Everything Old is New Again

21 Apr

Duckie Brown for Florsheim

In a previous post I brought to light the return of the barbershop. A number have been opening in NYC and even here in Philadelphia,where we still have a few that have survived from the past generation. It’s no surprise to me that the latest trend is the handcrafted shoe, it all goes together, first the grooming, then the suit, then the shoe. I’m not speaking about sneakers here, whose rise in popularity all but destroyed the classic mens dress shoe, let me make that clear. I’m talking ten eyelet wingtip brogues, the most classic style in menswear.

 While I was in high school I was a salesman for Florsheim  shoes. I remember well the oxblood wingtip called the “Imperial” that sold for the hefty price of one hundred dollars [ it was 1966 after all]. I loved that shoe, it was a work of art, handmade right here in the U.S. As a salesman I was instructed in the proper methods of shoe fitting. One would straddle the fitting stool and place the “Braddock Device” on the floor, for those not “in the bis” the device is the means by which a salesman determined the proper size. I would ask the customer to place his left foot on the Braddock, left foot because supposedly the left is always bigger than the right. One would then slide the guides to measure width and length. There was a time when shoes were produced in a full range of sizes from double “A” to triple “E” widths and custom orders were always an option. Out came the shoe horn and I would assist the slide into the shoe, then tie it, ” how does that feel sir?” I would ask, more often than not the reply was “Just fine” I’ll take them. the operative word in that statement was “fine” because they were FINE shoes, produced by a company that took pride in their product.  I was proud to sell them,especially the Imperials which carried a high commission paid to the salesman.

Along with the return to barber shops, custom suits and shirts, the succeeding generations of Jr. executives are discovering that there was a time when fine quality and dressing well was the order of the day. I once worked for a mens retailer who told me that “Dressing well was the means by which one shows respect for the event or place one is attending” I’ve never forgotten that and perhaps it’s becoming apparent to others as well. The current jump in high-priced handcrafted footwear seems to be a testament to the fact. Duckie Brown is making it new again.


Click the link to read the N.Y. Times 



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