The Left Shoe Company brings a high-tech element to bespoke men’s shoes. (Photo: The Left Shoe Company)
For men who travel for business, having the right shoes is essential. Your footwear must be comfortable enough to take you from terminal to terminal and stylish enough to look at home in business class.
Now there’s a new shopping experience that may be the coolest way ever for guys to buy shoes. It may even be worth traveling for.
The Left Shoe Company, a bespoke men’s shoemaker that originated in Finland, is currently crisscrossing the United States, opening temporary “pop-up” stores in several major cities. The goal is to get the word out about the company’s unique approach to shoemaking: It takes 3D renderings of each customer’s feet — both of them — and makes shoes specifically designed to fit each individual foot.
The Left Shoe Company is opening temporary “pop-ups,” like this one in New York, to spread the word about its unique shoe-buying experience (Photo: Sid Lipsey)
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"The Left Shoe Company is equal opportunity for both your feet because we’re giving each foot exactly what it needs,” said Gordon Clune, who, along with Patrick Mayworm, brought Left Shoe to the U.S. He noted that more than a quarter of his customers require different shoe sizes for their left and right feet, something not readily available in mass-produced, store-bought shoes. “They’re never going to get what they need off the shelf,” Clune said of these customers.
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But as great-looking as Left Shoe’s products are, the shoes are only part of the experience. The really cool part is getting the measurements. We’re not talking that metal contraption they break out at Foot Locker; this is a high-tech, CGI, gadget-freak’s-dream experience.
I dropped in at Left Shoe’s New York pop-up in Chelsea to experience its unique measurement process. After donning a pair of funky yellow-green socks (to help with the computerized motion capture), I stepped on a circular platform, where a robotic camera took a 360-degree, 3D scan of my tootsies.
My feet get a high-tech close-up, thanks to a revolving 3D camera (Photo: Sid Lipsey)
After my feet were scanned, the computer performed a digital analysis on the images to determine the exact shape and volume of each of my feet. (“Your foot is extremely narrow for its length,” Clune observed. I had to resist the urge to say, “Why, thank you very much…”)
Ever see your feet CGI-ed into a 3D image? I did (Photo: Sid Lipsey)
After the scan and measurements are on file, customers can select from a variety of loafers, Oxfords, boots, sneakers, and even golf shoes (Left Shoes retail from $395 to $3,500). Once you make your selections online, the shoes are handcrafted in Portugal according to each specific measurement, after which they are shipped to your door. The whole process takes about six weeks.
Using your specific measurements, shoemakers in Portugal hand-craft your new shoes (Photo: The Left Shoe Company)
Left Shoe stores already are up and running in London, Dubai, Naples, Copenhagen, Germany, and Japan. And yet, Clune and Mayworm are taking a slow and steady approach to introducing this concept to Americans. They have just one physical U.S. location, in Los Angeles. But they’ve been spending a lot of time in New York lately with an eye toward launching a store there sometime next year. Over the next few weeks, they’re also planning more pop-up stores in Boston, Sacramento, and Beverly Hills (some specific dates are TBA, so check their site).
The Left Shoe Company’s shoes can be dressed up or dressed down for business travel (Photo: The Left Shoe Company)
If you happen to be in those towns soon, whether on business or pleasure, you may want to drop in and get free, high-tech measurements for yourself. Your information is kept in your online account, where you can order shoes anytime.
As high-tech as this 3D shoe-measuring concept may be, Clune believes Left Shoe is actually an old-school throwback to the pre-Zappos era. “In the days of my grandfather, he went to a cobbler who made his shoes. But it was a very big investment,” Clune said. “We can take technology today and bring you back to what my grandfather had.”
True, but it’s likely that none of our grandfathers got to look at computerized images of their feet. That’s why they call it progress. So if you want your feet to say, “I belong in business class,” then Left Shoe is a fun new way to up your shoe game.