One Step Ahead

The fantastic one-of-a-kind designs of footwear visionary, John Fluevog

In 1990, Lady Miss Kier Wore  John Fluevog’s iconic platform high heels, the Munster, on the cover of Deee-Lite’s debut album World Clique. The following year, in the documentary Truth or Dare, Madonna slinked around in a pair of Munsters. With a silver pilgrim buckle and art deco curved heel, the eye-grabbing shoes became a sensation.

Fluevog’s wild designs—from a classic men’s black dress shoe sprinkled with glitter to a modern take on Victorian riding boots with ornate buckles—endear him to shoe lovers and his loyal cult of fans, who call themselves Fluezies (and who search the internet for their Fluenicorn, a style of discontinued Fluevogs in their size).

John Fluevog wasn’t born into the shoe business, nor did he go to school for it. His dad owned an ice cream parlor and inspired his son to be a self-starter. After working at a shoe store, Fluevog decided he could make better shoes himself.

He started making shoes in 1970 with a partner, Peter Fox, and later diverged and began his own eponymous business. There are now 24 John Fluevog stores in the United States and Canada, and 1 in Amsterdam.

The Portland John Fluevog (1224 SW Harvey Milk [f.k.a. Stark] St, 503-241-3338, opened seven years ago and is a particularly special one. The interior design centers around Fluevog’s 1965 super-modified Jaguar, parked eternally at the back of the store, surrounded by a grand display of men’s shoes.

“I’ve spent my whole life trying to design shoes that don’t look like everyone else’s”

Fluevog and his son (and current CEO) Adrian personally designed the store. With their motto, Unique Soles for Unique Souls, they found the “Keep Portland Weird” vibe simpatico.

“I’ve spent my whole life trying to design shoes that don’t look like everyone else’s,” says John Fluevog. “Doing things against the mainstream is a lot more fun.”

Besides their unique styles, Fluevog shoes stand apart for their eco-friendly approach. To make their handmade small-batch shoes, the company uses vegetable-tanned leathers from Spain and Italy, as well as water-based glues. Fluevog’s Angel Sole line incorporates latex harvested from Hevea trees to fashion the sole, and once in a while, they sell vegan shoes.

“The Angel Sole, which was embraced by Seattle’s ’90s Grunge scene, was John’s eco-friendly answer to the less friendly Doc Marten,” says Tina Lamb, manager of Portland’s John Fluevog. “As he says, good soles leave small prints (no matter what your shoe size).” –Ellee Thalheimer Photos By Michelle Mitchell