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The Belgian loafer is a staple piece in the menswear industry.

Its popularity stems beyond the realm of just footwear though, so much so that that the founder was actually knighted for his help in reviving the Belgium shoe manufacturing industry. Its style has been copied time and time again but the classic offering remains King. Here is a small brief on the history and a photo journal of the famous shop in NYC.

read more below….lots of pictures in this post…

Belgian Shoes was founded by Henri Bendel, the nephew of the original Henri Bendel that founded a famous NYC shop for women’s accessories and clothing. After selling his uncle’s shop/company in 1954, he ventured out to discover something new to sink his teeth into and decided to work alongside the Belgian shoe manufacturing industry that he had already had ties to from working as head of Henri Bendel Inc. And he did so by purchasing two factories and thus creating the handmade Belgian loafer. A unique design of deconstructed loafer that is stitched inside out and then reversed after completion to create the loafer that you see here today.

This loafer quickly became a staple piece for menswear in NYC, being worn by the ‘high-end crowd’, particularly those that found themselves on the Upper East Side and the Hamptons. As this tight-knit community tends to emulate each other it was quickly that the popularity of these loafers spread to realms beyond just the likes of the rich and famous. The infamous Bernie Madoff was another catalyst to the popularity of these loafers with a reported collection of around 300 pairs and considering the crowd that he ran with, it was no surprise that a slipper that costs upwards of $450 gained a lot of traction in New York City.

read more below….

I always find it amazing how something can become a phenomenon in one city alone and stay that way for 20-30 years. But then as Malcolm Gladwell stated, such product or idea will eventually reach a “Tipping Point” to which its very specific popularity will catapult into a worldwide phenomenon. And I believe Hush Puppies shares the same story. But now we see them everywhere the question is who do we have to thank for that? Well, some might say social media, some might say Pitti Uomo. Whether it was Tumblr, Instagram or any of them or all of them, the fact of the matter is that it caught on in the famous Pitti Uomo which I think had a grand part in it.

At this fair, everyone is fighting for camera attention and in the rise of photo sharing epidemic Social Media platforms like Tumblr and Instagram created a forest fire like spread of imagery of men wearing these loafers which quickly caught on to the menswear industry all around. It wasn’t long after that other fashion brands started to create their own Belgian loafer model. And thus created the worldwide popularity of this classic NYC shoe model.

read more below….

So when I moved to NYC two years ago, I thought to myself that I had to come to check them out and make a post about the brand. And believe it or not, here it finally is after all of this time. Problem is that this is better to write about in the Summer but I was always ready to come Winter time. But thought that it wouldn’t be kind of me as not a soul in the history of London or NYC (my biggest readership areas) would be thinking about grabbing a pair during the freezing cold weather.

Going to the shop is like being a kid in a candy store. There are endless options of shoes on show. A million and one variations you can create. It was no wonder Bernie had around 300 pairs (almost $150K worth of shoes). That would be easy providing money is not an object, as he so eloquently expressed with his collection. And one day when I am rich, I afford myself a pair too, but most likely just for the house as going out in these puppies, I feel that I would ruin that sole in about 10 minutes time. And of course when I do make that purchase, it will most certainly be the Blackwatch Tartan pair that I will go for. I love that one!

So, now for the nitty-gritty details (told me to 2 years ago, prices may have varied since then) :

–Prices start around $465
–Adding a proper rubber sole costs around $70
–MTO is between $25-$50
–MTO waiting time is between 12-16 weeks (although I have heard that this takes longer)
–Refurbishable but price varies

If you happen to be in NYC and have been curious about them, I suggest you at least visit the store. It’s nice to see them all in person and try them out as fitting them is quite tricky. They run large and very deconstructed.


Justin FitzPatrick

Knowledge Credit:

3 thoughts on “Belgian Shoes – A Brief History & NYC Shop Offering”

  1. Gosh, for once after reading a post highlighting a type or brand of high end shoes I can honestly say; I wouldn’t want a pair of these even if I could afford them. As Justin so aptly points out, these shoes are for wearing around the house. Certainly not for walking anywhere on concrete, like NYC. Maybe it’s a personal bias acquired from living in Italy for 30 years, and though I like loafers, I wear Goodyear welted ones made to last and to handle all the walking I do every day. But to each his/her own.

  2. Steve WIERHAKE

    I don’t remember the first time I saw a small advertisement for these shoes – it was probably 25 years ago, in the New Yorker magazine. I had no idea so many variations were available. The shoes look nice, but as house slippers, not for wearing out on the town.

  3. Philippe De Montauvant

    Can anybody tell me why these are called Belgian loafers? In Belgium, nobody wears these nor are there any shoe factories in Belgium who produce these.

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