What if I was to ask you: “What city do you think has the finest men’s shoe store in America?” One would automatically assume to hear the following cities (probably in this order): 1. New York, 2. Boston 3. Chicago. Logic would suggest cities that have strong business communities with lots of banks and other serious institutions where men wear suits and make serious decisions. What if I was to tell you that the best men’s footwear store in the United States is in Honolulu?
“No fucking way.” Would be your response.
Well, add a dollar to the swear jar, because the best men’s shoe store in the U.S. (if not the world) is in the Royal Hawaiian shopping center in Waikiki, Its name is Leather Soul and it will make your head explode.
The guys that work at Leather Soul basically treat the business of shoes like brain surgery. They take it very seriously. I’m someone who likes shoes, but I don’t even come close to the levels of footwear intensity that these guys posses. The store happens to be situated in one of the nicest shopping centers in the U.S., only a few hundred yards from the world-famous Waikiki beach – very squarely (and strangely) in the heart of Aloha-wear country.
I’m told that most of business men in Honolulu actually wear aloha shirts, khakis and dress shoes to the office. Crazy. But it’s not just the Aloha shirt wearing guys from Hawaii’s business community that build out Leather Soul’s client roster. LS deals mostly with hardcore shoe obsessed folks from all over the world. It also doesn’t hurt that the tourists that visit Hawaii (massive amounts of Japanese people; Tokyo is six hours flying time away from Honolulu) do lots of shopping in Waikiki. Apparently, Japanese people take a vacation from constantly shopping to go shopping. I can’t explain it.
What I can explain is the fact that Leather Soul’s brand line-up is not bad. That’s sarcasm, the stockist is a nightmare for anyone who likes well-made shoes. Footwear brands on offer are: Edward Green, Alden, Quoddy, J.W. Weston, Whitehouse Cox, Tricker’s, John Lobb, Saint Crispin’s and George Cleverley. It also sells, Globe Trotter, Drake’s and Rimowa. Basically every brand is better than the next. The message is clear: You will not get out alive.
A lot of folks on these internets have heard about Leather Soul via Guido Wongolini or Tumblr or just through word of mouth, but I think that Leather Soul really doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Tom Park, the store’s founder and owner is too humble to scream the self promotion that some shops do. Tom is more concerned with providing amazing service and dealing in great product available to focus too much on that.
While I was in Kaua’i recently I took a day out of my vacation to make a pilgrimage over to Oahu to see Leather Soul with my own eyes. I disguised the trip to my girlfriend’s family by saying that I was going to visit a client and definitely not getting on a plane to specifically see a shoe store (the client bit is however sort of true, because we do in a very limited way help out Tom with a few PR things, full disclosure and all that good stuff) who would do something like that?!? But the “see a client bit” was really just B.S. – I’ve wanted to see the awesomeness that is Leather Soul for a few years and I couldn’t miss the chance. The visit confirmed that while in an unlikely place, Leather Soul is as good as it gets. [LEATHER SOUL]