Oi Polloi

An Interview with Paul from Yogi Footwear

Published: Fri Nov 02 2018

Yogi is an English company who know a thing or two about brown shoes.

Inspired by classic comfort shoes from the 70s, their designs have a humble, down-to-earth feel to them missing from a lot of contemporary cobblers.

We talked with main-man Paul Batista to find out a bit more…

Okay Paul, what’ve you been up to today?

We’re a small team and we run the brand from the ground up so we’re always busy. This time of year’s always about refining next season’s range. Today we’ve been getting the finer details like the right shade and thickness of stitching and laces signed off.  

Yogi was started in the 90s, but a lot of the designs are influenced by shoes from the 70s – things like the Kalso Earth Shoe with the negative heel.

The brand was originally directly influenced by the Earth and Roots shoes from the 70s. A Danish lady called Anne Kalsø developed the negative heel by observing the motion and behaviour of the foot when walking in sand and the associated benefits on posture. The wider shape also allows the toes to spread naturally when walking.

It seems like the late '60s and early '70s was a real breeding ground for comfort shoes – why do you think this was?

During the early 70s the concept of simplicity and wellness was embraced by the young generation - including the student community in the US - as the antithesis to the previous generation’s stuffy formality.

Kalsø had by then opened her first store and was a key protagonist in the emergence of brown comfort shoes as a fashionable yet practical item.    

We’ve seen a lot of interest from Japan in our negative heel style, which is likely by virtue of the wider form.

What are the other designs influenced by? There’s a definite classic American outdoor flavour to some of your shoes.

Absolutely. The Lawson moccasin is definitely influenced by Native Americana. We’re also doing well on the sustainability front – vegetable tanned leathers, water-based glue, natural rubber. These things weren’t necessarily developed back in the 70s, but they’re cornerstones of the sustainable model, which also happens to be part of the philosophy.

Suede and crepe is a truly wondrous combination – why do you think it works so well on a shoe?

It’s a classic combination. A lot of contemporary clothing and footwear has origins rooted in military apparel. I think you have to credit the Clarks Desert Boot, adopted by British Army officers in WW2, and later by American preppy and British and French youth movements.

The lightweight, flexible properties of suede and crepe have travelled well and, at some point, there’s been some cross pollination with Native American moccasins, and here we are...     

"The detail is in the materials and construction, not superfluous bells and whistles."

This might be like a father picking his favourite child… but what is your favourite Yogi shoe?

The Willard Negative Heel in Tumbled Leather - the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn.

And, barring any Yogi designs, what are your three favourite shoes of all time?

The Paraboot Michael, the Spring Court G2 and the Birkenstock Boston.

Good choices. Maybe a tough question, but what makes a ‘good shoe’? There’s a lot of stuff out there, so what sets a great shoe apart from something average?

The best shoes I’ve owned were either made in Europe or the US, where they have a shoemaking heritage on a higher, almost cultural level. Something I’ve noticed, and which is one of Yogi’s cornerstones, is that the detail is in the materials and construction, not superfluous bells and whistles. It should be a simple product executed with care and integrity.  

I might be wrong, but a lot of people who are really into shoes are often into other things pretty heavily too. Have you got any other obsessions?

Military surplus outerwear and house plants. I spend a lot of time looking shifty in Garden Centres.

Haha, who doesn’t? Have you got any words of wisdom you’d like to add?

Only that I’ve been privileged to make a living doing what I’m passionate about. I’m fortunate to work with a great brand and product, visit some amazing places and meet some great people on my travels. 

And the bear jokes never get old.

See the Yogi shoes here.