Production Update: Zero Drop Dress Shoe

This update has been a long time coming.

Having started a redesign of our zero-drop dress shoe back in March of 2017, the path to now has been long, slow and frustrating.

There have been times I have wanted to say “screw it” and be done with making shoes. The time needed, the expense required, the ridiculous emails (my favorite came with the subject” “WTF is your guys problem” with a body asking why “we couldn’t get our shit together and make some shoes.” Fair enough.) all made the question of “why” harder and harder to justify.

But I found myself unable to set the shoes down for long. I believed that if I could find a factory that could make exactly what I was looking for in terms of quality, construction and manufacturing minimums then I would give it one more shot.

And so that is what I have spent the last two years doing.

And I think this design made the decision worth it.

This updated DERBY is the best zero-drop dress shoe we have made. Handmade on the eastern coast of Italy, we started from scratch, re-assessing every detail.

Of course, we can go through all of the individual checkboxes:

  • “Double Hand-made” thanks to the Blake Construction (stitches sole to upper + providing enhanced flexibility)

  • Soft Italian leather

  • 8mm leather sole

  • Lightweight (this leather soled version comes in 12.2 ounces per shoe versus the 12.7 ounces of the previous rubber soled versions)

…but the real magic comes when all of these individual components work together in unison.

When this combination of materials and design meet the soul and craftsmanship of a true shoe maker, something new is born. (Sounds familiar…)

Which is why I am excited to share with you the pre-order launch.

How the Pre-Order Process Works

I am placing an order with the factory for 100 pairs of shoes.

As a one-man operation, capping this run will allow me to fulfill these orders while putting in place a system to build on for the future.

I am accepting pre-orders for 10 days OR until all 100 pairs are RSVP-ed. First come, first served.

Pre-orders will come at a discounted price of $199. If you pre-order, you are guaranteed a pair in the size you requested.

Please understand, by pre-ordering you are opting to pay now to receive a discounted price. The shoes will arrive in 6-8 weeks. This is why pre-orders receive a 20% discount.

If there are any pairs not RSVP-ed out of the 100 ordered, I will make them available for $250 upon arrival.

I will do my best to be transparent about the availability without bombarding you with real-time updates on inventory. I will try to keep the updates minimal, sending emails when 1/2 are remaining and again when 1/4 are left.

That being said, I am making this offer exclusively to those who have signed up for the email list. I am not running any online ads on any platform for this pre-order. You guys have shared extreme patience, for which I am grateful. Which is why I want to make sure you have first shot at ordering.

Why Preorder?

  • Preorders will be available for a discounted price of $199 (20% off the retail price)

  • Every pre-orderer will be guaranteed a pair in the size you requested.

  • If you pre-order and the shoes do not fit, you can of course send back to me for an exchange (if I have your size available) OR for a full refund.

What goes into a $250 shoe?

For me to be personally willing to spend $250 on a pair of shoes would mean that the shoes need to be pretty special. So I am sensitive to the costs involved and trying to keep as affordable as possible.

But quality is not cheap.

For the sake of transparency, here are some of the costs that go into a $199 pre-order:

  • $6 - Development Cost

  • $101 - Manufacturing Cost (materials and labor)

  • $6.50 - Shipping Costs from Italy to USA

  • $5.97 - Credit Card processing fee

  • $5.50 - Shipping costs

  • Total: $124.97

And this does not include any of the additional administrative costs or expenses like traveling to Italy to meet with the factories.

This shoe is not for everyone. I am okay with that.

But for those of you that are looking for a zero-drop dress shoe that gets the job done day in and day out, you will be hard pressed to find anything more comfortable or as well-crafted.

In the meantime, feel free to email me with any questions: rory@icanchu.com

Again, thank you for your all of the support.

Be Bold.

Rory


Rory
Chincoteague Ponies & Saltwater Cowboys: The Inspiration Behind the SEABOARD

Origins of the Chincoteague Ponies

For over 90 years on Virginia's Chincoteague Island, the last week in July has been reserved for Pony Penning and Saltwater Cowboys.

