Peter Nappi Review: The Julius Basso Boot


Back at Pitti 91, Arianna and I had the pleasure of running into Phillip Nappi, who’s the head of Tennessee-based footwear brand Peter Nappi. I can remember reading about the brand in its early days, and coming back to it occasionally over the years due to what I thought was a pretty handsome offering of un-fussy workboots. It fell off the Styleforum radar for a bit, but there’s always been off-and-on interest in the boots, and the brand’s been reinvigorated with a new push, a new adventure to Pitti, and even a new brick and mortar location to support its Nashville flagship store. I’ve circled back continuously, which made it particularly fun to talk to the owner.

As is the case with most brands I end up liking, part of my interest came because I liked Phillip a good deal – he’s earnest, straightforward, and very evidently in love with what he does. That last part encompasses a bit more than just overseeing a shoemaking company, since Peter Nappi is part of what I think is a pretty interesting Southern-US garment and craft movement (along with other brands like the underrated Shockoe Atelier), and their store in Nashville is as much a community space as it is a showroom for shows and events.

You might not be surprised to hear that, after all of this, I was pretty happy to have the chance to take an extended look at a pair of Phillip’s wares, in the form of a some extended wear and review of the Julius boot, which is their flagship model. Specifically, I looked at the “Julius basso” boot in Snuff. I happen to be a fan of lightweight work boots, and of light, versatile boots in general. I’ve owned many different brands in many different styles, and boots that can more or less stand in for sneakers have always had a place in my wardrobe. These fit that bill, both in the way they look and the way they feel.

Silhouette and Style

In the case of the Julius basso, the larger, rounded toe, tapered waist, and short heel give the boot a very handsome silhouette – the toe isn’t so upturned as to resemble Carpe Diem and its descendants, but it’s also enough to make the boot noticeable. According to Phillip, it’s based on a 20th century Italian work boot model, and I think it strikes a really nice balance between being handsome, eye-catching (I’ve been wearing this pair for a little over a month, and for whatever reason they seem to get noticed more than my other footwear), and easily wearable.  As is, I think it’s a good alternative to a more standard chukka boot, while not demanding heavy workwear styling – it’s more at home with light jeans or fatigues than, say, a pair of Redwings, while also feeling a bit less precious (and a bit more versatile) than the Styleforum favorite that is the sleek side-zip boot (think Margiela).

They wear very similarly to sneakers as well. This model is unlined (though others are), but it’s also due to the low heel that wearing the boot doesn’t feel any more, well, taxing than wearing a pair of sneakers, aside from the lack of rubber sole. However, in this particular case the thinness and flexibility of that sole (more on this later) makes the boot what it is, and the unlined upper that this particular model features makes it a good option for summer. I often get very sick of wearing sneakers, but heavy boots are, well, heavy, and the low height and breezy construction mean that I feel pretty good about wearing these in the 80 degree heat.

This year, Peter Nappi has introduced a “Julius Due” model that is, according to Phillip, very similar to the standard flagship but with a slightly narrower toebox. Phillip told me via email that the Due model “Was really a test to see how the market responded to it,” which I take to mean that the standard Julius isn’t going anywhere any time soon.


This particular boot is constructed with a Blake-stitch, which I understand will concern some of our readers who are concerned about potential quality trade-offs. However, this is at its heart a lightweight workboot, and the slimmer sole looks very nice with the silhouette of the shoe. I’ll point you to Permanent Style’s dismissal of concerns over Blake stitching, but I’ll also say that if the thinner sole concerns you from a comfort perspective – this is not an issue in my experience – the addition of a rubber sticker sole will solve all your problems (and is something I do to all my boots anyway).

When I asked Phillip why he opted for Blake as opposed to Blake rapid, he told me that the brand originally began using the Blake stitch, and that last year they experimented with Blake rapid to make the boots look more “Beefy,” but that in the end, the brand is known for its lightweight, Blake-stitched construction, and that’s the route they’ll be going.

I find the sole and construction very comfortable, and there’s enough room in the boot for an insole should you choose. In fact, I think they’re very comfortable – it’s nice not to have to worry about crowded toes, but the silhouette from the top down really is well thought-out. I imagine that it would be nice to have a more cushioned insole, but that’s a  very personal preference and there’s plenty of room in the boot for an insole.

I should note that Peter Nappi also sells a completely hand-stitched Julius model that also sports a hand-stitched Goodyear welt (yes, you read that correctly).

