Justin L. Jeffers, Founder & Creative Director of Jay Butler Shoes, thinks that shoes should be comfortable, stylish, made to last and affordable. According to their website, “Jay Butler is a brand that strives to provide men and women with classic, well-made footwear and leather goods. Jay Butler was established out of the desire to fill a void in a market for justly priced, direct to consumer footwear. By opting out of selling our shoes through wholesalers and brick and mortar stores, we are able to offer our shoes at an impost that is well below what is normally seen without compromising on quality.”
Explore Philly recently got a chance to interview Mr. Jeffers and learn more about Jay Butler Shoes’ amazing shoes and accessories.
Where do you get inspiration for your shoe designs?
From things both new and old. A combination of places and each model is different. I wanted to create a line that took the best parts of some of the most classic loafers and expounded on the good parts whilst changing or eliminating the lesser parts. The result is the Jay Butler ‘canon’ of loafers, if you will.
For each of the three leather soled models, there are two constants which I think are important to note, as they are somewhat our signature look. The first is a shorter vamp, which is the area that covers the toes and top of the foot. The look harkens back to loafers of a few decades ago, it is a classic and timeless look that has unfortunately fallen out of favor; we’re bringing it back. However, our vamp is not so short as to look feminine. The overly long vamp on many of today’s loafers looks unbalanced and covers too much off the foot. Second, is the slim sole on our shoes. The purpose of this is twofold. First, to slim down the look of our shoes and second to allow our shoes to wear softer and take less time to break in. I want our loafers to feel like slippers; super soft and pliable; yet still very durable and supportive.
The Cromwell penny loafer is our take on the classic American beef roll penny loafer. We slimmed down the beef roll and sole to make the look more streamlined and elegant. The Millbank bit loafer is our take on the Italian bit loafer. Although popularized by Gucci, almost every men’s shoe brand has their own take; most of them do not look good and are overpriced. You won’t find a better bit loafer in our price range. Lastly, we have the Shipley tie loafer, which take the upper from the Italian driving shoe and the leather sole of a penny loafer. The result is a playful, elegant, masculine and durable shoe.
What fabrics do you use for your shoes and how do you choose them?
Jay Butler doesn’t use any fabrics, we only use leather. In the future, we may use some fabrics for limited collections or capsule collections. We use full grain leather and suede for our shoes. They are the most durable, classic and readily available materials. So leather was a no brainer. Selecting the colors was a little more challenging. When I was initially setting the line, I knew that I had to offer the classics, black and dark brown, but what about after that? I wanted to have a little fun, but still be somewhat conservative so I chose the caramel and dark brown suede. And then I wanted something that was different and uncommon, but not so different that it was unfamiliar or unwearable, so I chose the navy suede, which is a color we are starting to see more on men’s shoes, and for good reason. Navy blue is really underrated as a shoe color for men.
For the seasonal shoes, like olive green suede and perforated brown, I wanted to use leathers that really played to the seasons. Suede, although still great in the summer, is more common in the fall and winter; the matte and fuzzy look it has plays well with the muted colors of the season. The olive green color is really a neutral and melds perfectly with the colors of fall. The perforated brown penny loafer take a classic brown penny loafer and subtly adds some extra breathability to the shoes via the perforations in the leather. It is almost like a leather mesh, it’s fantastic.
I love that your shoes cater to both men and women. What is your size guide for ordering?
Thank you. We advise men to order their normal dress shoe or boat shoe size. So if a guy wears a 9.0 dress shoe, order a 9.0 Jay Butler. We’ve found this to be quite accurate. However, for guys who have a wider foot, we advise them to go up a half size from their normal size. For women, we advise them to order two sizes smaller than what they normally wear. For instance, if a woman wears a size 8.0 normally, we advise her to go with a Jay Butler 6.0. If the shoes need to be exchanged for a different size, we cover the cost of shipping for the exchange so the customer does not have to pay any more money to get what they want.
Your slogan is “Luxury Quality Without the Luxury Price” – How are you able to use luxury materials for your shoes at an affordable price?
