These Men’s Shoe Brands Are Getting Celebrity Placements on the Red Carpet — but Is It Worth the Effort?

Awards season is in full swing, and celebrities are busy getting red carpet-ready. While the style buzz has typically focused on an actress’ fashion choices, more recently, their male counterparts have been garnering their own share of attention. There’s little doubt Timothée Chalamet and Rami Malek can command a movie audience, but can they do the same for footwear?

According to brands working behind the scenes with stylists to have the likes of Brad Pitt or Bradley Cooper step into a pair of their evening looks, a direct payoff can’t always be measured in post-show sales. Labels, however, agree that the exposure their brands receive through traditional media coverage and social media is worth the effort.

“A lot of hard work goes into landing a pair of To Boot shoes on a celebrity,” said Adam Derrick, founder and designer of To Boot New York. “At any given moment, our team is shuffling boxes of shoes all over New York and Los Angeles. You have to be outrageously organized, patient and diligent. It’s absolutely worth it.”

Derrick said they see some sort of return, whether it’s an uptick in the retail business, an increase in website traffic or influx of followers and buzz on social media. These placements give the brand tremendous exposure, helping it reach a wider audience that’s looking to celebrities for style inspiration.

Among the celebrities To Boot has shod are Dwayne Johnson, who wore a pair when he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Ethan Hawke, who opted for the brand when he snagged best actor at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. Others include Armie Hammer, Neil Patrick Harris, Liam Cunningham and Topher Grace.

Armie Hammer'Call Me By Your Name' premiere, BFI London Film Festival, UK - 09 Oct 2017
Armie Hammer in To Boot at the”Call Me By Your Name” premiere in October 2017.
CREDIT: Pete Summers/Shutterstock

Like To Boot, men’s brand Florsheim does not measure success by an uptick in sales after an awards show. “The most accurate way to view success is simply to continue being selected to be worn,“ said Carolyn Ship, marketing manager, referring to celebrities like Ben Mendelsohn, Kyle Chandler and Anthony Ramos, who have worn the brand. “It’s further proof that for a 125-plus year brand, we’re staying relevant.”

Ben Mendelsohn'The Land of Steady Habits' premiere, Arrivals, Toronto International Film Festival, Canada - 12 Sep 2018
Ben Mendelsohn in Florsheim at the “The Land of Steady Habits” premiere in September 2018.
CREDIT: Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock

Securing a spot on the red carpet can be as competitive as winning an award these days, and celebrity stylists are the ones typically casting the final vote.

According to Ship, the company reaches out to stylists to learn if their clients might need formal footwear for an upcoming event. However, she noted, “we do not pay for talent to wear the shoes, because we want it to be an organic process that builds a relationship with the actors. Our ultimate goal is to ensure they are truly a fan of the brand.”

At Bruno Magli, senior director of PR and marketing Ann Akiri agrees that it all comes down to celebrity relationships. “As a brand, we generally form a relationship with a stylist or celebrity. Our dressing is very organic. People who wear the brand on the red carpet have an affinity for us.”

Among the celebrities the brand has footnoted are John Legend, Matt Damon and Mahershala Ali. “Our customers are always looking for quality,” said Akiri, “so if they see Legend on the carpet and he happens to be wearing Bruno Magli, it may resonate with [them].”

Mahershala Ali25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 27 Jan 2019Wearing Ermenegildo Zegna
Mahershala Ali in Brugo Magli at the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
CREDIT: Stewart Cook/Shutterstock

Bruno Magli has a long-standing history on the red carpet with actresses dating back to the ‘60s and ‘70s. It‘s been the brand of choice by legendary stars including Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn. “It quickly gained a reputation of creating beautiful hand-crafted shoes made with the finest materials in Italian ateliers,” said Akiri.

For American brand Johnston & Murphy, which debuted 80 years before the first Academy Awards, connecting with celebrities has also been an organic process. “We have strong relationships with stylists,” said Jason Dasal, VP of marketing, noting the brand has never paid a celebrity to wear its shoes. “Stylists will pull shoes for red carpet events and appearances — anything from press junkets and talk shows to the Golden Globes and Oscars.”

The brand also has plenty to boast about when it comes to the actors who have opted to wear their shoes. Among them are Jamie Foxx, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, Rami Malek and Liev Schreiber.

Although brands can’t always assess the financial results from being seen on the red carpet, they often take advantage of celebrities photographed in their shoes by repurposing imagery from awards shows for social media content. “These images garner a significant amount of engagement, which is an important measurement of success for us, as well,” explained Ship.

Derrick has found third-party validation from celebrities is important to many consumers, even if it doesn’t generate a purchase right away. It also impacts its network of manufacturers, wholesale partners and salespeople who depend on such exposure to promote the brand.

“When they see an A-list celebrity sporting To Boot at a major event, their perception is lifted in the same way a consumer’s is,” said Derrick. “But in the end, the reason men choose To Boot is for the quality, design and comfort. The shoes have to work on the foot. If you don’t have that down, no movie star can help you.”

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