The first online menswear wave came in the form of brands focused on accessories, shirts and suits. Now it is the wave of shoe brands that are helping guys dress better. Many focus on differentiation by product, others by business model and others by provenance of production. One such brand of this beautiful wave of shoes is M.Gemi. In this article we will review and discuss a three pairs of shoes from M.Gemi.
The brand’s very short history is different than any of the other shoe brands that I’ve covered before, in that M.Gemi started as a women’s brand and after success on the female side of things, the brand ventured into men’s footwear. In short, M.Gemi touts Italian manufacturing and materials at prices that are lower than is generally seen from Italian made goods; partly achieved by the cost savings of offering their goods directly to customers through their website or showroom in NYC. Before we begin I should note that I obviously cannot speak for the women’s line, since I have no experience with that line. This review only pertains the M.Gemi’s men’s shoes.
As a general note, I will say that the line as is, is not overly cohesive. The shoes that are in the same category (such as loafers), are often divergent in construction and style details. Which although not a ‘bad thing’ or ‘problem’ per se, it is uncommon and perhaps just a sign of the men’s side of the business being in its early stages. For instance, if you look at a pair of Aldens you can see parallels to other models of Alden’s. If you look at one of Jay Butler’s loafers, you can see direct connections to the brand’s other loafers. That is not present as much with M.Gemi’s line. That said, I think the line still has its best day’s ahead of it, which is meant as a compliment.
M.Gemi was nice enough enough to send me three pair of shoes to wear and review. The Netto sneaker in gray ($145), the Grotta boot in brown deerskin ($348) and the Legna wholecut saddle shoe in hickory ($278) . Of the three, the Grotta boot is my favorite to wear, which we will get to. The Legna dress shoe is the least of the three pair, which we will also discuss. The sneaker sitting in between the two and for what it’s worth, it has probably garnered the most inquiries and comments from onlookers. Overall, I have been happy with all three pairs of shoes.
We will discuss and review each pair separately and then close with some concluding remarks. Let’s start with the Netto sneaker in gray.
The Netto is M.Gemi’s take on the classic Stan Smith (or a less expensive alternative to Common Projects). It is a minimal sneaker stripped of excess stitches and branding. The result is a shoe that is quite nice on the eyes. The unique characteristic of the Netto is the hand painted leather, which is very rare to see on sneakers and very Italian in style. Going forward, I think we will see more sneakers that are hand painted. Hopefully from these photos you can see the undertones of brown, which is the color of the leather before being painted. For someone like me who wears a lot of brown and blue trousers, this shade of gray is perfect. The construction of the shoes is of good quality, as are the materials. Relative to other ‘luxury’ or ‘dress’ sneakers out there, the $145 price puts these as an exceptional deal. Even though I wore the sneakers with gray trousers for the looks for this piece. They pair very well under navy or brown trousers.
It is pretty rare that you see me wearing any black. As it only happens with outerwear, a tuxedo or for my brunch cardigan. Having these shoes in gray has allowed me to pull off some ensembles that with my usual footwear in brown and blue, were difficult to make work. As it stands, they are pretty low in stock on the sneaker, however, I have been told that they will be launching some more hand painted sneakers this spring; for those who are interested. Now let’s move on to the Legna dress shoe.
The legna is a wholecut saddle shoe, or at least that is what I am calling it, M.Gemi calls it a ‘brogue saddle oxford’. Either way, what I mean is that M.Gemi took a wholecut shoe and added stitching and broguing to make it look like a saddle shoe. It is a great mix of a very formal style and a much less formal style, the result is a unique style that I do not believe I have seen elsewhere. Which is part of why I selected this shoe. For those of you interested in shoe manufacture, this is not an easy shoe to make, no wholecut is. I imagine adding the stitching and brogueing make the crafting even more difficult. The soles are Blake stitched, as is common for shoes made in Italy. However, it is not a perfect execution. Between the third and fourth eyelets you will see a scar in the leather that runs about 1?, ideally, when the leather is cut, marks like this will be cut around or placed in less prominent locations on the shoe. Such things are inevitable when working with leather, however, for a shoe that costs nearly $300 I would not expect to see this. There were also some other small scuffs on the leather when the shoes arrived, which you can see on the back toward the heel. The burnishing on the toe of the shoes is well done, a soft gradient, not too abrupt. Despite its flaws, the Legna is still a good shoe. Out of the box, it has worn well and is comfortable. Being formal enough to wear with a suit, as you see here, but the shoe could also with a nicer pair of blue jeans, which I do not wear. Some of the styling on some of the other dress shoes in the line I am not a big fan of, but that is a subjective thing. Either way, I think the Grotta and Netto are better investments for one’s wardrobe based on what you get for your dollar. Not that the Legna or the dress shoes are a bad investment, like I said it is still a good shoe for the money, I just think you get more for your money with the Grotta and Netto.
Lastly, we shall discuss the Grotta boot in a beautiful brown deerskin. In my years of menswear fandom, I have only seen deer in a textured form. This includes a tannery I visited that specialized in deerskin. Along with the attractive and casual texture, I have also only found deerskin to be exceptionally soft and supple (for what it’s worth, venison makes for a great meal), so when I read that the upper of the Grotta was made of deerskin I knew I must have the boot.
To be clear, this is not a dress boot, it is a more casual boot. This is due to the texture of the leather, the open lacing and the rubber lug sole. I’ve been primarily wearing the boots with corduroys and chinos; which they sit beneath comfortably. The quality of build and materials on the Grotta are strong. Like the Legna, the soles of the Grotta are Blake stitched. Different from the Legna, the Grotta’s soles are a leather base with a rubber lug sole on top, you can see the substantial look of the sole in the photo below. This boot has been my go to boot for the winter season thus far.
As previously stated, I have been happy with my shoes from M.Gemi, I think you would too. The dress shoes are not perfect, but the boot is pretty close. The Grotta is sold out in brown (I am not sure if they plan to restock, but it’s worth inquiring with them if you are interested), but there are still some available in black (there is also a deerskin driver on offer, which is more appropriate for the coming spring and summer). The Legna is still available and the Netto is low in stock. When I visited the M.Gemi showroom in Soho I checked out the rest of the line, which was in line with these three shoes in terms of quality. So even if you are looking for one of the three models reviewed here, if you see something else on offer from the brand, I wouldn’t there to be any significant discrepancies. The brand has raised considerable capital, which leaves the door open to a lot of possibilities on all sides of the business. Selfishly, I hope ample capital is put toward the men’s side of the business and I look forward to seeing what M.Gemi does with the men’s line going forward.
If you have any questions about the shoes reviewed here or want to share your own experience with M.Gemi, please feel free to do so in the comments. Thank you for reading.