Salvatore Capezio was born April 13, 1871 in Muro Lucano, a town in the province of Potenza, Basilicata. After training as a cobbler in Italy, he emigrated to the United States. In 1887, at the age of seventeen, he opened a cobbler's shop at Broadway and 39th Street, diagonally across from the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. The sign above his door read: “The Theatrical & Historical Shoemaker.”
He began his business by repairing theatrical shoes for the Met. On the day he created an emergency pair of shoes for Jean de Reszke, Salvatore quickly made the transition from cobbler to shoemaker. He discovered dance shoes, pointe shoes in particular, to be a challenging balance between delicate construction and complex engineering. In turn, his customers discovered that few shoemakers were as determined as Capezio to take on that challenge.
Soon the shop became a meeting place for dancers who would stop by to discuss their needs and pick up a pair of his shoes. One dancer in particular, Angelina Passone, a graduate of La Scala, lingered over the discussion of her shoes and later became his wife.
As his popularity grew, dancers from around the world made it a point to visit. In fact, Anna Pavlova purchased Capezio pointe shoes for herself and her entire company during her first tour of the United States in 1910. Her generous praise of his work ensured Salvatore’s success.
Eventually, he entrusted his superior shoemaking techniques to his family. They joined him in the business and the exceptional reputation of Capezio continued to spread. By the 1930s Capezio products were dancing across Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies and in dozens of other musicals.
In 1933, the company debuted a new ballet slipper called the Teknik based on years of research. In 1934, Capezio branched out its retail operation, opening a store in Hollywood. This gave the company access to customers in the West Coast film industry. By the end of the 1930s, the company had brought out a full line of body wear, including skirts, leotards, dance pants, and tights.
Salvatore Capezio died in 1940.
Plenty of the world’s greatest performers have recognized Capezio as the only way to dance: Anna Pavlova, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Sammy Davis Jr., Charles “Honi” Coles, Alicia Alonso, Bob Fosse, Mick Jagger, Liza Minelli, Gregory Hines, Tommy Tune, Ann Reinking, Debbie Allen, Ben Vereen, Charo, Merrill Ashley, Rob Marshall, Ashley Tuttle, Fatima, Savion Glover, Brian Friedman, Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.