Friday, December 17, 2010

Adler Elevator Shoes

Digging through the treasure-trove of the MCNY's new digital archives, I found a shot of Adler Shoes on 42nd Street and 6th Avenue in 1922.


Wurts Bros, 1922, MCNY: Close up detail

It's interesting mainly because they sold elevator shoes for short men. They also had great advertising slogans, like “Build up your ego, Amigo! Now you can be taller than she is!”


from 14 to 42

Men who bought these shoes tended to be discreet about it, as this ad promises the Adler catalog will come delivered in "a plain wrapper," the way pornography was mailed.



Adler elevators stayed in the closet, a private affair between a man and his heels, until the 1970s, when TIME announced, "Now, inspired by the fancy footwear of rock stars like the Temptations and the Rolling Stones, the Elevated Look has come out into the open." The elevator shoe was vanishing, but the store managed to stay on 42nd and 6th until the mid 1990s.

As an aside, the full photo of the shop at MCNY is worth checking out as an example of how old-school businesses piled atop the other--a lighting fixture shop, a chiropodist office, Prof. Rohrer's Beauty Parlors above Leo Morse's "Nursery Novelties." There's just something about those old second-floor businesses that appeals.

4 comments:

Bryan said...

Whenever I see ads for elevator shoes I think about poor Larry Hart.

In the fantastic biopic of Rodgers & Hart, which I can't stop crowing about, Hart buys the shoes early on, is predictably scorned in love by a taller woman, and then, when he's about to die a staggering drunk, stumbled back in front of that old elevated shoe store. I wish I could remember if it was actually Adler's. Here's the trailer.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i also think of "poor Larry Hart," and in just that way. god, that movie is heartbreaking.

Dons Footwear said...

Its amazing to see the advert, I make elevator shoes myself, (Dons Footwear). I never knew that Adler shoes had a rich history. What I do know is that they only sell their shoes online now as I know the production manager, Not many shoes are made in the US now, I guess its just the way it is these days.

mensch said...

A little history about Adler Shoes, post WW-II. They were the primary--perhaps even the exclusive--outlet for Elevator Shoes. But Adler was a retail store, not a manufacturer. The stores were run primarily by Herbert Adler in the '50s and until sold to Tom Florsheim (of Florsheim Shoes). Though by this time he did not own Florsheim, he did own Weyenberg Shoes out of Milwaukee. In addition to the Weyenberg Massagic, they manufactured Nunn-Bush and Stacy Adams men's shoe lines. Naturally they used the Adler Stores in NY as outlets for their own brands. By the '70s those with the "Adler" name were outsourced to other, increasingly foreign, manufacturers. Eventually all their lines were outsourced. In the late '60s they capitalized on the "mod" scene by opening high-end boutiques called The Brass Boot around the country, and had the Adler subsidiary run the BB stores in NYC. Mostly Nunn-Bush and Stacy Adams, they also carried Bally, and leather accessories, e.g. briefcases. They were dark, baroque stores, decorated with antiques, some merchandise displayed on brass and iron baker's racks. The Adler Stores expanded into shopping malls, starting with Cross County in Yonkers, then The Mall at New Rochelle, Roosevelt Field, etc. The offices, starting in the '60s, moved from The Chanin Building, to 386 Park Avenue South and, finally, the 75th floor of the Empire State Bldg in the mid '70s, where they shared space with the showrooms for Nunn-Bush, Weyenberg and Stacy Adams. How do I know all this? My grandpa was hired by Arthur and Jesse in 1927 and stayed until 1987. My mom bought the antiques for the Brass Boots at auction, and I have some things still, from when the stores closed. Oh yes, they also owned and ran two Wright Arch Preserver Shoe stores in the '70s and '80s, and an "outlet" store at 6 E. 46th St around the same time. I was a stock boy and salesmen in several of the stores mentioned.