This past Friday I had the opportunity to catch up with Mountain Chang, the founder of The Primal Professional — the first men’s professional dress shoe that is a “barefoot shoe” in disguise. What’s that mean? It means Mountain has endeavored to bring to market a shoe that you can wear with a suit that won’t attract unusual looks; it’s a zero-drop shoe with an approximately 4mm rubber sole that utilizes various tricks of the eye to look like a traditional cap-toe men’s dress shoe, complete with an elevated heel and that annoying narrowing in the toe box; but the Primal Professional actually has no elevated heel or constricting toe box!
Intrigued? Well, read on to see a few sneak peak photos of the Primal Professional including a little video interview with Mountain!
About the Primal Professional
In a nutshell, the Primal Professional looks like a pair of Oxford, cap-toe dress shoes — the kinds of shoes you’d wear with a full-blown suit, a tuxedo, or a nice pair of slacks. Note I’m not suggesting these are merely a pair of dressier shoes that “you can get away with” wearing to a professional environment; these are the types of shoes you could wear and virtually no one would be the wiser that you’re wearing “barefoot shoes.” The Primal Professional promises to be the real deal — the dress shoe it seems like every male I know has been waiting for.
Below is a little more detail as to what Mountain set out to accomplish with creating the Primal Professional:
I set out to create a shoe that looks indistinguishable from the most conservative Oxford. A shoe you could wear through a job interview and into a black tie affair. Without compromising barefoot comfort. How is this possible? We came up with a couple tricks of the eye that you’ll love.
The best way to illustrate the key features of the Primal Professional is to compare them against a Traditional shoe, and earlier attempts at a barefoot dress shoe. A Traditional shoe has a heel lift, arch support, and a thick sole. We hate these things, but they’re what people expect visually of dress shoes. Earlier attempts take a dressy upper and attach it to a flat sole, so there’s no heel lift, no arch support, and a thin sole, but dressy looks are lost. Through creative design, our patent-pending Time CapSole allows the best of both worlds. While it may look like there is a heel lift and arch support, those structures are actually hollow, and allow the foot to sit flat inside for a real barefoot feel.
Another key feature of the Primal Professional is the innovative shape. A Traditional shoe has a dressy, narrow tip, but it severely constricts the toes. An earlier attempt shoe might try a wider tip, but that looks too casual. In developing our shoe, we identified where the toes are within the toebox, allowed ample space for them up to that point, then dramatically tapered everything thereafter into a dressy tip. Tricks of the eye. Like a hunter-gatherer in camouflage.
Sounds pretty good, no?
Interview with Mountain Chang, Creator of the Primal Professional
Since Mountain happened to be passing through Atlanta, we got to met up and talk shoes. It seems that Mountain, somewhat ironically, recently left his professional job where he had to wear dress shoes to dedicate his time fully to bringing the Primal Professional to market. He’s now doing everything he can to get the “PriPros” out in the market as soon as possible — possibly as soon as Summer of 2012 (Unfortunatetly, Spring 2012 doesn’t look possible, as Mountain had been hoping).
Below is a quick (~2 minutes) interview with Mountain we shot at our meeting, including a little video “foot”age of the shoes at the end:
Meanwhile, as pictures are worth a thousand words, here’s a little photo gallery goodness for you:
You’ll note that there are a couple of running changes to the Primal Professional design. One is that the shoes will now feature full-grain cowhide leather uppers. You can see the quality difference that full-grain makes in the above photo which shows an earlier Primal Professional prototype.
Also, the shoes will have a slightly pointier cap; rest assured that the tapering will not come at the expense of cramping your toes; Mountain explains that the shoes will simply extend a bit further out past the ends of your toes to create a more classic, pointed aesthetic but remain wide enough as is necessary to accommodate a foot naturally. Like Mountain said, it’s all about tricks of the eye.
Would you pay for these?
If you’re reading through this wondering, “Okay, how do I get these things??” Well, for now, it looks as though pre-orders are on hold until the first wave of shoes is created and released. That said, the Primal Professionals do not come cheaply; they’re priced at $300 a pair.
I’m hopeful that price might come down in the future as that’s a pretty penny to pay for a pair of shoes — even if they are dress shoes. That said, given that there are virtually no other options out there for a true, men’s dress shoe and Mountain is trying to get this product off the ground from practically nothing, well, I can see how the price makes sense.
The truth is that the success of a product like the Primal Professional really depends on there being enough demand — not just within the minimalist/”barefoot” shoe community, but within the population at large. Really, what male wouldn’t want a pair of dress shoes that didn’t completely cramp their toes? My well-broken in cap-toe Bostonian Classics are utter misery to wear; I rue the days I have to don them to a wedding or business event requiring dressier attire. The Primal Professional would be a godsend for such occasions.
What do you think? Are these the dress shoes you’ve been waiting for? I, for one, look forward to seeing the final product, and you can rest assured, we’ll be covering it fully here on BirthdayShoes. Sound off on your thoughts on the Primal Professional in the comments!
The Primal Professional – Original Promotional Video and Materials
Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad based in Atlanta where he works for MURAL in marketing. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.