Genderless footwear is experiencing a powerful rise in the shoe market this year — and it’s one that Wolf & Shepherd’s co-founders Justin and Hope Schneider are tapping into with their latest collection. The pair’s newly released Cruise line features two mules and a sneaker in their brand’s signature versatile hues and streamlined shapes, with one notable difference: it’s the label’s first genderless shoe launch.
“I think the timing was just perfect because as we’ve transitioned from this very classic dress shoe business to a hybrid dress shoe business, the Cruise product line is the final capstone of that,” Hope shares exclusively with FN.
The Cruise line, which Hope and Justin began planning in 2021, contains the same materials as Wolf & Shepherd’s current men’s and women’s shoe styles. The collection aims to further the brand’s growth from merging dress and sportswear shoes in the men’s and women’s markets, highlighting its core value of “winning” for all — regardless of gender. Retailing from $189-$229, the three models’ fast-sloped silhouettes and designs smoothly fit into Wolf & Shepherd’s clean aesthetic, intended to continue Hope and Justin’s goals of making shoes for all of life’s needs from their own experience as athletes-turned-CEOs and parents of five children.
The line’s inclusivity and minimalist style arrive at a time when a need for sophisticated footwear has grown across the year’s remaining fashion seasons. Though Hope and Justin can understand the coincidence, they emphasize the Cruise collection stemmed from their drive to meet consumers’ needs for comfortable shoes to re-enter the world in after the COVID-19 pandemic — without sacrificing a revived desire to dress up.
“What we found is that as people were staying home from work more often — and now with the flexibility — people expected the mobility,” Justin says. “Cruise is actually a perfect embodiment of that. Imagine your quintessential basic lifestyle sneaker, but for someone who’s looking to graduate to something that carries a nice plunge lining — and it has scuba lining and backing — but a nice hand-finished Italian nubuck. We’ve realized that it is still elevated, but it’s elevated lifestyle.”
While launching the collection, Hope and Justin believe that genderless shoes should be determined from an optimal fit. Aside from gender-neutral shapes and aesthetics, they’re also furthering their current footbed program — where customers can order removable footbeds in narrow, wide and normal sizing to adjust the inner volume of their shoes— into the genderless shoes to give their customers the best possible sizes.
“When we can accept the fact that it’s just someone’s preference, it’s less about what exactly is a ‘men’s shoe’ versus a ‘women’s shoe,'” Hope says. “Having that system already built into our crossover products in all of our shoes allows us to do genderless [styles] a little bit easier.”
As Wolf & Shepherd launches its Cruise collection, Hope and Justin are already thinking ahead. The pair will release more genderless styles in the future, and are integrating a style-focused product section (as opposed to just Men’s or Women’s sections) on their website. This will allow customers to focus on their best fits, regardless of labels, in Wolf & Shepherd’s dress and premium shoe categories — a concept that’s primarily only been used in athletic shoe styles by other brands — for the foreseeable future.
“That’s how we think about it: it’s a really simple, awesome shoe that, regardless of gender, you can enjoy and it can be a great product in your closet,” Hope says. “We would assume every product that Wolf & Shepherd makes from here on out can be labeled as genderless. That’s sort of a stamp that we’re making in the industry: any product can be for anyone if they want to buy into the lifestyle and into the brand.”