Last year the Florentine shoemaker Sutor Mantellassi asked British designer Justin Deakin to reinterpret the classic shoes it had created 50 years ago for film star Marcello Mastroianni to wear on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In homage to Mastroianni’s 1960s brand of debonair cool, Deakin came up with a winkle-picker-influenced black calf monk shoe with an alligator vamp and double straps (€3,900, to order). It was an all-black style statement that anticipated by a year the ubiquity of the monk shoe at the Milan autumn/winter 2016 shows.
Monk-shoe disciples should be in their element this season – quite apart from innovative finishes and design details, there are some entirely fresh-looking interpretations. This month Deakin is launching the Luke, a low-cut double-strap (in opposite directions) which comes in black, chestnut or espresso calf (£450).
The 150-year-old British shoemaker Grenson also has several new designs. The Kramer (£430) is a sturdy Friar Tuck of a shoe, in crosshatch grain leather with double strap, toe-cap and triple welted sole. There’s a new casual soft-chocolate calf-suede version (£205) that looks hardy and very British. John Lobb has its own fine example of the chunky monk, with its new Morval (£910) double-buckle in supple buffalo leather on a substantial, rutted rubber sole. Lobb’s signature look is gently elongated, and more restrained updates include the William II (£795), a classic double-strap with new hand-sewn details. My favourite is the Easton (£1,165) in glossy navy calf with a suede vamp and single strap that could easily take its wearer into a smart evening event.
There are further dressy updates at Jimmy Choo, whose latest collection is inspired by haute bohemia and rock royalty – creative director Sandra Choi cites Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix as influences. The handmade Linus (£575) combines leather with contrasting stripes (in black or gold) of metallic corduroy and a thicker sole. “They’re for men who want to be formal without being conformist,” says Choi. The patent leather version, which comes with a zip-trimmed toe cap, certainly has black-tie swagger.
With its knack for tongue-in-cheek interpretations, DSquared2 has come up with intriguing fusion styles that blur the lines between sports and formal shoes. Its Tux sneaker (£738), a black velvet double strap with the wide white welt of a tennis shoe, is a dressy take on strap-fastening sneakers. Harrys of London’s Jones Monk sneaker (£345) in kudu suede has a non-slip Vibram rubber sole; it would work well with jeans but could also double as a street-savvy evening shoe.
For fans of Italian shoemakers, Santoni is often their choice. “The monk shoe is a distinctive model for a real gentleman,” says CEO Giuseppe Santoni, son of the firm’s founder. Santoni’s latest styles include Carlos, a double-buckled calfskin ankle boot (€590) in bordeaux and/or black. I particularly love, for sheer dandyish appeal, its fringed, wine-coloured version (€660). It’s now possible to order Santoni’s classic Carter (€830) monk shoe from the #mysantonicolours section of the website, with just four to six weeks for delivery. The range of 16 colours, including green, blue, grey and brown, is quite extraordinary, and countless combinations are possible.
Other Italian shoemakers are going big on customisation, and this winter Salvatore Ferragamo’s top-flight Tramezza range of monkstrap shoes and boots (from £1,130) will be available to order. An actor client of mine had a stunning pair of monk boots made from natural chamois suede. Choose from a wide range of skins such as ostrich, condor, antico calf and alligator; buckle options include antiqued gold, palladium and glossy ruthenium.
At the super-refined end of the shoe-making scale, Corthay’s Arca monk shoe (£1,180) in suede has twin elasticated straps, decorative buckles in subtly different sizes, and a remarkably thin Goodyear welt sole. Gaziano & Girling has a new version of its Mayfair monk shoe (£815) in rich brown Polo Suede with light punching and ivory stitching. The Carlyle (£460) in vintage-looking chestnut calf also has elegant top stitching and punching.
Finally, I must mention new developments at George Cleverley where the shoemaker has taken a toe-capped version of its Caine monk shoe (£995) and replaced the seam with a fine hand-rolled and stitched line, formerly just a bespoke option. Though a buckle shoe might once have seemed a leap of faith for straight-laced stalwarts, these splendid iterations may well convert them. But be warned: monk shoes are a hard habit to kick.