I was born and raised in New Orleans, with family scattered throughout the city—Uptown, Gert Town, the 7th Ward, all of that. But most of my time was spent between the East with my mom, and Algiers with my late grandfather, the legendary Lloyd “Thib” Thibodeaux who I affectionately called Papie. Most Saturdays, especially late in the year, were spent inside Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and Maison Blanche for hours on end—complete torture for a five-year-old. But other stops would include Meyer the Hatter for his Kangol caps, and my favorite them all: Rubenstein Bros.
I only went with him once, but I remember it vividly as a rather massive and regal institution: the ceaseless escalator—the security lady waving to me, “Hey, handsome!”—the dim lighting and the wood finish. Rubenstein Bros. was where I first learned what “Bros.” stood for, as well as my first time hearing and learning the word “handsome.” But it was also where Papie bought his favorite brand of shoes: Florsheim.
During this time, the early 90s, Florsheim was one of the foremost brands of men’s dress shoes, one that my grandfather swore by. My minimalist closet isn’t too far off from his, but while I keep my shoes in a stack of bookcases, he kept his under his towering chest of drawers. The 100% leather shoes ranged from black to tan, most of them tasseled loafers, all of them kept in cedar shoe trees, to my recollection. And like any true gentleman, he routinely took his costly investments to his favorite shoe shiner in Algiers Point. Florsheim is special to me for all of reason the above; they’re a callback to the patriarch of my family, and a prime example of Papie’s emphasis on quality versus cost.
I was reintroduced to Florsheim in 2010 by PawPaw, my mom’s stepdad, as he was getting rid of shoes he could no longer wear. They were a modest pair of black slip-ons that have brought me good luck for job interviews and more, but slip-ons were never my style because of my long legs and narrow feet. Fast-forward nearly a decade, and I now had the financial standing and professional need for suits and dress shoes. I knew that for my most basic kick, they had to be a pair of Florsheims.
I was disappointed to learn on Reddit that the Florsheims of today aren’t of the same durability as their ancestors. From there, I managed to find a pair of much-anticipated brogues on eBay in black, vintage 1962 to 1992 with repair on the soles which add to their appeal. This reminded me of another of Papie’s shoes that needed some TLC, and I didn’t think twice about buying them.
As of now, the Florsheims rest proudly on Wingtip Rowe alongside a pair of Broadstreet by Allen Edmonds, and a pair of Stafford brogues from PawPaw. They’re stuffed with a pair of cedar shoe trees from Nordstrom to protect the material, and to restore the creasing and wear-and-tear at the toe.
Yes, a simple pair of shoes can hold sentimental value; an honored brand can hold sentimental value if they remind you of the lessons taught by one of your earliest mentors—lessons you wouldn’t fully understand or appreciate until your 30th year.
Papie may have left this earth in 2006 unsure if he’d really made me into a man; I just hope that I’m not letting him down.
Thank you for reading. See more of my work across this website, as well as on MyScene TV, returning October 26 at 4 p.m. on CW21 in Baton Rouge, and The Don Davis Real Estate Show and This Is Houston on YouTube.