Buyers of both cheap and expensive stilettos are accustomed to seeing the words “vero cuoio” often stamped on the soles of the shoes. But what does this actually mean?
Vero cuoio is an Italian phrase which simply means “real leather”. It is often accompanied by a logo that looks like a leather skin, like the one above.
You can see the four legs, head and tail of the skin in the picture. And it even has a name: the image is know as “vacchetta” meaning “the little cow”. (image credit: Manolo Blahnik Pumps” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by HousingWorksPhotos).
Is vero cuoio a mark of quality?
Vero cuoio is a mark of quality, but only in a limited way. The only real meaning of the phrase is to distinguish the leather used in the shoe from “fake” or artificial leather (sometimes known as “PU”).
Hence if your shoe says “vero cuoio” you do at least know that the manufacturer has used real leather – provided they are telling the truth in using the stamp!
The trouble is that leather quality can vary widely from top shelf to very poor quality indeed. It’s all “vero cuoio” but that doesn’t really mean all that much.
Doesn’t vero cuoio mean that the leather used is good quality Italian leather?
Before 2013, the Italian National Tanning Industry Union (known as UNIC) had a trademark for the vacchetta and vero cuoio. This gave them a virtual monopoly over the use of vero cuoio and meant that shoes with the phrase stamped on their soles would have been made of superior Italian leather.
However in 2013 the Court of Milan decided that the genuine leather symbol could not be the subject of exclusive intellectual property rights. The court case was a partial determination of claims brought by French manufacturers, and it left some aspects of the claims still to be decided.
In July 2014, the Court of Appeal of Milan confirmed the partial decision (Unic Servizi Srl et al. v. Chaussures Eram Sarl et al.). The Court of Milan then issued its full and final decision on 15 January 2016.
The effect of the litigation is that other manufacturers are free to use the symbol and words “vero cuoio” provided the overall graphical impression of their trademarks is different even if the difference is minimal. The words can therefore be applied to genuine leather from any source eg Spain (image credit: CC BY-SA 2.0) by EraPhernalia Vintage . . . [”playin’ hook-y”] ;o).
Does vero cuoio prevent counterfeiting?
Unfortunately the use of vero cuoio on shoes can’t really help you tell if shoes are fake. Just as counterfeiters can counterfeit the shoes themselves, they can easily stamp vero cuoio on the soles.
However, in some limited situations, the absence or presence of vero cuoio could be a pointer. This is particularly so if the shoes are vintage designer heels from before 2013 and you know whether they actually made use of Italian leather.