Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratford 96609 and 97606

During this election cycle in the USA, I have begun to believe that maybe machine singularity won’t be so bad after all. I am ready for robot masters to rule me. Sure Judgement Day in the Terminator movies didn’t look so awesome but what if it isn’t that bad? What if Stephen Hawking is wrong? Maybe the robots will rule us as efficently and reliably as ATMs. Things will just work. No grandstanding. Quick decisions on real issues based on facts. Logic. Of course, self-aware machines could end up like humans and become vain and bicker on Twitter. And then we’ll get hot robot selfies on Instagram. And those hot robots will date Kanye West.

Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratford

Robots don’t wear shoes and won’t wear these shoes in particular. These are two pairs of Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratfords, models 96609 (black) and 97606 (brown). Florsheim launched the Royal Imperial line 50 years ago in 1966 and was intended to be their custom grade line of shoes and above the already excellent Imperial line that was introduced in the late 1950s. This is an ad from 1966 announcing the Royal Imperial line:

1966 Florsheim Ad

The signature shoes of the line were 96609 and 97606, not the 97604 and 96605. I would classify the style as a short wing blucher but maybe someone has a better classification. It’s an uncommon style and thus rarely produced by any shoe manufacturer. A few people have compared the style to Church’s Grafton model.

Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratford

I first learned about the models from Japanese bloggers that had a number of posts on them in 2014 (see Hungry Heart’s blog). It made me want both pairs for myself. It took some time to find a couple pairs in decent condition but eventually I acquired both models via eBay. Sadly neither is in my size but they are close. The black pair is an 10.5 D and the brown pair is a 11 C. I usually wear a 11.5 D. That’s right – I buy shoes that don’t fit me. Maybe that’s lame. Or cool. Not sure which. Definitely impractical.

Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratford

The first thing you notice about the shoe construction is the very thick scotch grain leather. Florsheim listed the leather as “Coventry Calf”. It’s the same leather as the Florsheim 31836. The upper is composed of four pieces of leather and held together by some intricate stitching.

Florsheim Royal Imperial Logo

The Stratford has a single leather sole and is fully leather lined. There is no storm welt and that gives the shoes a sleeker appearance but I wouldn’t call the model sleek. Probably because its a blucher.

Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratford

The heel has a combo rubber and leather top lift. Its a heel Florsheim used rarely but occasionally you find it on a few 1960s models. My brown Stratford’s heel was replaced but the black is original. The black Stratford heel rubber has disintegrated though. This must be a common problem for this type of Florsheim top lift (see the Hungry Heart blog). There is no way to revive disintergrated rubber AFAIK.

Florsheim Royal Imperial heel

Both are rare models on eBay. I have counted about 10 sales for each model in the past 18 months. Prices are all over the place so I can’t give any recommendations on pricing other than don’t pay more than you want or sell less than you want.

I want a Negroni right now. I wish a robot could make it for me. Yes, that would make me give my vote to the robots. But I don’t think there will be an election in that scenario.

Here are a few more photos:

Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratford

Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratford

Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratford

Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratford

6 thoughts on “Florsheim Royal Imperial Stratford 96609 and 97606”

  1. I would love to have a SWB. And now I will just wait to see if a pair in 11 EEE ever turns up on Ebay.

  2. thoughts–
    1. that scotch grain leather looks fantastic on these. wow!
    2. why are makers producing bal types galore, although more often than not, it’s easier to fit people into a blucher?
    3. you’re right, these models appear a little sleeker without the split-reverse welt, nice observation
    4. great post David, thanks

  3. Thank you for the article. I recently found a pair of these at a thrift store, and they are in terrific slhape; however I couldn’t find information on this model until I searched your posts.
    Great information and great website.

  4. Hi Dave. Your posts are very interesting. Since your browb Stratfords are too small for you, would you consider selling them? Or have you already sold them, since this post is a few years old? Thanks, Thom

      1. Thanks David. I figured I may be too late. Still love your posts. Very informative.

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