby for me, but it means the world to me.
Thank you for reading,