After the Florsheim Imperial Kenmoor, the most lamented made in USA shoe is the FootJoy Classics golf shoe. How do I know this? I took a poll. The sample size was small. One person actually. Me. But I do converse with people about shoes. Everyday. So, I have a good feel for what people are interested in. Shoe-wise. Not life-wise. No one asks me questions about solving their life problems. But I could be a life coach. “Hmm. That is a difficult situation. Have you considered buying a pair of shoes? I find that it helps. In troubled times. Which these are.” I wouldn’t be the worst life coach. Probably not the best. Somewhere in between.
This post covers some of my favorite FootJoy golf cleats as well as information on buying vintage FootJoy pairs. I have been wearing and collecting made in USA golf shoes for years. At one point I was planning on blogging about each pair. But I never found the time. Which is frustrating. And it’s frustrating to be frustrated with a writing hobby that I never started.
A Very Brief FootJoy History
FootJoy was originally founded in 1857 as the Burt and Packard Shoe Company in Brockton, Massachusetts. Later it changed its name to the Field and Flint Company. In 1957, another Brockton firm, Stone-Tarlow Co, purchased Field and Flint (I believe the “Tarlow” name is related to the Tarlows of Alden and Lloyd & Haig). In 1970, Field and Flint Company was renamed to Brockton Footwear Inc before officially adopted the FootJoy name in 1975. Since then there have been numerous owners of the company and is currently owned by the Acushnet Company. FootJoy continued to make shoes in Brockton until closing the plant in the depths of the Great Recession. Sadly, the plant closing ended the long history of shoemaking in Brockton.
FootJoy is obviously known for their golf shoes but originally made dress shoes. Sometime between 1910 and 1923, the company introduced golf shoe models. The shoes became very popular due their performance and quality as well as FootJoy’s superior marketing and customer service. By the 1950s, FootJoy boasted that the shoes were “worn by 9 of 10 home and touring pros”. While the golf share of FootJoy’s business was growing, in the 1960s roughly half their models were still “street” shoes. After the 1970 name change, the firm largely focused on golf.
What Makes Them Classics
The FootJoy “Classics” (a moniker adopted in the 1980s), were some of the best golf shoes you could buy outside of a bespoke pair. They were designed with a low, wide butyl leather sole that positioned your feet close to the ground which allowed for a firmly planted swing. With rubber soled shoes, there is more space between your feet and the turf. You sit a bit higher.
While most modern golf shoes typically only have one width (“medium”), FootJoy Classics came in ten widths and ranged from AAA to EEEE. Buyers also had a number of shoe lasts to pick from. This allowed a golfer to dial in their fit. And since the shoe was made almost entirely of high quality leather, the shoes molded to your feet making them very comfortable to wear over a long afternoon.
FootJoy was also innovative in their designs and patterns. They offered a wide range of styles and consistently updated their models with new leather combinations. You can see the variety of models in the 1970 FootJoy Catalog that I posted a couple years ago.
There were a few Classics model lines. All were introduced in the late 1980s or early 1990s. “Classics Lites” had a lightweight heel and sole. “Classics Dry” introduced a new specially tanned, lightweight “WaterLoc” leather outsole which gave the pair better water resistance. “Classics Dry Premiere” was the last model and was introduced in 1999. It used a combination WaterLoc and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) outsole.
Most pairs were made from high quality calfskin leathers but FootJoy also allowed for custom orders in exotic leathers such as lizard, alligator and ostrich. Custom pairs might take six months to make and were very pricey. One guy told me he paid $900 in 1979 for an alligator pair. FootJoy even had an option to have the custom pair made with hand welted construction.
The negatives on Classics were that they were expensive and somewhat heavy – around three pounds per pair. This limited their market. When production ended in 2009, sales had been declining for years and the shoes were a bit of an anachronism in that consumers had almost entirely moved away from welted, leather golf shoes to less expensive shoes made of synthetic materials. In the end, FootJoy simply didn’t sell enough pairs to keep the line going.
