We recently caught up with one of our favourite shoe designers, Rachel Comey. Whilst she’s known to the menswear blogosphere for her great line of shoes, she also creates a critically acclaimed womenswear range. What we love about Comey’s shoes is the fact that they’re inspired by classic styles as opposed to just replicating them. Take a leap to read about her background, why she loves men’s shoes and her top 9 picks for men’s footwear.
You’ve said before that you started out in menswear, can you take us through your background?
I actually started out making women’s underpants, which helped me understand the basics of pattern-making and production, but soon segued into costumes for off-Bowery theater productions & rock bands. Demand led to outfitting like-minded denizens through my first menswear collections.
Why do you have such an affinity for men’s shoes?
Maybe it’s because I spent my college years in Vermont where everybody wears men’s clothes (partly out of necessity and partly out of defiance). Or maybe because I’m the introspective sort who is often looking down, but also the optimistic one who’s always looking to improve upon what’s down there. And let’s face it: men’s shoes have recently left me plenty of room for improvement. That’s not to say I don’t feel a strong affinity for classic styles and shapes in footwear, just that I aspire to a rearrangement and acceleration of men’s awareness of the multiplicity of classics that are out there. For example, it’s not enough to merely mimic or recycle what’s still on every New England dad’s cedar shoe trees – as we’re seeing in the mainstream currently – but rather to channel the spirit of those choices: the function, the form, the details, the lasts.
What do you look for in a pair of shoes?
Typically, I look for something in black or brown leather. Mostly brown. That said, I do like to introduce an unexpected detail or profile. Just enough to remind a confident man to look down once in a while.
Would you ever consider making a full men’s collection?
As I mentioned, I have made several full lines of men’s clothing, and while it was exhilarating and fruitful, I found that men, on the whole, don’t buy a lot of clothing. Though they do seem to wear out their shoes.
Can you tell me your five favourite shoe styles of yours and where a guy would wear them?
1. The Derringer (in pebbled Bordeaux leather). Shine these for a black-tie wedding or scuff them up shuffling out for afternoon coffee. Either way, makes you feel like a man (that’s what my friend Pascal says anyway).
2. The Gatling (in beautiful whiskey calfskin). Perfect for dashing scientific researchers, and a young professor dancing at his tenure party.
3. Our leather slip-on espadrilles. You’d think I’d say beach here, but have you been outside today? I’m thinking: get some looks in the lodge apres ski. These look good, even with snowpants, and weird thick socks.
4. Burnside. A refinement of the ultimate masculine outdoor shoe of the 70’s. Hard to believe this was cutting-edge hiking technology once. It then became a summer stoner staple that screamed “Fuck surfer flip flops!”. Now safe for badass bookstore clerks, year round.
5. Reebok Classic Leather (in black only). This is why all security guards look so good from the ankles down. Wear them anywhere except the gym. Stay away from the gym in general. Not one of my designs, but I love it.
6. Wickham (in chocolate nubuck with white rubber sole). A customer of mine, a sculptor, once told me, “these are the most perfect shoes I’ve ever had…and I had to go and fuck them up by spilling hot molding latex all over them!” He was despondent, but they still looked good. Wear these anywhere, including the studio.
7. Uncle Dan, my classic Oxford, but with color rubber soles. Just a sneaky playful accent, but also super comfortable because of the rubber.
8. Spiller. Sleek and expensive-looking, but with a whiff of white-trash. Like Gatsby with Ground Effects. Which is exactly like our whole culture right now, so wear these whenever you feel like it. (Also, animal product free – so good for vegan weddings!)
9. Dragoon. High-shine, extra-luxe Midtown Brown, with tassels and ornate wingtip details and the don’t-give-a-shit elastic. This is reverse-aspirational footwear. Like if you wanted to confuse/threaten your girlfriend’s dad at his country club.