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Dope S–t I Like: CLAE

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CLAE’s commitment to innovation and design has yielded a distinct collection of smart essentials fit for the modern man. Taking extra steps by using premium leathers and materials, and emphasizing uncommon comfort and versatility, CLAE creates footwear that evolves and endures.

Headed up by Sung Choi, CLAE is a brand that I admire so much that a lot of my verbiage and design cues come directly from the brand. I’ve been rocking with CLAE since the mid 2000s. As a matter of fact I think I was the only person wearing the brand in Memphis. They made several styles that were perfect for bringing life to my “teacher’s” fits when I was a professor.

At one point I went so far as to write CLAE before I launched ARCH, as a matter of fact their response was part of the reason I launched ARCH. I wrote them because a local store was carrying CLAE. I walked in and they had the shoes on sale for damn near 80% off. I asked the owner if I could buy every pair. He told me no, but allowed me to buy two sizes in each color.  This was when I was setting up on 3rd street, Memphis’ notorious bootleg flea market. If you’ve read through the site, you know that story. Anyway, I took the shoes down to the market and on that same day I sold through 12 pair. I went back to the store that night and asked if I could buy more. I grabbed another 12 pair and took them back down the next day and sold out again.

I realized at that point that you could take a brand that no one had really heard of outside of the skate and sneaker community and if they looked good, they would sell. The owner of the store asked me what I was doing with the shoes, and like a dummy I told him. The next week when I went back to finish buying the shoes off of him, they wouldn’t let me buy them.  What was even crazier, they had one of the employees take a lot of their stuff and set up at the flea market.  I couldn’t hate on that. Business is business and I simply gave someone an opportunity to grow their biz.

Once that happened I wrote CLAE and the dialogue turned into a huge learning experience for me. Their head of sales explained that I was operating in what is known as the “grey” market. Once I wouldn’t tell him who was selling me the shoes, he stated he couldn’t work with me. While I could have snitched, I couldn’t bring myself to do so just to build my relationship with the company.

I knew then though that people were looking for comfortable stylish shoes and if you could create something that looked athletic, but could be worn casually, you had something. CLAE is the originator of the ath-leisure market.  While no one locally carries the brand anymore, I still think they are dope. I contribute the brands working with Samsung as a reason they hurt themselves. One of their more popular styles ended up sharing shelf space with Cadillac shoes. The two brands have since parted ways and CLAE has created a lot of separation with a new line that is stylish and continuing to push the casual athletic market. Get to Know CLAE. They are definitely worth your time.