You want a sculptor making your shoes.
Justin Jeffers is the founder of Jay Butler shoes. That’s the site, go there. It is a collection of fantastic surprises. Let me keep going.
I spent some time on the phone, texting, emailing Justin. In one of our first calls, we discovered that we had corporate turnaround in common, and there was a lot of industry jargon being tossed back and forth as we compared consulting gigs, corporate valuations, time management, life planning. Jeffers is engaged and thinking about a family, I have been both. We hit it off, and when we rang off I had a picture in my head. The guy knows Ivy, he plays rugby, he has fixed companies, it is amazing we hadn’t bumped into each other earlier. I imagined an iteration of one of the guys I know, a little competitive, a little theatrical when they meet you, efficient in dress and conversation thereafter. I asked him if I could profile him here, he agreed but it took a little twisting. He’s a humble guy, too, so I kinda thought I was going to bump into a version of myself maybe 15 years ago. Nope, he is Ivy’s Jason Mamoa, but with an artist’s sensibilities.
Bit loafers fascinate me. They are Ivy’s eccentricities. The history of the Bit Loafer is this in a nutshell: everyone was wearing loafers, it’s the 50’s. Gucci comes to New York and gets the idea right away – these loafers are, as Bruce Boyer puts it, the first shoes to bridge work shoes and casual. But Gucci is bored with them, and puts bits on them. The history of the world is fraught with stories of bored men getting a dopamine hit with a horsebit, but this particular iteration reaches heretofore unseen commercial heights, and before you know it, the bit loafer is a global shoe.
Wait, what? You don’t think Bit Loafers are Ivy? Ask this guy:
Jay Butler produces loafers. I have three pair. They are remarkable on three counts. First, the quality. The leather is as fine as you can find anywhere, any price. I am not at all into shoe production, Jeffers REALLY is. I asked him about how he got these shoes to fit the way they do, to feel the way they do, with these materials. Here’s what he said:
“The leather we use for the lining leather is superb and very supple, designed to absorb sweat and reduce blisters. I told the factory that I wanted the foot to be the lobster and the leather to be the melted butter.”
Nailed it, Justin. Second, the design. Jeffers’ design is spot on Trad, but it looks better than other loafers. I couldn’t figure out exactly why, so I went to the web site and discovered that the sole is a scootch (did I spell that right?) thinner, the heel is proportioned accordingly (and just right, I might add) and the vamp is a little lower, so you see a little more of the foot (which, in addition to making the shoe look a little better, actually makes it feel more like a moccasin). Don’t know what the vamp of a shoe is? I didn’t either. Here:
The materials and build, as good as you can buy. The design – a take on the loafer that improves it in terms of both form and function. So I am willing to pay, man. I have owned Gucci loafers, bought them at Nordstrom from a personal shopper just before I got sick, paid like $800 for them. In retrospect, that was probably a sign I was getting sick, but that is another post. Think I paid $800 for them. I have three pair of Jay Butler shoes, so the math in my head was $2,400. I won’t ruin the website for you here, but suffice to say that got all three pair for less than I paid the otherwise visually impaired personal shopper at Nordstrom for one pair of Gucci’s AND I got a belt from Jay Butler too, and was still under my cap.
It’s as if a clothes designer and a sculptor decided to collaborate on a classic. So I asked Jeffers how he got into the business:
“The simple answer is that I love shoes. The three dimensionality afforded by shoes vs. other pieces of apparel is more sculptural. It also goes back to how I got into menswear, which was through sneakers – this was back around 2008. And I love loafers. They are casual yet dressy. And they can be worn with just about anything. There is also a non-chalant ease to them that I favor and that cannot be matched by lace-ups or boots. Bit loafers and penny loafers are the staples of the loafer world. In addition, I grew up wearing sneakers and loafers, not boots. So l (or at least where my market was).”
Part II has more Jeffers, and a bigger discussion about the shoes, but really, go check the site out. They are running a promotion now for Black Friday too I think.