Never have I heard more so than the phrase “That looks like Corthay” in reference to any 1-3 eyelet derby that sometimes does and often does not, in fact, look like ‘The Arca.’ But Corthay’s novelty and sheer genius of such a standout derby model some 12-15 years ago meant that its image was burned into the brains of many thus associating anything remotely similar as a Corthay lookalike. And truth be told, they were not the first to make a derby like that but their popularity and the fact that they really pushed that model and showcased it in the electrifying patent patina style (that they were the first to do) solidified forever the idea of the Arca being the only 2-eyelet derby that mattered in this world.
Video on the origin of the Arca model, provided by the man, Pierre Corthay, himself:
Since its introduction to the shoe world, there is not an Arca you cannot find. It has been made in every color and type of leather you can think of, from exotic to patina, on suede, patent, calf, alligator, and more. It is truly an iconic shoe and you can easily spot one from a long distance. It typically is offered in two lasts 1. The Sevres and 2. The Pullman. Little did I know the story behind these lasts until explained by Randy Federgreen, their US distribution agent. The Sevres is the original last that the Arca was made on. At the time, it’s thought was the serve the European market. But as Corthay quickly grew and there was lots of confusion with the sizing and fit of the Sevres, they made the Pullman last for the North American market that was rapidly growing and needed its own attention. I think that it was a smart move too as the Pullman is more akin to the fit of a lot of what you find here in the US i.e. Italian style brands. The Sevres is a very refined and narrow last, good for feet like my own that are slender, not great for those wider feet out there. But the Pullman is. While maintaining its elegant shape, it has more volume in the forefoot allowing for more a generous fitting. And it has been a huge success.
What was iconic about the Arca, for me, is the fact that it gave inspiration to create more dress style derbies in the industry. Derby shoes were always something that were more heavy and casual. Showing that a derby shoe could be just as sharp as your most elegant oxford was a breakthrough concept that Corthay gave to the industry. I won’t lie, I took inspiration from it even in my own collection as I never liked those heavy brogued derbies. I mean, I did, for country walks, but not as anything you wore as ‘dressy.’ But the Arca showed and proved that a derby shoe could be a ‘suit shoe’. And by breaking the mold, it paved the way for young brands (or even older ones) to start to also move forward with that concept and low and behold, today most new brands offer a 2 eyelet derby and do not have a country brogue version!
Long Live the Arca!
Learn more about Corthay and see all of their beautiful creations by visiting their site: https://www.corthay.com/en/
And for those of you in, or around, the NYC area, Leffot is having a Corthay Trunk Show, April 27th/28th, 2022
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