Good question. We are not really in the business of cheapening our product and cutting costs that way, so instead we limit our costs on the distribution front. We sell our shoes directly to our customers through our website (except for 2 stores, but more on that later), direct to consumer, if you will. This means we don’t sell wholesale to stores or distributors. When you sell via wholesale, you have more people in the distribution chain who mark up the product because they need to make money. This result of us not doing this is that Jay Butler is able to sell our shoes for $195, whereas you would see comparable shoes normally sold for $250-300, if not more.
Which shoe is your most popular seller?
When Jay Butler launched in November of 2014, I had the idea that each of the shoes would sell in equal numbers. Which was a ridiculous dream, I suppose. The most popular model has been the brown penny loafer. Can’t beat the classics…
Which shoe is your favorite?
The Shipley is my favorite model, preferably in caramel or navy suede. Which of those is my favorite depends on my mood, today I’d have to say the Shipley in caramel. It’s sunny out and the caramel color looks so nice in the sun.
Your customer reviews are amazing! What do you think sets your shoes and accessories apart from the crowd and makes customers keep coming back for more?
Thank you. There are a few things that I focused on in designing and sourcing the shoes and then another few things that we have focused on for the purchase and post-purchase process that I think have made a difference to a lot of our customers.
Regarding the design, the four things that set us above many other shoes out there are our thin leather soles. They are great because they provide the durability and look of a leather sole, however, they are super flexible and soft wearing which cause the shoes to feel a little bit like slippers when worn, it also helps them break in easily. The second thing is using a genuine moccasin construction, which when done well allows the upper of the shoe to be very soft wearing and flexible; not hard and rigid. Third, the leather I selected for the uppers and liners is quality. For example, with the lining leather I selected, I asked our factory to find the softest leather they could find. I told them I wanted my foot to be like the lobster and the shoe to be the melted butter. It needed to be butter soft. Lastly, a lot of it comes down to how the shoes are made; the importance of quality control cannot be understated. But that is all only part of the battle, to survive and to feel good about what we are doing, we need to ensure that our customers are happy and taken care of after they buy our shoes.
That said, we do what we can to make sure customers are happy with their shoes and if there are any issues, we resolve them. We realize that since guys are buying our shoes online, oftentimes without ever seeing the shoes in person, we need to make the process as easy as possible for them. That means making returns and exchanges super easy, it means answering whatever questions a customer may have and it means going the extra mile; which is often further than many brands seem to want to go these days.
Currently, a selection of your shoes is being sold at two stores in Philadelphia and Ardmore – do you have any plans to expand to more stores?
Not at this time, although that may change before the end of the year. For ToBox on 19th Street and Gilbert & Evans out in Suburban Square, we work with them almost as a showroom. They have a selection of our shoes and leather goods on display and available for sale. However, they do not keep inventory so once a customer places an order, we will ship the shoes directly to the customer or to the store. It gives Jay Butler and the stores more flexibility, which is nice. Because the boutiques take less of a commission than if we sold the shoes to them wholesale, it allows us to keep our price down. If we do end up selling through any more boutiques, it would be in a similar way to this.
Jay Butler sells a variety of leather accessories as well – belts, wallets, money clips, handbags, etc. Do you find that your customers match these to their shoes or purchase them for fun? They seem like great gift ideas!
Most commonly we will see customers getting belts to go with their shoes; we don’t see it as often with the wallets and money clips; I don’t think guys really care to match their wallets with their shoes and belt. We do see a number of guys buying the belts as standalone items, especially the less commonly seen colors like the olive green suede and perforated brown leather. Obviously I am biased, but I think all of our shoes and goods make for good gifts.
Do you use social media to display new products and interact with customers a lot?
Yes, we use Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter to share new products and communicate with customers. You may find us at #JayButlerShoes or at #JourneysWithJay on each of the mediums. But the use of social media doesn’t just stop at informing and interacting with customers. Social media is also helpful to us observe what customers, friends and the media is up to which we can then use that information to better communicate with our customers.
Please email Jay Butler Shoes at Help@JayButler.com or call 215-792-3127 for more details.