A smell of leather and shoe polish pervades the Argentine atelier of Casa Fagliano on Tambo Nuevo, a quiet street in the Buenos Aires suburb of Hurlingham. Shelves are lined with rows of wooden lasts and the walls display black-and-white photographs that tell the story of this artisan shoemaker, renowned for its custom polo boots.
The atelier’s methods have changed little since Pedro Fagliano, a cobbler from Cuneo in Italy, moved to Argentina in 1892 to set up a workshop. Today, three generations of the family continue to make shoes, boots and leather goods.
Custom-made for polo competition
Here you will find Pedro’s son, Rodolfo, now aged 90, still handcutting the leather while his grandson, Germán, matches the pieces. Rodolfo’s younger son, Héctor, hammers nails into the soles. His eldest, Eduardo, finishes the boot with personalised stitching using a 1920s sewing machine while Germán’s cousin, Lucás, trims the edges.
“The craftsmanship and eye for detail has brought the bootmakers an illustrious clientele, including royalty, celebrities and the world’s best polo players”
Drawing on each family member’s expertise, the Faglianos collaborate on only one pair of their polo shoes at a time. Each pair takes 48 hours to complete. Such a level of craftsmanship and eye for detail has brought the bootmakers an illustrious clientele of polo players, which includes royalty (Prince Harry, Prince Charles and the King of Spain), celebrities (actor Tommy Lee Jones and his wife) and the world’s best polo players, including several who compete each year in the prestigious Snow Polo Word Cup in St. Moritz.
A family tradition
Today, there is an eight-month waiting list for a pair of Casa Fagliano made-to-measure polo boots. Typically, the atelier makes between 80 to 90 bespoke pairs of polo boots a year, in styles ranging from zip-up or closed to lace-up and Texan cowboy styles. For those who simply cannot wait, there are ‘off-the-peg” polo boots, as well as a collection of luxury leather shoes and sneakers and other leather accessories.
“Our polo boots are renowned for their suppleness,” explains Germán. “They need to be soft, so the players’ feet and legs are comfortable as they are standing up in their stirrups for long periods. Yet they also need to be reinforced to protect the leg and foot from injury.”
“The opportunity to have custom polo boots made for you allows for the most comfortable experience”
A beneficiary of these supple boots is Melissa Ganzi, a high-level polo player and the 2019 winner of the prestigious Snow Polo World Cup in St. Moritz, the first female winner since the cup’s inception 35 years ago. The occasion also marked the first win for her sponsor, Badrutt’s Palace Hotel. “I have been a customer of Casa Fagliano for nearly 20 years,” she enthuses. “The opportunity to have custom polo boots made for you allows for the most comfortable experience while playing any type of polo. I still use the polo boots they made for me in 2001 – that speaks volumes about the quality.”
The best polo boots
The Faglianos use the best cordovan, buffalo and calfskin leathers, mostly sourced from Argentina. “If you look after a pair of boots well, they will last a lifetime,” says Germán. “Good raw materials are essential to a good pair of polo boots. For instance, cordovan leather is beautiful, supple and exceptionally durable and will not rub, but it is expensive.
For their polo sport clients, customisation can range from the practical to the very personal. “Some customers will request a rubber rather than a leather sole to offer better grip in a humid or wet environment, including for snow polo,” explains Germán. “We usually stitch initials, sometimes team logos, and incorporate personalised stitching into our boots, such as black leather with red stitching. One customer requested that their initials be engraved using bronze nails on the heels.”
“Drawing on each family member’s expertise, the Faglianos collaborate on only one pair of their polo boots at a time”
“Our polo boots are highly valued because of our attention to detail and highly personal service,” continues Germán. Where possible, a family member will deliver the boots personally. “The most remote hand delivery we made was in Hong Kong and I did it myself,” he adds proudly. “We travel to polo games three or four times a year to meet current clients and attract new customers. I know that the Snow Polo World Cup in St. Moritz will be on our list for 2020.”
This will give the Fagliano family a chance to see their polo boots in action as Melissa Ganzi and her team will be competing to retain their title. “I am hopeful about winning again, but not confident as anything is possible in polo,” she says. “I play a lot of snow polo, so I feel comfortable in this venue. St. Moritz is a magical place to play – the atmosphere is incredible and the spectators always cheer for their team. My team and I are definitely up for the challenge and we want to make our sponsor, Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, proud.”
The annual Snow Polo World Cup, the only high-goal polo tournament on snow, is supported by Badrutt’s Palace Hotel and takes place 29 to 31 January 2021 on the frozen lake of St. Moritz.