The story of SCARPA, Italy’s legendary bootmaking company—maker of the world’s first Goretex-lined hiking boot, the first plastic mountaineering boot, and the first plastic telemark boot—begins not with innovation, or attention to detail, or quality workmanship, or grit, or determination, although all those elements were to prove pivotal further on. No, the story of SCARPA begins with two far more Dionysian elements: Sex and beer.

Well, allegedly anyway, at least for the sex century, the wealthy Anglo-Irish nobleman, politician, philanthropist and businessman Rupert Edward Cecil Lee Guinness, 2 Earl of Iveagh, (yes, he of Guinness beer fame; he inherited its fortune and it was during his management of the company that the started) needed a place to house his mistress, an opera singer. Or so it’s whispered. He settled on a villa near the Italian town of Asolo, which lies 50km northwest of Venice at the foot of the Dolomites. The area had long been famous for its footwear; at the start of the 20 century, the Montebelluna region—Asolo is one of the 28 towns and villages surrounding Montebelluna township—had more than 200 shoe shops. But in the years shy of WWII, many poor but skilled shoemakers in the area needed work. In 1938, Earl Guinness decided he would help. He put up the money to establish a consortium of cobblers (he probably wasn’t upset about getting some styling footwear out of the deal either). Translated as the ‘Associated Shoe Manufacturing Company of the Asolo Mountain Area’, the became known as its acronym: SCARPA. (Scarpa, not coincidentally, means shoe in Italian.)

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