The Shoe Guru

Johnston & Murphy's Scott Marcus, center, with Diane and Archie Chinnis at thi's Main & Taylor trunk show.

For years, the name Johnston & Murphy was synonymous with the classic leather dress shoes, loafers and Oxfords we think of our husbands, fathers, and even our grandfathers wearing. But that’s all changed thanks to Scott Marcus. Today, Johnston & Murphy is fast becoming one of the hottest women’s shoe brands on the national footwear scene.

It all started seven years ago when Genesco, Johnston & Murphy’s parent company, lured Marcus out of retirement to launch a wholesale department for the women’s brand. “We wanted to fill the niche, offering a $150-$225, all-leather, great-fitting shoe,” Marcus says. “I like to say it’s a classic look, with a twist.”

Marcus is clear that modern women are too savvy to make vanity the winning factor when choosing everyday footwear. “Years ago, women crippled themselves wearing uncomfortable shoes to get a certain look,” he says. “Today, the feel is more important.”

Marcus spent his entire career working in the shoe business, starting with his family’s 7,000-square-foot shoe salon, Dolly Duz, in Boca Raton Florida, and then serving as President of Evan Picone through the ‘80s. But there’s an irony in Marcus’ choice of career, given he was the barefoot punter for the University of Louisville’s football team under coach Lee Corso.

Corso offered the walk-on freshman, a true athlete in every sense, a football scholarship. According to the 1970 Sports Illustrated article “The Mad, Mad Punter of Louisville,” Marcus averaged 41.6 yards punting the football—barefooted, of course.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and Marcus has designed Johnston & Murphy’s women’s line with the idea in mind that the shoes would last for years but also that women would love the fit and design so much, they would want to add new styles to their wardrobe every year. “I call it planned obsolescence,” he says.

Marcus believes the sneaker trend is here to stay, that our lifestyles are far more casual today than in the past, even in corporate America.

“I’ve probably only worn a tie seven times in the last seven years… that’s a good thing,” he says. “Women can wear our sneakers with jeans, skirts, even dresses, and look sharp and crisp.”

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