How to Find a Pair
Even though FootJoy no longer makes new Classics pairs, you can still buy them secondhand. New pairs typically range from $250 to $450 on Ebay. A lightly worn used pair will run between $75 and $125. New pairs priced under $200 will generally sell within a day. There is still a fair amount of supply but it takes patience to find a pair in a particular size and style. Sizes 9.5 to 12, medium to wide widths are the most sought after. One Ebay seller has a surprisingly large supply of Classics priced from $300 to $450.
To find a secondhand pair in lizard, alligator and ostrich is rare but of those skins, lizard is the most common. Lizard wears well but can tear if excessively dry. When listed, alligator pairs can sell on Ebay for $1000+. While alligator looks amazing, alligator is more delicate and unconditioned pairs can crack and flake. I have seen just one real (not embossed) Ostrich leather pair so don’t hold out any hope for finding a pair in your size. That ship has sailed. You missed the boat. [insert additional nautical idiom here].
Avoid the FootJoy “FJ’s” model. FJ’s pairs look like Classics but the upper leather is lower quality and they have a synthetic sole. Also avoid Classics where the model number starts with the number “9”. These are women’s shoes. The TPU portion of the Classics Dry Premiere outsole has not aged well and often cracks. Check the photos of the outsole closely before purchasing a pair.
If you need a Classics pair repaired or resoled, LaRossa Shoe Repair in Weymouth, MA specializes in FootJoy Repair. I haven’t personally used them but they have great reviews and the work they post on Instagram is excellent.
How to Date
Below are some tips for dating pairs
- Prior to 1968, FootJoy shoes had a four digit model number. They moved to a five digit code after that
- Field and Flint will be stamped on the soles of pre-1970 pairs
- The FootJoy logo changed in 1998, from “Foot-Joy” to “FootJoy” (sans hyphen)
- “Classics” started to be imprinted on the insoles in the 1980s
- Classics Dry and Lites were mostly made in the 1990s
- Classics Dry Premiere were made starting in 1999
- Pairs from the 1980s and on had a two digit date code on the inside of the shoes. The month is the first digit A=January, B=February, C=March and so on. The second digit is the year.
Some of FootJoy’s Best
Below are photos of some of my favorite pairs that I collected over the years. Recently I have been selling off much of the collection but have kept my favorite pairs. A shoe collection is fairly impractical. Golf shoes in particular. And especially golf shoes not in your size. As I remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, shoe collections are right above warm apple pie a la mode. Oh so tasty. I do have a couple Classics pairs I wear when golfing. I generally have the best shoes in my foursomes but unfortunately, my shoes are way better than my game.
FootJoy 56028 – U-Tip Blucher in Brown Tegu Lizard and Calfskin
This is my favorite pair and was made sometime in the 1970s. Just a great combination of leathers and color. The lizard skins are masterfully aligned to the shoe pattern.
FootJoy 56721 – U-Tip Blucher in Light Brown Tegu Lizard and Calfskin
Similar to the previous model but in light brown. Made in the late 1970s. The lizard skin kiltie (or shawl) is impressive.
FootJoy 51771 – Shield Tip Blucher in Green Patent Leather and Suede
I believe this pair was made in 1968 or 1969 on the Rex last. It has the 1960s FootJoy logo on the insole and “Field and Flint Co” imprinted on the outsole. A fun combination of leathers. Not a pair to pick for wet weather.
FootJoy 52233 – Bal Saddle Shield Tip in Black Patent Leather and Shrunken Calf
This pair was likely made in the late 1970s. It was a popular style and one that FootJoy kept in production until the end
FootJoy 70300 – Bal Saddle Brown Calfskin
This pair was made in the early 1970s on the Aintree last. I love the six exposed brass eyelets and the natural sole edging. The pair is heavy – almost two pounds per shoe.
FootJoy 5180 – Wing Tip Saddle in Black calfskin and Shrunken calf
The pair was made sometime in the 1960s. The quality of the pebble grain leather is much better than what you can buy today.
FootJoy 57380 – Bal Saddle Wing Tip in Purple Tegu Lizard
Made in 1992. Most lizard pair are either black or brown. This pair is purple. Purple! Maybe burgundy.
FootJoy 57331 – Bal Saddle Wing Tip in Green Tegu Lizard and Tan Calfskin
Hope you enjoyed the post. It took a while to gather the information. If you have any corrections or additions, leave a comment below.