While it is still a little murky as to exactly how the wild ponies came to inhabit Assateague Island (which they have done so for hundreds of years), there appears to be evidence which suggests that today's ponies are the descendants of the survivors of a Spanish galleon which wrecked off the coast of Assateague.

During this time, it was very common for ships to be transporting ponies to the Colonies or South America. At the same time, shipwrecks were also a very real hazard of the job, especially given the sandbars found along the coast.   

Add this together and it makes it very likely that ponies originally arrived to Assateague as a result of a shipwreck.

Whether or not this origin story is fiction, the annual festival of the Pony Penning is not.

Pony Penning

Pony Penning first started as a way for livestock owners to claim, brand, break and harness their loose herds. By the 1700's it had become an annual community event, complete with the standard festival celebrations of drinking, eating and plenty of revelry to go around.

Starting first on Assateague Island (the earliest known description of Pony Penning was published in 1835) before also being carried out on Chincoteague Island, the penning tradition continued on both islands for years. By 1885 they were held on Assateague one day and Chincoteague the next.

Being such a spectacle to behold, word about the penning festival spread. Finally, in 1909, official dates were set as the last Wednesday and Thursday of July were designated for the event. 

The Saltwater Cowboys

The Town of Chincoteague was struck by a series of fires that ravaged the town. In the aftermath, the local inhabitants realized that in order to help prevent future disasters, they desperately needed to invest in upgrading their fire fighting equipment. This realization gave birth to the Saltwater Cowboys.

In 1925 the town authorized the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company to hold a carnival during Pony Penning to raise funds. During the event, colts were sold off to help fund the fire company. Furthermore, the carnival turned out to be a huge success.

In fact, the Chincoteague Volunteer Firemen's Carnival was so successful that it became part of the annual tradition. Finally, in 1947, the fire company began to build its own herd by purchasing ponies from local owners. They moved the herd to Assateague where the government allowed publicly owned, not private, herds to graze on the newly established Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

Today, these "Saltwater Cowboys" herd the horses across the narrowest part of Assateague Channel at low tide. Upon completion of the pony swim, they are given time to rest while also being examined by veterinarians. Once they are well-rested, the ponies are herded through town to a corral at the Carnival Grounds. This is where the annual auction takes place. 

The Pony Auction serves multiple roles. It is still used as a source of revenue for the fire company, but it also serves as a way to reduce the number of ponies in the herd. In order to allow the ponies to graze on the refuge, the herd cannot consist of more than 150 ponies.

SEABOARD Inspiration

The SEABOARD: Inspired by the Chincoteague Ponies & the Saltwater Cowboys

The SEABOARD: Inspired by the Chincoteague Ponies & the Saltwater Cowboys

The spirit of the Chincoteague ponies is imbued into our SEABOARD design. The detail found in pattern of the heel counter evokes a reminder the wild spirit of the ponies, a wildness that no saddle can tame.

Drawing inspiration from the classic East Coast landscape, the powerful meeting point of land and water, the SEABOARD lives at the intersection of Tradition and Modernity. 

Handcrafted in Italy using the world's most comfortable soles and complete with a cork insole, the SEABOARD in Beachgrass Brown Italian Nubuck is a shoe worthy of the tradition bred into the Chincoteague ponies

Rory
The Foot Comes First

When it comes to designing shoes, tradition states that the last comes first. This is because the last is most responsible for the overall fit and style of the shoe.

In the video above, legendary designer Mike Friton shares why he wants to amend that approach to: the foot comes first.

A shoe last is a plastic (or wooden) mold upon which a shoe is built. Each last is designed for a particular heel height, toe shape, and type of footwear.

In most cases, the shape of the last does not take into consideration the foot's actual shape or function. High heels, narrow, pointy toe boxes and stiff materials all contribute to a detrimental design.

In fact, this is the reason that I started ICANCHU. After hurting my back playing football, I could not find a pair of dress shoes that were comfortable. The heels and narrow toe boxes left my ankles, knees an back thoroughly unimpressed.