Price, Quality, and Final Thoughts

First, I should offer a disclaimer that, except at the far ends of the bell curve, ‘quality’ is not generally a metric I pay much attention to. I have never had a pair of shoes fall apart on me (with the exception of a rubber heel coming off), and I am not easy on my belongings. In this particular case, I think it’s more important to note that some will no doubt find the thinner leather sole less comfortable than a more rigid sole would be, but it’s equally important to note that this is purely personal preference. If you’re used to wearing lightweight Italian shoes, Peter Nappi boots will feel very familiar. This is, I think, a big part of the charm – the boots are flexible enough to be “shoe-like,” which makes them feel versatile and wearable, especially in the summer as an alternative to sneakers.

As listed, the price for the model shown is $595, which puts it firmly in the “mid-market designer” category. That’s not cheap, but it is competitive with many of the many other brands in the price range, and Phillip told me that they’ve managed to lower prices (when’s the last time you heard that?) based on increased production, reduced fuel costs (the boots are still manufactured in Italy), and the relative strength of the dollar. As a result, the new Julius Due retails for $100 less. “We always aimed to be as approachable as possible,” Phillip told me.  “We want everyone to be able to experience what we’re so passionate about. After seven years, the tide is finally turning in our favor.”

That seems to me a better conclusion than any I could write: Peter Nappi’s boots are, in my eyes, defined by their accessibility. They’re easy to style, easy to wear, and they look damn good on the foot.

Photos by Ian Lipton

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What to Wear With a Shearling Jacket

what to wear with a shearling jacket styleforum

1. Aero Coastal Command shearling jacket

2. Rocky Mountain Featherbed liner jacket from Mr. Porter

3. Folk waffle-knit crew sweater from End

4. 4 Pocket pant from Evan Kinori

5. Goodyear-welted Julius boots in vintage leather from Peter Nappi

In my mind, there are very few things warmer than shearling. Yes, you could probably argue that one of those insulated suits made for climbing Everest is warmer than a shearling jacket, but you’re about as likely to own one of those as you are to wear it on any given day, even if you do own one. And, like most of your wardrobe, the continued popularity of the shearling bomber jacket is due to its presence in military uniform. Various military forces have adopted shearling at different points in history, but shearling is now perhaps most recognizable in bomber jacket form.

The most common models you’ll see are based on the US B3 and B6 jacket. These jackets were a very effective – but expensive – way for high-flying bomber pilots to stay warm, and were often accompanied by shearling overpants, gloves, and caps (the B6 being the lighter-weight, less bulky derivative for fighter pilots in smaller cockpits). Not only did they offer great insulation at freezing temperatures, but they would, in theory, keep the pilots alive were they shot down over open water. As rare as it is now to find someone wearing a full shearling suit, the jackets are still available in both vintage, repro, and updated form.

The one pictured here is not a USAAF jacket, but an R.A.F “Coastal Command” jacket, manufactured to original specifications by Aero Leathers. As you can see, the hood has been painted yellow – again, this was meant to serve as an indicator when searching for (hopefully) floating pilots. In addition, I think that the details visible on this later model – zipped cuffs, a belted waist – make it a touch more modern and, when worn outside the context of a war, rakish – than some of the American models.

Despite plenty of hi-tech advances in staying warm, sheepskin is still plenty effective (and popular), and you’re not limited to recognizably military-inspired models. They are, however, maybe the best for layering. Because when the temperature dips past freezing and it’s really, really cold out, you’re not going to wear just a shirt under your shearling jacket.

I’ve actually taken to wearing an Arcteryx Atom LT hoodie under a shearling (or coat) when it’s freezing which, admittedly, is not hugely fashionable. A better option is a quilted liner jacket like this one from Rocky Mountain Featherbed, especially since since it’s made of super-light and super-warm goose down. The combination of sheepskin and goose down is very, very warm, and if you add a sweater underneath you’ll be set even for nighttime. Uniqlo has a cheaper option, but you miss out on the feeling of wearing a cloud.

what to wear with a shearling jacket styleforum

My usual take on a two-piece Coastal Command outfit: shearling jacket from Cloak, insulated hoodie from Arcteryx, Evan Kinori 4 pocket twill pants, and Nonnative boots.

