Artist Ben Smith Creates One-of-a-Kind Shoes With Florsheim

American heritage men’s footwear brand Florsheim is revealing its appreciation for the arts with the holiday launch of a collaboration with Pittsburgh-based self-taught artist Ben Smith.

The collection, which celebrates self-expression and individuality, uses Florsheim’s classic and modern styles as the canvas. Smith will hand-paint a design of a consumer’s choice on the shoes using his own blend of special formulated acrylic paint that will not chip, fade or wear off the leather.

Ben Smith Florsheim 1
Hand-painted Florsheim style by artist Ben Smith.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

“Some view shoes as an item of function, but at Florsheim, we’ve always believed that footwear defines the man, giving the outside world a look at his personality and individuality,” said John Florsheim, president and COO of parent company Weyco Group Inc. “During our initial conversations with Ben, we realized his artistic process, care and detail works towards that same goal, taking it one step further.”

Once a style and color of shoe is selected from over hundreds of options in categories including dress and casual, a consultation with Smith will be coordinated via Skype, phone or email. During the consultation, image inspirations, color palettes and other treatments are discussed in order for Smith to create a selection of digital mock-ups. The inspiration can range from a vague concept to a specific print or idea, with Smith providing input and options to bring the idea to life.

Florsheim Ben Smith 2
Ben Smith works with customers for a one-of-a-kind style.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

The next step in the process includes a wide range of design renditions of Smith’s interpretation that are then sent to the consumer for approval. The shoes will be completed in two to four weeks.

“This project was about pursuing the boundaries of what can be done on a pair of shoes,” said Smith. “Working with the individuals on their own pairs really opened up new and unique possibilities. People have opinions on artwork, but working with them one on one and drawing from their inspiration to co-create something bespoke really took it to the next level.”

The Florsheim x Ben Smith collaboration is available online starting today. Prices for the collection start at $700.

Access exclusive content