This Heritage Men’s Brand Is Rebooting After 120 Years in the Shoe Industry

Men’s brand Bostonian is starting a new chapter in its nearly 120-year history with a refresh for fall and a relaunch of its e-commerce site.

For nearly 120 years, Bostonian has been synonymous with men’s dress shoes, often the first wingtip in a guy’s wardrobe. This fall, the company is recommitting to its heritage of quality craftsmanship with a brand refresh.

“The line had been used in a heavy trading environment and gradually pushed further and further down in price with increasing discounts,” said Jason Beckley, chief brand officer at parent Clarks. “We had this powerful name which would easily play into the [higher-end] market.”

To move the label forward in a genuine way, a new designer was hired, though Bostonian declined to disclose his identity. “He’s a real aficionado of New England shoemaking,” said Beckley. “I wanted to find someone who is an [Americana] shoe junkie and make sure their voice was well-heard.”

To attract a more upscale customer while holding on to its core mainstream consumers, the company has segmented the business starting for fall 2018. The entry-level co-branded Commonwealth collection retails from $90 to $130, with core Bostonian products priced at $220 to $500.

Beckley noted that the typical Bostonian customer is focused on quality and styling, but the Commonwealth audience is seeking work-appropriate looks. “The Commonwealth customer appreciates comfort and the assurance the Bostonian name brings,” he said. And to keep prices affordable, the shoes are produced in India.

More locally, though, in a nod to Bostonian’s American heritage, the brand will introduce this fall a series of premium U.S.-made Goodyear-welt styles manufactured by P.W. Minor.

“The Bostonian ethos is to celebrate true American shoemaking on original lasts, patterns and techniques,” said Beckley. “There’s an authenticity and story to be told, and we want to celebrate that.”

The collections, which are also being treated to a new logo and branding, will follow separate retail distribution.

While Commonwealth is aimed at Bostonian’s current retail partners, such as DSW and Macy’s, the Bostonian collection is intended for apex accounts including Unionmade in San Francisco and premium accounts internationally including Europe and Japan.

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