One thing to keep in mind when wearing a shearling jacket is that ultra-slim jeans don’t often look great due to the volume of the jacket (and the bulk of the layers beneath it), and trousers don’t really fit with such a utilitarian garment either. Most of the time I like looser denim of the ‘slim straight’ variety, which tend to be more in style now anyway, but when it’s freezing it’s nice to have a little extra room for insulation or even for a base layer (REI or even Costco have plenty – I like a wool blend). For example, this pair of four-pocket pants from Evan Kinori are even based on a USN overpant, which work particularly well if you’re after a fuller, more repro-inspired silhouette. I bought a pair last summer in indigo twill

Finally, my footwear barely changes no matter what the weather’s doing, so a good pair of leather boots is always nice to have on hand. These, from Peter Nappi fit the bill. We had the chance to see some of their wares in person at Pitti, and I think they’re very nice. I also like the way slightly more relaxed pants look with slim boots like this, especially since you can let the fabric break against the boot or roll them up with a thick cuff. It makes for an interesting look, I think. Of course, something like SF favorite Viberg would do great, as would a heavier engineer or moto boot.

Regardless, if you’ve spent any time on the forum you may have noted that I love to wear shearling jackets over a simple tee shirt. That said, it’s worth remembering that shearling (and, of course, wool) is one natural fiber that really can stand up to the worst that mother nature has to offer. This trinity  – shearling, wool, and down – works best when these individual powers are combined, like the Captain Planet of staying really, really warm. If you live anywhere with seasons, I’d wager you’ll get a lot of use out of all of the above.

Oh, and if you’re after a US Military jacket, Aero makes those too. I happen to think that a painted shearling hood would be a great thing to have on hand, though.

Three Great Classic Menswear Brands at Pitti 91

While there are hundreds and hundreds of brands that show at Pitti Uomo, many of them deserving of your time and attention, it takes something special to stand out from the crowd. Here are three great classic menswear brands at Pitti 91, all of which we thought had that little extra.

1. Peter Nappi

I’ve been following Peter Nappi, off and on, for several years now – though this is the first time I’ve had a chance to see their wares in person. My interest has largely been devoted to their line of handsome work boots, which are about as streetwear-friendly as you can get. But this season, Peter Nappi has introdced a new line of beautifully-patinated shoes that, at least in the warm browns that were shown at Pitti, are perfect for less-formal tailored clothing, or even dressed-up casual wear. I was most impressed by the wholecuts, which I thought had not only a shape that would be conducive to a range of outfits, but a honey-gold warmth that I can see pairing very nicely with, say, sage-green trousers, as well as worn denim. If you’d rather wear something a little slicker with your jeans and jacket, perhaps a pair of suede zip-up harness boots is what you’re after. Those, I have to say, were gorgeous.

Peter Nappi is based in Nashville, but the entire line is made in Italy, and most of the products are Blake-stitched. However, there is a line of completely handmade Goodyear-welted workboots, should you want to branch out.


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2. Fioroni Cashmere 

Fioroni cashmere caught our eye at Pitti Uomo for the delicate nuances of their incredibly soft cashmere sweaters, but our interest deepened when we learned about Fioroni’s innovative techniques and philosophy. The brand stands against animal cruelty and uses only the finest Mongolian cashmere that is spun in Italy, while the leather is sourced exclusively from the food industry. Every sweater is finished by hand using pure cashmere thread.

The most interesting products we spotted were the Duvet line and the bio cashmere. After weaving, the Duvet garments are washed for an hour in water coming from the Lake Trasimeno, which is rich in iron and gives the cashmere an extra soft, compact, and virtually pill-less texture.

The Bio Cashmere is dyed using exclusively natural pigments; we spotted oak-dyed cashmere in the most beautiful taupe hue, and olive-dyed knits in a delicate pastel green. The colors of the Bio Cashmere line are pleasantly muted and, just like indigo-dyed garments, they take on character as they age and get washed.


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3. Massimo La Porta 

Massimo La Porta is a Neapolitan shirtmaker who learned the art of shirt making from his uncle Pino Borriello, one of the first shirtmaker in Naples in the 1940s. His goal is to provide a product that follows the steps of the traditional Neapolitan tailoring as well as contemporary style.

Each shirt goes through twelve hand-stitching steps: collar,  button holes, shoulders, and hips are hand-finished, and the Australian mother-of-pearl buttons are sewn by hand using a lily-stitch. The armholes are not sewn along with the hip seams; instead, they are hand-finished using a technique named “curl.”

Although there are many well-known Neapolitan shirtmakers, La Porta’s wares caught our eye due primarily to the range of fabrics on display. Particularly appealing to Jasper was (unsurprisingly) a medium-blue chambray shirt with exposed selvage detailing, though there were plenty of interesting patterns perfect for casual use alongside the more classic stripes and solids.


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