For ICANCHU, our minimalist approach to shoe design has meant developing a last that does not have a heel, has a wider toe box and has a reduced toe spring. In other words, the last couple of years have been spent we have incorporating what Mike Friton is talking about.

But athletic shoes are a different animal from dress and casual designs. Because leather is not as forgiving as mesh or other knitwear fabrics, there is a balance that you have to find. We strive to design lasts that are functional and foot-friendly without awkwardly standing out as goofy looking. Believe it or not, this is easier said than done.

Regardless, as we continue to work on new minimalist designs, you can be confident that foot will come first.

Rory

Rory
Made in Maine: Handsewn Mocs
Made in Maine Handsewn Shoes.jpg

As a brand, ICANCHU's goal is to incorporate the duality inherent to living in the Northeast. Our designs are created for the guys who live in the city but hop on a train or jump in the car to spend a day or two on a self-directed micro-adventure. Because the Northeast offers the best of both worlds (for example, you can get from New York City to Breakneck Ridge 90 minutes or from Boston to Franconia Notch in 2 hours) we want to create designs that allow guys to maximize each.

With this in mind, Louis and I have spent the last 8 months looking for ways to (literally) infuse this Northeast mindset into the designs. The rationale is that if we can find a way to produce some designs here we can impart a piece of that spirit into the shoes.

After months of cold calls, unanswered emails and Google-mapping-en-route-to-showing-up-and-knocking-on-doors, we finally came across a factory "start-up" willing to sit down with us. All it took was a quick email intro and a 5-minute call and we had a visit scheduled for one week later.

We were going to Dexter, Maine.

In the 1960s Maine footwear factories were responsible for the employment of 20,000 people. Among the biggest players was the Dexter Shoe Co.

At it's height, Dexter employed more than 800 people (which, in a town of 4,000, is a big deal). The company would eventually go on to be acquired by Warren Buffet for $433 million in the early 1990s before being shut down in 2001. As Buffet outlined, Dexter could not combat the competition of much cheaper prices of imported shoes.

(Side note: Buffet would call the Dexter acquisition the worst deal he has ever made.)

Fast-forward 16 years. The residents of Dexter still possessed the "know how" of handcrafting quality footwear but had nowhere to apply their skills.

Enter the idea for starting MaineSole.

For most, the term "start-up" conjures up an image of Millennials sitting around in an open-office, headphones on, pounding away on their Macbooks. With a 79-year-old co-founder Dick Hall, former VP for manufacturing at Dexter, MaineSole has a little bit of a different vibe when you walk in.

Comprised of former Dexter employees, MaineSole has set up its factory in an old wool mill in the center of town. Upon entering, we were greeted by CEO Kevin Cain, a shoe industry veteran who spent his career traveling the world, setting up factory production lines and brokering wholesale deals. 

As the office's centerpiece stood a table full of beautiful hand sewn moccasins and loafers. The designs emanate an East Coast vibe, steeped in the traditional techniques and stylings that the Northeast is known for. Given that most of the employees are in their 60s, it was not surprising to see their skill proudly showcased in these samples.

We were then treated to a tour of the factory from Dave (he has been in charge of making patterns for over 40 years!), having the opportunity to see these traditional hand-sewn techniques in action. Being able to hear the history - both of the town of Dexter as well as the production process - from an OG like Dave was a conversation that will stick with us for a long, long time.

The amount of machinery needed to make shoes never ceases to amaze me. These mechanical beasts are so complex in their workings and so specific in their functions that it seems like you need a lifetime to learn how to use them (and then another lifetime to learn how to repair them - which because so many of the machines are so old, you better know how to do).

As I've written about before,  shoe factory equipment is expensive. Which is why factories tend to specialize in the designs they offer. With this in mind, what MaineSole does, they do very well. The craftsmanship and the attention to detail infuse a life force that is felt when holding a pair of their shoes.

While we do not currently have a design that we can simply plug in to the MaineSole production line, we are continuing our conversations to see how we can work together to create a made in Maine design that comfortably fits within the ICANCHU family.  As we come up with design ideas we will be sure to keep you updated.

In the meantime, thank you for your continued support.

Rory

 
 
Rory