Let’s start with a “footnote”:*
*I’ve been wearing Bass Weejuns since high school — that was in the 1970s — and they still are my go-to shoes for every day and especially when traveling and sightseeing. I like to look sharp when I’m in a foreign destination, and you’re certainly not going to see me wearing a T-shirt, running shorts and athletic sneakers when I’m out and about, especially in fashion-conscious places like Italy and France. Instead, no matter what I wear for clothes, I’m typically in Bass Weejuns — either the traditional mahogany $110 “Estelle” penny loafer or, my new favorite, the $110 “Whitney” black loafer with white kiltie. Bass Weejuns are the quintessential American shoe, worn by everyone from Cindy Crawford to the late President John F. Kennedy, and they couldn’t be more classic. ghbass.com/home.do
That said, in my travels, I’ve discovered some amazing and fabulous other brands of footwear that you should definitely stash in your Samsonite — for whenever you take your next trip. Let’s hope the coronavirus quarantine comes to an end soon. Here’s my salute To All The Shoes I’ve Loved Before (with apologies to Willie Nelson):
Take your footwear cue from royalty — that would be Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Her famous tootsies are typically shod in Sole Bliss shoes, designed for maximum style and comfort. “Camilla wears our brand regularly, when she’s on engagement,” says Sole Bliss founder and designer Lisa Kay, who created her company in England and just launched it in the United States. And then you have another type of royalty — the Hollywood A-lister, specifically Helen Mirren (who won an Oscar for playing Camilla’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth II, in “The Queen.”) “Helen has been a fan of ours since Day One,” Kay adds. “She wears our peep toes, high heels and block heels and our boots.”
She created Sole Bliss shoes with clever construction to cocoon your feet in comfort. Each pair features three separate layers of foam and a bunion bed “that can stretch forever,” she says. “The trick is to make them deep and spacious but to make sure that the shoes fit at the back as well. They are the result of a lot of research-and-development and expertise.” The shoes are manufactured in Spain, and “50 to 60 pairs of hands make every pair of shoes,” Kay adds. The “Imogen” black-and-bone spectators — ideal for your Chanel dress — are popular, but the best sellers are the Pandora high heel and the Carmen classic pump. (The ballet flats and kitten heels are also must-haves.) And take note of the $325 snakeskin “Debut” booties for next season. Another style to wow your wardrobe is the stunning “Erin” $315 black patent leather flat boot, which will be gorgeous on your gams, even if you have a wide foot. solebliss.com
And if you just can’t get your fill of comfy high heels, check out those handcrafted in Italy by Sarah Flint. Consider the $355 Perfect Pump where form and function are beautifully entwined. Each pair of Sarah Flint shoes features arch supports; an additional 6 millemeters of footbed padding; a sexy V-shaped vamp; wider toe boxes to ease crowding of your toes; and heels with a center steel and rod to ensure durability and wearability. And have I mentioned the proprietary rubber sole, for the utmost TLC for your toes? These are handmade in Italy, with the artisan responsible for your shoes sending you a little card with his or her signature for the ultimate personal touch. I’m also crazy about the $345 “Natalie.” The white is superb for summery resorts — and the perfection pointy toes feature adorable little leather bows. sarahflint.com.
For fantastic style and comfort with every step, consider the “Alice” from Arcopedico for your travel go-to shoe in any season. Available in super colors like lemon, red and denim blue, this trendy, yet practical Nubuck loafer makes the perfect seasonal transition shoe for your wardrobe. The “Alice” is a superb solution if you know you are going to spend a lot of time on your feet, and a pair in black is a must with your designer jeans. You will love Arcopedico’s comfy and patented twin arch support system. arcopedicousa.com.
No travel shoe wardrobe, of course, would be complete without a pair of stylish sandals handmade in Capri by Canfora. Now, even though there is limited travel to Italy, you can still offer la dolce vita to your toes. The adorable Canfora shop in Capri — where Jacqueline Kennedy visited in the 1960s to purchase innumerable pairs that she was subsequently photographed in — now offers oceans of styles online. From those with simple leather straps to those bejeweled with rhinestones, they are handmade and custom-made for your feet, with the type of heel that you prefer. Whenever I wear mine, I am constantly stopped and complimented for my footwear, and they are très chic with any outfit — from bathing suits to ballgowns — wearable everywhere from Boston to Barcelona. Canfora.com.
And if you just can’t get enough of that lovely European country shaped like a boot — consider some other footwear made there. Maria Gangemi founded M. Gemi, making simply elegant shoes like the woven “Ballare,” priced around $248. “With every shoe, I truly think about how I can bring the magic of Italy directly to you,” she wrote me in an e-mail interview. “I consider how an authentic, everyday woman will wear (the shoes) — through every possible activity or scenario. In a single word, women are busy, which is why I uphold that each and every silhouette is undeniably comfortable while also uniquely luxurious and beautiful. Our newest arrival — the Ballare — was inspired by one of my most cherished coastal towns, Forte Dei Marmi. My favorite thing to do is pedal to the beach and stop at the market on my way home. Influenced by the timeless woven leather totes created there, I updated our best-selling, addictively comfortable flat in a buttery-soft, statement-making woven texture.”
And make sure to say ciao to the elegant $198 “Fortuna” pointy-toe flat in black patent leather with all-important sexy toe cleavage. They will become your newest sole-mates. Mgemi.com.
For more on Debbi, visit Debbikickham.com.