When football star Ronnie Stanley needed to statement shoe to fit his size 16 foot, he went to the right place.
“Most shoes don’t go past 13; we make 16s and 17s,” ESQ Clothing president and creative director Ge Wang tells Footwear News. “Most people start at size 8 and go up to 13, whereas we start with a size 10 and go up.”
The Chicago-based bespoke shoe and custom-suit company, which launched around four years ago, has developed a roster of athletes needing sizes that aren’t found on the rack at retailers.
Stanley — at 6-foot-5-inches and around 300 pounds — turned to Wang for a suit and pair of shoes to walk the red carpet on NFL Draft Day in April.
The Baltimore Raven donned ESQ’s spiked white shoes and a matching blazer when he was selected as the No. 6 pick.
And when cameras focus on NBA Draft Day athletes on June 23, Wang says five ballers will be wearing ESQ.
“So far the largest we’ve made is 17, and I’m sure that’s going to go up,” he says of the largest shoe he designed. “When you have feet like that, these guys want something that’s comfortable and looks good.”
Wang says he’s grown a following among pro athletes by word-of-mouth referrals: “Those guys compare what they’re wearing all of the time.”
“It started out with Matt Forte; now he’s with the Jets,” Wang says of the former Chicago Bears running back.
“A friend of a friend introduced us,” he explains. “He’s a big part of it. Jamal Charles of the [Kansas City] Chiefs saw the shoes on him, and the next day, I had an Instagram message.”
ESQ’s handmade footwear costs around $1,000 and takes around four weeks to complete.
Ready-to-wear shoes (priced around $300) and suits (priced around $800) are also available to order on the label’s website and at the Chicago showroom, which opened in August.
Often, he says, the design process is a collaborative effort. “What’s beautiful is that many of our clients are artistic,” Wang says. “The burden isn’t on me — it’s a win-win.”
When he’s not styling athletes, Wang says his customers are mostly lawyers.
“We are not a ‘big and tall’ place — we work with every human being,” he explains. “I was a lawyer before I started this, and I had to wear a suit every day. I started thinking, ‘Maybe I should make custom stuff.’ ”
Aptly named ESQ, Wang says he launched the fashion label nearly four years ago when he made a discovery outside of the courtroom.
“I practiced law for over a year,” he recalls. “It just wasn’t for me.”