According to this shoe executive, three pairs are enough for the modern man.


What started out as a way to relieve the feet of Mario Polegato during a jog in the Nevada desert turned into a billion-dollar business. Mr. Polegato, chairman of Geox, founded the shoe company in the 1990s, inspired by an idea he had after taking a knife to the pair he was wearing in Reno.

Breathable and possessed of a day-to-evening aesthetic, Geox shoes display little hint of the geeky science that goes behind their creation. According to Mr. Polegato, the brand sold 7 million pairs of shoes last year in Italy alone, a feat in the boot-shaped country that is home to a multitude of shoe brands. For this interview with High Life, Mr. Polegato appeared in black leather Geox Nebulas, bestselling sneakers that can be worn with a suit.

Is it true that you invented the “breathing” shoe when you were jogging in Reno, and you cut a hole in your shoe?

Some believe it’s a fable, but I can confirm it to you: It’s a real story. I walked in the Nevada desert and I suffered, in my feet, a bout of irritability. I took a pocket knife and with this, I cut the holes. I created ventilation but there was a problem: it was not waterproof. I solved this problem by introducing a special material — we call it Membrane — which is waterproof and breathable at the same time.

What’s your favorite shoe?

I discover it day by day. Before, I used moccasins, loafers, et cetera. But now that we invented Nebula, I have changed my mind. Me, when I travel, I only wear these. Imagine, yesterday, I traveled for 18 hours, from Italy to Manila, and I only wore these.

What do you look for in a shoe?

I suffer about the breathability.

How many pairs of shoes should a man have?

Today, the problem for normal people is space. Because the space at home is limited, I recommend taking only what is necessary. For a man, what is necessary is one pair of sneakers, one pair of dress shoes, one pair of comfy shoes. For me, that is enough. For example, these shoes [the Geox Nebula], they are casual but I use them in elegant situations too. With the black color and the black soles, they are, in my view, enough to use with a formal jacket like this.