Manhattan-based menswear shop Leffot has an official motto: Numquam Jactate, Latin for “never boast.” In their view, looking good and dressing well doesn’t mean you have to be ostentatious—you just have to embrace classic styles from makers that offer quality, comfort, and value.
But if there were any reason to boast, fifteen trips around the sun is certainly cause for celebration, and as of May 5th, 2023, Leffot will have accomplished just that.
Since opening in 2008, Leffot has maintained a tightly curated selection of footwear from a small cast of shoemakers, including Alden, Edward Green, Rancourt & Co., Hiro Yanagimachi, and more. This is all thanks to the deft hand of owner and founder Steven Taffel, who remarked that it’s been “unexpected” yet “satisfying” that he’s been able to develop deep relationships with these makers in the same way that he’s developed strong bonds with many of his customers.
Leffot has dropped a handful of different makeups in the lead up to their anniversary, including these meticulously crafted Hiro Yanagimachi sneakers; a first-of-its-kind Rancourt Baxter Boot in shell cordovan; and these amazingly chonky Alden penny loafers.
To cap things off, Leffot will be hosting a trunk show (both in-person and virtual) on the actual weekend of their anniversary with Edward Green, which has been a part of the Leffot catalog since they opened their doors. (If you manage to stop in to the physical shop, consider picking up one of these vintage-styled boxing gym tees, inspired by Steven’s own recent journey of wellness and self-improvement.)
We caught up with Steven for a quick chat, and he reflected on how Leffot (and the industry at large) has grown and changed over the past fifteen years, while also considering how things might change in the future.
Stitchdown: What originally inspired you to open Leffot?
Steven Taffel: Two reasons. First, I wanted to open a store in lower Manhattan because I live downtown, and there was really nowhere to shop at that time (2008) for good shoes for men. The other reason is that there really wasn’t another option for a multi-brand store other than, say, department stores, which just had typical designer brand shoes. The more quality shoe brands had their own independent, mono-brand stores. There just wasn’t a store that offered a variety of quality men’s shoes in one spot.
Had you previously worked in the industry before you opened Leffot?
I had a long career working in luxury retail. Prior to opening the store, I had worked for Prada for about ten years, both on the retail side and also on the corporate side. And then before that, I had worked for the luxury brand Bottega Veneta for also about ten years.
How much or how little has Leffot changed over the past fifteen years?
I think that we haven’t changed. I mean, the product mix has changed some. But the overall core values and the mission of the store have remained the same—working with quality craftspeople, shoemakers, accessory makers, and so on that really have a singular vision. They just wanna make classic, traditional, high-quality pieces. That’s always been the main focus, to work with manufacturers that are not just brands, but actually are the makers. That’s very important to me.
The way that Leffot has changed is that, you know, over fifteen years, styles change, there’s different trends. We’ve gone in and out of different types of footwear. Several years ago, it was more the Americana workboot kind of thing. We were one of the first to have the Wolverine 1000 Mile boots, and that became a huge boot, as you know. We worked with Viberg too, and then kind of moved on from that. That still continues to be a trend, but for me, it just changed.
The other thing, which was a big change actually, was about five years ago, when we launched a program of pre-owned shoes. That happened because over the years, I had guys saying to me, “I have these shoes that I don’t wear, and I don’t know what to do with them, I just don’t want to deal with trying to get rid of ’em, so can you sell ’em?” I didn’t really have an answer for them at the time, but then eventually we came up with the idea, that maybe we can do this program of pre-owned footwear. It’s been very successful. A lot of guys have shoes they don’t wear that are in good condition, so we make it very easy for them. We pay them, or some take a store credit if they shop with us, and we pay ’em up front, so there’s no consignment part of it. It works out very well.
What do you feel have been some of the biggest changes that have come to the footwear industry since you opened Leffot?
There are so many more shoe brands out there in the world today. Like, there’s just so many people who are making shoes, or have a brand or a line of shoes. Which is a good thing, I mean, it’s all different price levels, from entry level to top of the line. That’s been a big shift.
Also, I would say the awareness or the knowledge base of men’s footwear has grown a lot. Back in the early days, you had Styleforum and a blog called Ask Andy About Clothes. Permanent Style was just starting around the same time I was opening the store. So guys have culled a lot of knowledge and information about not only footwear, but men’s style in general. And then, the internet has been a big driver, because in 2008, yeah, the internet was there, and there was some e-commerce business, but it wasn’t as big as it is today.
Do you think Leffot will look any different in another fifteen years?
I mean, honestly, I like the way our shop is, and customers seem to like it too. I don’t see a change in the look of the store. We’ll continue to evolve with what the customers are looking for, but also set the standard based on what I look for in terms of footwear, and where I think the direction is going based on my personal taste. Just keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing. The formula has worked for us—customers seem to respond well to it. It’s not for everybody. Some guys are more fashion-minded. We’re pretty traditional, pretty classic. But that’s what I like. I don’t have a crystal ball, but you know, as long as things keep going well, we’ll just keep doing what we do.