For such a large (and stylish) city, New York is curiously devoid of good men’s shoe shops. Most of the well-known European brands have outlets here – Berluti, JM Weston, Church’s – but there is little variation outside of that. Unlike London, there is no proliferation of great, local shops (Cleverley, Foster & Son). Even Paris, historically the second string to London for menswear, has some wonderful shoemakers such as Aubercy that do not sell anywhere else.
In New York, variation is limited to the high-end department stores. Their lines vary, stopping and starting with little warning (example: Lidfort at Barney’s). And they’re all up town.
For all these reasons, Leffot (pronounced le-fot) is a breath of fresh air. Located on Christopher Street in the west Village, it has only been running for a month. But the stock is impressive. It carries Aubercy (previously only available in Paris), Gaziano & Girling (only Hawaii in the US), Corthay (only Bergdorf Goodman in NY), Artioli (Baldini and Saks in NY), Edward Green (only relabeled at Ralph Lauren) and the more widely available Church’s and JM Weston.
With five to seven styles in each, the range is not vast. Such is the limited volume of some of these lines that as soon as one line sells out, it takes five months to order more in. One Gaziano & Girling order was delayed because the man who did the hand-stitching on one type of shoe was ill, putting back the delivery time by two weeks. But the range is well chosen – I dare anyone to contend there isn’t something for them, from the chunky, storm welted, double-soled Church’s to the ultra-slim and pointy Artiolis.
Being downtown enables Leffot to carry a more eclectic range of shoes styles and colours. Apparently JM Weston’s best-selling colour uptown is black, despite the tans, reds and even greens on offer. Downtown, black sits in dowdy last place. In fact, Steven Taffel, the personable and welcoming owner of Leffot, tells of one man and his wife who wandered in looking for inspiration. Despite being a conservative, office-bound gentleman, he ended up buying the more extreme pointed Artiolis, as “he already had black oxfords and wore them all week. He wanted something different, something exciting.”
It’s certainly hard not to be excited by the Corthay two-tone shoes in tan calf and brown suede, or the tapered, beveled waist of the Gaziano & Girling shoes. A favourite of The Sartorialist as well, it’s hard not to see this store succeeding. But just to be on the safe side, let’s troop down there and support a start-up company.
P.S. If it’s still there when you go, have a look at the copy of Japanese magazine Last that’s on display. It has step-by-step instructions on how to re-heel your shoes, demonstrates the value of polishing a shoe with champagne, and still has room for better photo shoots than you’ll find in any UK or US magazine. They need to launch an international (read English) version. Now.