Women have been known to swoon over a pair of Jimmy Choos or Manolos. But men need sole mates, too. Enter Pantofola d’Oro (“golden slippers” in Italian), sartorial sneakers that are both stylish and comfortable.
Founded in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, in 1886, the family-owned cobbler shop later became known for wrestling and football (soccer) shoes. Six years ago, Rancho Santa Fe entrepreneur Michael Lamb bought his first pair in Germany. He liked the buttery soft shoes so much (“It’s like putting your foot in a driving glove”) that last year he got Rancho friends Mark Baldi, John Bonano, Glenn Cadrez, and Jeff Huisman to kick in, purchasing the rights to market the shoes in North America, Australia, and the UAE.
It’s been a shoe-in to get celebrities to wear the brand. Maroon 5’s lead singer Adam Levine wore them on The Voice. Piers Morgan, Zac Efron, Jenny McCarthy, and Robert DeNiro are also said to be fans. “Where did you get those shoes?” DeNiro reportedly asked when one of the company’s investors dined at the actor’s Tribeca Grill in New York.
The shoes, with their signature stars and Italian colors, range from $149 to $229, and are now available in 65 boutiques around the country, including Mister B in Encinitas and HIS on Cedros. Lamb hopes 200 stores will carry the brand by year’s end. There’s also a women’s line designed by Lamb’s friend Ginny Hilfiger, sister of designer Tommy Hilfiger. The company is donating $50 to breast cancer awareness for every pair of pink (limited production) luxury sneaker it sells.
The next logical step? Lamb and his partners are in the process of acquiring the company worldwide. (760/431-8874, www.pdoitalia.com) ANDREA NAVERSEN
Photography by Bob Stefanko