Tom Riley from men’s tailor P Johnson shares a tale about the Italian moccasin known in Italy “the original driving shoe”.
P Johnson founder Patrick and I are passionate about light and soft-structured classical menswear. We’re strong advocates of the way the Roman and Neapolitan men dress; the suits and jackets are typically elegant, sporty, soft and lightly structured. This is very relevant to Australia. The average Aussie guy can afford to dress better here, but that doesn’t mean wearing rigid and boxy 3 piece suits, it can be done a bit sexier and sportier than that without leaving behind classical sartorial wear. It’s just about elegance and refinement at every level and a view to a neat cut offset by lighter and softer construction. For this reason we make suits in Naples and Rome, where this is mode is commonplace.
We’ve always been fond of driving shoes (a minimal nipple soled moccasin), it sits well with our sportier look. The best are supple, light and minimal. They were popularised post-WWII not only for driving in but as the perfect neat and tidy summer shoe. We’d always known about Giulio Miserocchi, the man who first made these shoes but they were tricky to locate, found only in the odd small retailer. Early on, he used to make the shoes for FIAT magnate Gianni Agnelli, his especially had a small step heel for a little more presence. Giulio and his brother in fact started the brand Car Shoe and subsequently sold it to Prada along with the term, unfortunately, “original driving shoe”. All the major (and probably minor) driving shoe makers now make the moccasins by machine. They are consequently often a little frumpy, bulky and tend to turn upwards at the toe.
Giulio passed a few years ago, leaving the company and the skills to his sons Davide and Riccardo. The moccasins they make are dainty, slim, short in the vamp, low profile at the toe and, most importantly, stitched by hand. This means they sensitively regulate stitch placement and tension around the front of the shoe to stop if turning up. They are very minimal in their structure. When you put your foot in, your foot tends to define the shoe rather than the shoe defining the foot. They need to be slightly too small to work, so the foot stretches and fills the shoe out.
It was just hard to get the ball rolling (they’re in a sleepy place where things move at the rate of molasses) but we’ve managed to start a working relationship with Davide and Riccardo. Our wonderful friend Luca Asmonti, a Milanese born lecturer in Ancient Greek History has been helping us with translations and communication, and thankfully he has superb Italian and even better English so we could be subtly persuasive! We now have a few off the rack moccasins, a classic model and a polacchino (a boot model). We can also make them made-to-order in suede, calf leathers, camel leathers and cordovan amongst other things. They can be worn with everything from swim-shorts to slick wool suits… I’m wearing a black polacchino with a soft cotton suit today.
Co-founder of mens tailor P Johnson