Monday, April 11, 2016

In Review: Tuscan Soul - Buttero Tanino Low


"Vachetta leather does not lie. It is not afraid to be the testimony of time."
 - Consorzio Vera Pelle Italiana Conciata Al Vegetale

I recently went on a hunt in search of simple and well-made low profile sneakers that I didn't have to baby and would age well - like good scotch, or Helen Mirren. This search ended up steering me towards a focus on high quality leather and craftsmanship as well as, to some extent, avoiding white sneakers (heresy, you say!). Don't get me wrong, I think minimal white sneakers (i.e. CP Achilles, etc.) are attractive and incredibly versatile but they can lack a bit of soul, and most crispy white sneakers aren't crispy white sneakers after a month or two. Many I've seen have a tendency not to look as fabulous when they get a little long in the tooth.

After some time considering all the options and factoring price and value into that equation, I landed straight on the doorstep of Buttero and a sneaker named the Tanino.

Established in 1974 in the hillside town of Cerreto Guidi just thirty minutes from Florence, Mauro Sani started Calzaturificio Buttero with the goal of crafting high quality riding boots anchored in the local materials and old-world craftsmanship the region of Tuscany is internationally renowned for. Named in tribute to the old cowboys of Tuscany, Buttero has since built up an international reputation for high quality footwear beyond its boot manufacture now with modern shoes and sneakers. They now have somewhat of a cult following, and I just drank the Koolaid. It tastes good.


Design, Materials, and Construction


Design: The Tanino shares an overall aesthetic with many other competing shoes - decidedly minimal in the style of simple classic tennis shoes with balanced proportions and a low profile. However, Buttero's version takes on more of a vintage throwback aesthetic thanks to some well-considered details: burnished raw edges, square leather lacing (cotton laces included as well), tack stitching at the base of the tongue, brass eyelets, and the character of the leather itself. So at first glance, the shoes look immediately familiar but with a slightly more rustic feel.


Buttero also makes some cap toe Tanino models as well as others with small variations in details like brand stamp placement, etc. I find the non-cap toe, non-padded collar version to be the most appealing, but they all look great in my opinion.


Out of the box

Materials and Construction: Buttero uses Italian Vachetta, a locally-sourced vegetable-tanned leather, as the foundation for most of their footwear. The process utilizes the natural tannins found in plants, just as it has for hundreds of years, to transform the hides into workable leather. As I mentioned, quality leather is something Italians have become famous for, and it really shows in these sneakers.


I bought my Taninos in dark brown/testa di moro, which has a rich depth to it in person with considerable burgundy tones. The closest I can compare it to would be Horween #8. The surface is left without a protective coat, resulting in a product that tends to accept aging and take on a beautiful patina over time, making every pair more individualized to its owner as the years pass. This follows in the spirit of the quote above - there's beauty in the evolution and maturation of quality materials, and Vachetta does not shy away from it - on the contrary, actually.


Out of the box there were one or two small scuffs, as can be seen in some of the pictures. Some guys may have a big problem with that but it doesn't really bother me as I expect them to pick up marks fairly easily. However, I have also seen some pictures of new Taninos with a subtle rippled texture on the surface. I'm not sure if that's a quality control issue or just an expected variation within their acceptable limits, but I don't like it at all. Thankfully, the pair I received is smooth with a fairly tight grain. The edges are left looking fairly raw with a bit of burnishing, which also lends itself to a cohesive aesthetic.

The inside of the shoe is fitted with a Buttero branded leather insole and the shoe is built on a cream/oatmeal Margom sole, which has become the standard sole for the style. Aside from the insole, the only other place the shoe is branded is offset on the tongue, which you can't see when the shoes are laced - just how I like it.


Stitching is clean throughout with no wandering lines or loose threads. Overall, the shoes feel pretty substantial and the components throughout are a clear step above materials you will find on Jack Purcells or something of that level.





Fit, Sizing, and Styling



Fit and Sizing: Buttero has a size reference on their website which helps convert your US size to EU/IT - then they advise you to size down by a full size. Customer feedback for this has been mixed, with some agreeing with that recommendation and others saying that 1/2 size down has worked for them.


I wear an 8D in most dress shoes (i.e. Allen Edmonds), which would be a 41 in EU/IT and then sized down to a 40. There were no half sizes available around my size, but thankfully sizing one full size down worked well for me. The only potential hiccup I've encountered is that the height of the toe box is on the shorter side so I can feel the roof touching my big toe when I flex. It's not painful or even annoying, but if you have big toes I could see it being a potential problem.


Though the leather is moderately thick, it's actually quite supple out of the box so break in has not been an issue. There is an occasional creak with flexion as I've been getting to know the shoes, though I doubt that will be the case as the shoes break in.






Styling: There are some sneakers that some would argue pair well with a suit. If you're one of those people, these are not the shoes you're looking for.


No, seriously though, they're not.

The Tanino lows really shine in casual wear. I dress mostly in Americana - raw jeans, oxfords, henleys, chinos, the occasional leather jacket here and there. Buttero's sneaker is right at home in those settings.

I've seen plenty of pictures of white and black models that look fantastic in streetwear outfits as well, even if it's something I don't do much personally.

Impressions and Value


Also Pictured: Jeans - Rag & Bone, Belt - Don't Mourn, Organize!, Watch - Seagull 1963, Cordovan Strap - Shkira Goods
A few weeks in, and I love these shoes. I like them so much, in fact, that I'd be hard pressed not to pick up a pair of the mids if they crossed my path in the right color, at the right price, and I wasn't aware of the potential for wife fury (that's a real thing. If you don't know about that, see me again in five to ten years).

Buttero's sneakers are priced anywhere from mid $200s to high $300s at MSRP. I could see myself paying in the $200s for a version I couldn't live without, which I think is a fair price, though you can find them on sale in the low to mid $100s if you're diligent. I paid $141 for mine. At that price point I think they're a tremendous value - maybe untouchable. Compared to the market, they're cheaper at those sale prices than pretty much all competitors - that includes Common Projects' Achilles, brands like Wings + Horns, even "wholesale pricing" companies like Gustin (who charge up to an insane $100 upgrade fee for Horween leather on their own minimal sneakers).


All pricing aside, the Butteros stand on their own merits apart from the herd with their own brand of Italian minimalism in a classic silhouette. If you're in the market and thinking about it, I'd highly recommend taking a closer look at the Tanino.




 

Pros


  • Beautiful leather and quality components
  • Classic design with thoughtful detailing
  • Well-priced on sale

Cons


  • Potential sizing issues
  • Lack of many stateside retailers, making purchase a sight-unseen affair for most (with the risk associated)
  • Some stock pictures with an unattractive rippled leather surface

Where to Buy


This is a short list, of which there are many more retailers with revolving stock. If nothing available below, I'd recommend running a few searches for stockists in the US and Europe.



Others to Consider in the Range


4 comments:

  1. Great review! Just picked up a pair of tanino mids and I love them. One thing though, they're a bit squeaky with the leather being so dry but I'm hoping with the break in process that will cease

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    1. I have been pining after the mids myself, honestly, though I can't justify the purchase. Definitely agree w/ the squeakiness, though I want to say they're squeaking less than they were at first. Thanks for the comments!

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    2. I've had trouble with the squeaking as for the past year and I've worn them at least a few times a week. But I can't complain with how well they're aging, the soles are holding up incredibly and the insole has molded to my foot. Overall these are my favorite brand of shoe I've come across.

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    3. I was just reading on the NWMA forum the other day - a lot of people have had success with a little bit of baby powder on the inside of the shoes, which seems to fix the problem for most people. I'm glad you're enjoying them regardless.

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