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The ‘Why’ Behind the Primal Professional Minimalist Dress Shoe

by Kat » on Nov 29, 2012 6

This is a guest post by Mountain Evan Chang, creator of the Primal Professional minimalist dress shoe:

Enter Mountain….

Since we launched our website and started taking pre-orders again, we’ve gotten a number of requests for pictures of our Service, smooth-toe model. While we definitely need to get some photos up, in the meantime, I can tell you they look exactly the same except for the absence of a cap-toe. While we’re comparing the two, I thought it would be a good time to talk about why I chose a black leather, round-toe, closed-lace, cap-toe Oxford as our first model. In one word, versatility. The design we carefully selected is widely acknowledged as the most classic, and can be worn in almost any occasion. While most of us know a ton about what makes a good minimalist or barefoot shoe, the dress shoe half of the product is a bit more enigmatic. Welcome to Dress Shoes 101 by Professor Primal Professional.

Everyone knows that black leather is formal. That was a no-brainer.

Round or Square?

From my working experience, square-toes seems to be the new standard now. However, a poll on the Gothamist finds a full 44.46% out of 1,723 respondents think square-toes “make you look like a clown.” Not something we’d want from a shoe meant to blend in. Pointy-toe shoes came and went within a year. We decided to stay with the classic round-toe.

Closed & Open Laces

Those were obvious, but what about the closed-lace? Also known as a Balmoral (“Bal” for short), it was named after the Scottish Queen’s castle from where it presumably originated. Also also known as an Oxford (a term often wrongly used interchangeably with “dress shoe”), it was named after the University’s rebellious students, who adopted these comfy low-top kicks in protest against the high and tight-fitting boots of the 17th century. How history repeats itself.

Fast-forward to the 18th century, on the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars. Prussian General Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher realizes that an open-lace shoe design allowed greater fit variances with less precision in shoemaking abilities. Perfect for mass production, they were commissioned for the Prussian Army and then quickly adopted worldwide. General Blucher lives on as the namesake for this type of shoe. FYI they are also known as a “Derby.” I know, so many names!

source: Aquila


Isn’t this an admission that the open-lace Blucher is functionally superior to the closed-lace Oxford? It certainly is. But functionality does not equal fashionality. Like a well-fitted suit or a necktie, the closed-lace Oxford’s stylishness seems to be a result of its restrictiveness. And in a style-conscious world, it wins in versatility.

We spent a lot of time getting the laces to fit just right. For most of you, the closed-lace will feel just fine. If not, leather stretches and molds to your foot quickly, padding is super cheap, and there’s always our 365-day free returns and exchanges for shoes (clean, like new).

What About the Toe?

How about the cap-toe? We did get into this discussion because of it, versus the smooth-toe. I believe that having details on the toe adds depth, action, and emotion to the shoe, like the lines on a car or motorcycle. The back-sweeping lines of a wingtip resemble the way a wave leaps up the bow of a boat, then flows back and down across the sides of the hull. While the wingtip is about movement, the cap-toe to me is about steadiness. Having the cap-toe line run straight up one side, straight across, then straight down the other side, displays groundedness, firmness, resolve. Is it any wonder this is regarded the most professional style?


Maximum Versatility

We’ve established that the design we’ve chosen is as formal as it gets. Let’s talk versatility. Forget driving shoes, moccassins, loafers, boots, and boat shoes. These are all the designs that we barefooters have been trying to pass off as dress shoes. It doesn’t work, and that’s why you’re reading this article.

Most of us could not get away with wearing colorful sneakers under a suit. But we could definitely wear certain styles of dress shoes with jeans, a shirt, and maybe a nice jacket. Our design looks great with a pair of fitted dark denim, whereas a monkstrap would be too alternative.

The Primal Professional’s was designed to be able to be dressed down just as easily as it dresses up.

Yes, our black shoes can’t go with navy/tan suits in the way that brown shoes can go with dark suits. However, neither brown shoes nor navy/tan suits are appropriate for weddings nor funerals. Nor are they ideal for meeting with certain job interviewers or clients. For any occasion that calls for suiting up, a dark suit with black shoes can get you through. And so we started with a black shoe.

Every design detail of the Primal Professional was a deliberate choice, made after thorough examination of all colors, materials, shapes, styles, and embroidery.

Finally, after all this talk about dress shoes in entirety, back to the smooth-toe. It was developed when Lt Col. Mark Cucuzzella M.D. (badass huh?) of Two Rivers Treads informed us that the Primal Professional could meet military dress regulations if only it had a smooth-toe. So we did it.

If you have to wear a smooth-toe for uniform duty, definitely choose the Service. Otherwise, go with the cap-toe. It’s simply a better look, and whether you take fashion notes from young fashion-forward hipsters or conservative old-school gents.

Exhibit A. Young fashion-forward hipster


Exhibit B. Conservative old-school gent, aka James Bond in Quantum of Solace


As dapper as he looks, Ms. Camille Montes is the one doing it right.

(source: Kingpin Chic and Manhattan Makeover)


The Primal Professional is now building molds for producing their unique outsoles, will soon begin a 4-week materials acquisition period, next a 8-week production cycle, and then shoes will be on their way to you.
Save $40-$60 with a pre-order before Fri 11/30 at Guarantee a pair for yourself from their very limited first production run, no risk. Full refunds anytime before ship date.
Stores, bloggers, healthcare professionals, and gyms – PriPro offers multiple ways to partner. Contact theprimalprofessional at gmail dot com for more details.

Submitted Comments

  1. James Cabot says:

    Is there any way I can see these shoes in the flesh and try them on before springing for them. I’m an old fashioned guy, and I like to look before I leap. (I live in Wenham Massachusetts, near Beverly and Salem.)

  2. Anand says:

    It is amazing how Minimalist shoes have evolved over the years. Does anyone recall the difference between the exterior of the loafers compared to the moccassins?

  3. Benefits of minimalist shoes in comparison to other types of dress/casual shoes
    • The muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the foot and lower leg will work a little differently. More effort may be required. Gradually they may get a bit stronger and stretch a bit. Presumably this will reduce injuries.


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