Shoe guru John Fluevog celebrates 50 years

Designer’s new book is ‘Unique Soles for Unique Souls’

Legendary Canadian shoe seller and designer John Fluevog, 71, is on tour promoting his coffee table book “Fluevog: 50 Years of Unique Soles for Unique Souls.” He’ll be hosting a shoe social at his Haight Street store on Friday.

How many designs have you created over the years?

It would be hazardous to guess. I didn’t kick it until the mid-80s. So I figure 100-200 styles per year for about 35 years — that’s a lot.

What is it about your shoes that have made you/them so successful?

They’re part of my soul. They’re always recognizable, they stand out, they don’t look like anything else. I have the boldness to do things that come to me.

What was it like writing the book celebrating your five decades in business?

I started to think about it at 47 years, when I began to realize “I’m still here doing this. It’s a bit of an accomplishment.” For two days, I talked about my life and how I started and it was captured on video. The idea, too, was that it would be a record for my children and grandkids. I would have liked to have known what my grandparents did when they immigrated from Norway.

What surprised you when you compiled material for the book?

I looked back at the crazy catalogs, like zines, I did — I would actually draw the shoes myself — and think about how they were culturally significant to me, what was going on with me at the time. And things made me giggle.

What’s changed through the years?

It took me a long time to stop doing everything myself. The other obvious change would be the idea of the internet and social media. It’s really altered the way retailing has been done. In one way, it’s scary, but it’s also been fun. It’s a great way for people to connect.

What about San Francisco has made an impression on you?

It might be my favorite city. I came in 1969, and lived in Palo Alto in a hippie commune when the flower child thing was waning. But San Francisco always has had this funky feel other places didn’t have. It felt cool. The neighborhoods and houses are romantic.

Have you visited here through the years?

Yes, probably more than I’ve visited other most other stores. Denny (Garbuio), the manager of the Haight Street store, has been with us since the location opened in 1997.

Your shoes attract celebrities including Beyonce and Madonna; is there anyone who particularly stands out for you?

Alice Cooper. He’s been wearing them for decades and he wears them today onstage. He’s a real entertainer. Also, he’s my age.

What shoes are you wearing now?

Smith double zip ankle boot. They’re tapestry. They match my jacket.

IF YOU GO

John Fluevog

Where: Fluevog San Francisco Haight, 1697 Haight St., S.F.

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 436-9784, RVSP at https://www.fluevog.com/johns-50th-anniversary-book-signing-in-san-francisco/

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