While shoe companies pump millions of dollars into advertising their product across every media platform, for one Italian luxury footwear brand, a bloody size 12 shoe print at the scene of a double murder would be the advertisement of a lifetime.
It was the most publicized trial in American history. Former football star O.J. Simpson, represented by a high-profile “dream team” of defense attorneys, stood accused of murdering his wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman — and one of the most crucial pieces of evidence was a pair of Bruno Magli shoes. This critial fact would catapult the shoe brand into being a household name.
During the trial, a barrage of experts took the stand — including FBI shoe-print specialist William Bodziak — and while there was little doubt that a pair of size 12 Bruno Magli Lorenzo boots made an appearance at the crime scene, proving that O.J. Simpson wore them was another story.
To address that question, the prosecution called Bloomingdale’s associate buyer for men’s shoes, Sam Poser — who during much of the early ’90s advised wealthy socialites and celebrities on the must-have shoes of the season.
This week, Footwear News spoke exclusively with Poser, now an analyst, who recalled serving Simpson during several trips to the store. Here’s what he had to say about the infamous shoes and the Simpson trial.
“He was very nice,” Poser told FN. “He bought a bunch of dress casual stuff — he wanted something that was comfortable. But I remembered what he didn’t buy more so than I remembered selling him that particular [Bruno Magli] shoe.”
Poser said the former NFL player was working as a sportscaster for NBC at the time and was in search of a pair of dress casual shoes to wear on the sidelines of a Buffalo Bills game.
“He didn’t buy the Congo boot from HH Brown because he thought that was too casual,” Poser said. “I remember going back and forth with him on it because I didn’t want to sell him the Bruno Magli shoes because it wasn’t as good for [the climate in Buffalo], but he wanted that kind of look.”
In the early ’90s, Bloomingdale’s did not have bar-code-scanning software in place that would prove unequivocally what pair of shoes Simpson bought that day. So while Poser recalled that he had shown Simpson a size 12 Bruno Magli Lorenzo boot — the same size and style that left prints at the crime scene — he could not say for sure whether Simpson ultimately bought that pair.
“Eventually, after the [criminal] trial was over, they found the photograph of O.J. wearing the Bruno Magli shoe at a Bills game,” Poser said. “In the civil case, which I was deposed for, they stipulated that he was indeed wearing those shoes. Had they found that photograph prior to the criminal trial, that could have been a game changer.”
In his deposition for the civil case, however, Simpson asserted he would never have worn “those ugly-ass shoes.”
“There were only 200 pairs of size 12 Bruno Magli Lorenzo boots imported into the U.S., and Bloomingdale’s was one of only about five retailers to carry it, so the odds were against [him],” Poser said.
A CNN report published in 1997 said sales for the brand climbed 30 percent year-over-year during the trial, a revenue jump undoubtedly connected to the infamous case.
To be clear, although the trial would make Bruno Magli a household name, the shoes are still hardly an easy purchase — they currently sell in Bloomingdale’s for between $250 and $500.