Whatever happened to …

… Brannock devices?

Interestingly, just about every model version seems to be $72.50.

Growing up, there were two places in our town to buy shoes.  You were either Aiken’s people or Lobb’s people.  We were Aiken’s people.

Buying a new pair of shoes was always a big deal and it really was a science of sorts.  The advice was to come buying in the afternoon because your feet are bigger then, we’d sit down, take off a shoe and place it in to the Brannock device to get sized up.  It was important to wear “are these the socks you always wear?” socks.  The embarrassment of putting on those little bootie things if you showed up without socks was too much to take.

Then, mom would tell Mr. Aiken (whichever one was waiting on us) what kind of shoe we would be getting (always running shoes at the time) and he’d go into the back and bring out a box with brand new shoes, nicely wrapped in a box.  He’d sit on this really cool stool that he’d roll over to be in front of us and we’d put our foot into the new shoe that was nicely angled on the stool.  Then, came the second shoe and we got to walk back and forth in front of a mirror placed at floor level to see how we looked.

Pay a little money and the job was done.

Not so these days.

I had to get a new pair of shoes this past week.  The experience was completely different.  There is no specific shoe store in town; there’s a men’s wear store, Walmart, and Mark’s Work Wearhouse.  This time, I went to Mark’s.

Buying shoes is no longer a craft mastered by someone who is just in the business of selling shoes.  There’s no inventory in the back; it’s out on the floor.  There’s no Brannock device; I had to take off my shoe to see what the previous size was!  I guess I could have done this.  Then, there was a stroll along the displays to find a shoe that looked like it would do the trick.  The “trick” is to hold up while dog walking.  My days of fashion making my choice are behind me.  There was no mirror but you could walk along the aisle to test out the shoe.  There was another lady there trying out shoes and, gasp, she wasn’t wear socks.  Gross!

The shoes were interesting.  Some had obviously been tried on before because the wrapping paper on some of them wasn’t in new shape.  So, I picked up 3 or 4 shoes and went back to a bench to try them on.  A salesperson did come by to ask what size I was and brought a few more boxes over and told me to give her a shout if I needed help.  I went with these.

For a Sunday, what are your thoughts?

  • Do you buy shoes at a specific shoe store or are you like me and have limited options?
  • Do you get measured with a Brannock device every time?
  • Do you have a brand loyalty or do you choose your shoes based on some other criteria?
  • Do you go and get fitted by someone who is in the shoe business or do you buy off the rack?
  • Are there other sales features from the past that are no longer available to you?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

This is part of a regular Sunday series where we get to share some of the good ol’ days and some of the not so good days.  Please join in.

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

5 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …”

  1. Doug!
    I have never known what those devices were called! I’m trying to remember the last time I had one used. I think it was our visit to the LLBean flagship in Freeport, Maine several years ago. Younger needed shoes, and they used the measurer. He was fascinated!

    I tend to buy my shoes a few places these days – our local outdoor gear store or Mountain Equipment for trail-type shoes, or summer sandal/paddling shoes. I think MEC might have a Brannock device, but they are often short-staffed in the shoe department, so it diesn’t see a lot of use. If I’m splurging, it’s Bigley’s in Bobcaygeon, where they definitely have, and use, a Brannock device.

    I’m a loyal Keen buyer – their women’s last fits my wide, flat foot.


  2. When I was a kid, Running shoes were always the no name variety picked up at K-Mart, Towers or Bi-Way. We were country kids so we wore rubber boots a lot too. Those came from the same place. In the summer we wore flip flops or no shoes at all. Good shoes, or as we called them, church shoes, we went to the shoe store and got fitted for. They came so nicely wrapped and packaged, not just tied together with a plastic strip! You knew these had to be looked after not just during your tenure with them but by each sister as they got passed down the line! Thanks for the “walk” down memory lane!


  3. Mostly I buy one particular brand, Merrell, and I know what size to wear in them. For other sorts of things I’ll try on with that same size and that usually works. My feet don’t seem to have changed much in many years. In any case I am not a fan of shoe shopping to picking up the same brand, size, and model every time is fine with me.

    We have a dedicated shoe store locally and several more in an outlet mall that is not too far away. So there are devices to measure feet and relatively helpful salespeople. Not quite the level of attention when I was younger but still helpful.


  4. I remember going to the shoe store at the Thames Lea Plaza in Chatham when I was a kid. They had a regular door for adults and then a little half door for kids. Inside, you sat way up high on a chair (like at a shoeshine station) while they measured your foot. Nowadays, it seems pointless to use the Braddock device because the size I take varies depending on the make and style of shoe. For everyday and dress shoes, I just try them on till something fits. But for my running shoes, I go to a specialty running store and get fitted. Last time I bought running shoes, I took them back and exchanged them twice until I had the perfect size. They fit differently when you run. Thanks Running Factory!


  5. aah, the dreaded shoe shopping! But your story has made it more interesting!

    Have to say though, we do have some decent options for shoe/boot shopping in Thunder Bay. The “outdoorsy” stores carry good selections and there are a number of “footwear only” stores in our one mall.

    I haven’t seen a Brannock device in some time — now I know what they are called! Those cool angled stools seem scarce now too. Same with floor level mirrors. Shoe shopping is never for fun or fashion for me anymore either. It has gotten much more complicated too though… sigh. Opposite and similar to Lisa.. I have issues due to high arches, but a wide foot. But we have a great foot clinic here that also sells quality footwear, orthodics etc — never cheap though! Birks work for me, but I am a walker, so the right “running shoe” and arch support matters. Like Alfred, I have had some good luck lately with Merrell boots for winter walking. I thought about ordering shoes or boots online, but chickened out.

    I recall a few experienced shoe salespersons in the past … using a long shoe horn thing too!

    I hope your selection holds up well, Doug! Happy feet matter 🙂


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