The History of Italian Shoe Fashion

The fashion industry has a tendency to focus on certain cities and areas when it comes to trends and developments. Italy is one of the world’s leading fashion capitals, home to luxury brands as well as smaller boutiques producing bespoke garments. However, despite being so well-known for its fashion, Italian shoe production remains an obscure topic. The country is known for its leather goods but is not commonly associated with shoe production. This article looks at Italian shoe fashion from the 19th century until today, exploring the history of footwear in this country and its impact on other parts of the world.

The history of Italian shoe fashion

The history of Italian shoe fashion is long and rich. While the first historical accounts of shoe production in Italy date back to the 17th century, it was the 19th century when this industry came into its own. The north of the country was a major hub for the production of footwear, whereas the south was known for its leather goods including bags and briefcases. The 20th century saw northern Italy at the forefront of technological and stylistic developments, whereas the south remained focused on a more traditional production. During the 1990s and 2000s, Italian shoemaking saw a revival, and the industry is now stronger than ever. It is having a significant impact on the world of footwear, with Italian brands and designers having a strong presence on the global stage.

The birth of Italian Shoemaking

Italy has a long history of shoemaking, with the first written records of shoemakers in Italy dating back to the 14th century. However, the birth of Italian shoemaking can be traced back to the 19th century when the country underwent significant industrialization. During the 19th century, northern Italy experienced a rapid growth in its textile industry, with strong demand for leather shoes. This, together with the arrival of a large number of migrant workers from southern Italy, led to the development of a robust shoemaking industry in the region. The north of the country quickly became a major producer of footwear, and two cities, in particular, Milan and Como, emerged as important centres of production.

20th century: Shoemaking in Milan and Rome

Milan is still one of the world’s leading cities for the production of footwear, but its status as a fashion capital was gained in the early 20th century. Milan’s reputation as a leading hub for shoemaking was already established during the 19th century, with numerous large factories producing shoes for the domestic as well as the international market. During the early 20th century, Milan saw an influx of skilled craftsmen from southern Italy, and its shoe sector flourished, growing significantly in size. The northern Italian city became a major centre for the production of high-quality footwear, with many factories producing goods for the world’s leading shoe brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Aldo. While Milan became an important centre for shoemaking in the 20th century, Rome’s status as a major producer of footwear dates back to the 19th century, when it was one of the most important centres of production in the country.

21st century: Shoe brands and designers

While Rome’s shoemaking tradition goes back to the 19th century, its footwear sector gained more prominence in the 21st century. Several high-end brands and designers, such as Carpe Diem, Fratelli Rossetti, and Mascagni, emerged in the city and gained a strong following. In addition to these local brands, several international shoe design houses have opened stores in Rome, including Loewe, Hogan, and Jimmy Choo. These companies opened stores in Rome to benefit from the city’s design and shoemaking heritage, as well as its close proximity to Milan, which is a major fashion hub.

The future of shoe production in Italy

With its long history of shoemaking, as well as its strong legacy of quality and craftsmanship, Italy is a natural location for fashion brands to produce their footwear. Many of the country’s leading brands, such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, and Prada, produce their footwear in Italy, using local factories to produce the majority of their goods. A significant amount of footwear produced in Italy is also exported to other parts of the world, including Asia and the United States. Italy’s status as a leading footwear producer is not only due to the country’s strong cultural heritage and reputation for quality but also because of its strategic location between Europe and Asia. This offers brands the benefit of being close to their main markets as well as to a variety of suppliers, allowing them to efficiently produce and distribute their goods. Because of these factors, it is likely that the production of footwear in Italy will remain at a high level for the foreseeable future.


Italian shoemaking dates back to the 14th century, but it was only during the 19th century that it truly flourished. The northern part of the country became a major centre of production, and brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Aldo became known worldwide. Today, Milan and Rome are still key cities for footwear production, while many designers and brands have discovered the benefits of producing their goods in Italy. With its rich history and culture, Italy is an ideal location for footwear production. It is a strategic location between Europe and Asia, with a rich design and shoemaking heritage that brands have been taking advantage of for years.