A man’s alligator, lizard & ostrich shoes
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    Auction Finds

    The man who owned the alligator shoes

    The man, an auction-goer whom I had chatted with quite often at one of my favorite auction houses, came up to me as I stood waiting for an item to come up for bids.

    Were you here Dec. 19, he asked. Sure, I said. I’m always here every other Sunday. Then he started to tell me about the alligator shoes that were sold that day, but before he could complete his sentence, I was so excited that I cut him off.

    Those were your shoes? I had all kinds of questions for the owner of those alligator, lizard and ostrich shoes and here he was standing in front of me. I began peppering Rodman – I asked him his name (we all attend the same auctions so we know faces but not necessarily names) – with questions. And he was very accommodating.

    He had consigned 28 pairs of shoes with the auction house – “I wasn’t wearing those colors anymore,” he explained – and had been told that they would be put up for sale around April. So he was surprised when he recently got a check from the auction house for them.

    Rodman bought the shoes from 1988 to 2002 when he was a salesman at a Philadelphia shoe store, where he worked for more than 30 years. He got a $2,000-a-year shoe allowance, and used it to have skins and belts specially made by the company that produced shoes for their clients. While the clients were paying from $800 up to $1,000 a pair, he’d get them at a discount for $500.

    “I was getting things in different colors, except the real expensive ones,” he said.

    The shoes at auction were among the more colorful ones he bought. There were yellows and reds, and combinations of royal blue and black and tan and green, and more. They were all size 7 ½ (“some 7’s”), Rodman’s size. He said that 21 pairs were skins, and the others were leather and suede.

    ‘Weren’t they in good condition,” he said rather than asked. Proudly. In fact, they were. It was obvious that he’d taken very good care of them.

    As a salesman, he’d have two to three pairs of skins made a year. The company Mauri was in New York, the shoes were made in Italy, and it would take about three months to get them. The Philadelphia store no longer has a brick-and-mortar location.

    “They’d send catalogs for shoes. The store would buy what they wanted for themselves and you (salesmen) could take the shoes and change the material to what you wanted. My shoes were different from what was in the catalogs.”

    Rodman had more than 200 pairs of shoes. “I still have a few pairs (he now has 75 to 90 pairs). They’re toned down, though.”

    On Sunday, he wore a nice pair of black suede boots that were classic. “I was more of a casual person. I was never into suits (that matched the shoes),” he said. “I called it ‘sophisticated casual.’ I dressed down but with a little bit of up.”

    A woman who read my post about the skins at auction recalled her uncle Jim who also loved skins. He, though, matched up the shoes with a tie, hat and handkerchief.

    I wondered who were the clientele at the store where Rodman worked. Who was paying $1,000 for a pair of skins?

    “We were selling to drug dealers,” he said. “Absolutely. We knew who our customers were.” He told of selling “alligator vests with Versace fabric in the back for $5,000 to $9,000″ in the mid-1990s.

    The market for skins took a dip around 1997, he said, but apparently, it was a good ride. “I was fortunate to be able to get the shoes and sell them. I was representing the store well.”

    I wondered about his own collection. Where does he keep all those shoes? “In my basement,” he said. “My basement is my closet.”

    His wife is not into shoes like Rodman and many of us. Thank goodness. It’d be tough having two shoe lovers in the house, I’m sure.

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    1 Comment

    1. Ha, ha, what a great story! How cool that you were able to actually meet the “man behind the shoes”!

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