Image: George Ong
November 11 2011
Lucia van der Post
Men’s shoes seem to have been getting a lot of attention in recent times. Once, the names to conjure with were few and well known, but these days there are all sorts of cult brands, none more niche but becoming more sought-after by the day than Pierre Corthay.
Corthay is a Frenchman who fell in love with leather when just a small boy. “My parents,” he tells me, “were actors and we lived in a sort of commune where people were always making things; there was leather lying around from the costumes and I started creating leather bracelets and wallets. I just loved it.” Fast forward a few years and he did a proper cobbler’s apprenticeship, worked at John Lobb and Berluti and, in 1990, he founded his own brand, Pierre Corthay, in a wonderful little atelier in Paris.
He’s still there today, the bespoke shoes all made on the premises, but having found new business partners he is starting to expand. Once, he made only bespoke shoes, designed from scratch to suit the owners, most of whom seem to view their shoes as a rare outlet for a bit of artistic expression. “After all,” Corthay points out, “men don’t usually wear jewellery and now that ties are becoming de trop, attention has moved to the feet.”
Often Corthay gives his shoes special laces made of gold or deep-dyed velvet ribbons, which look especially good on evening styles. Think of an exquisitely made design of shiny deep-navy-blue patent leather finished off with a little pale-lilac leather piping and gold laces. They’re certainly on the adventurous side, but worn at night with, say, a tuxedo, they look wonderful.
These days there is a ready-to-wear range and Corthay’s shoes are found in a few shops too, including Isetan, one of the world’s best department stores for men, and Saks Fifth Avenue. And at the end of this month a Pierre Corthay shop will open in London.
Best of all, though, is to go to the little gem of an atelier in Paris where you can meet the artisans who will make your shoes. Ready-to-wear styles start at £915 (examples pictured all £915), bespoke at £6,000; the first pair takes between four and five months to make, after which you can have them in two months.
It’s no wonder Corthay’s shoes have been called Louboutins for men. They have a sexiness that never tips over into vulgarity and allows men to have some fun with their kit.