Monday, April 30, 2018


1936 | Barone’s Shoe Repairing | Madison Shoe Co. | Lester Pincus Shoe Corp.
Manhattan: Duane Street - West Broadway

“… But tell me, how come you played a Sicilian instrument (1) while living in the Deep South? Have you ever lived near an Italian community?” 
“Yes, but not as a kid. About fifteen years ago we lived in Corona, in New York State, where also Louis Armstrong used to live. I remember this little Italian shoemaker, on my street, with whom I had become friends. 
Every time I came home from my tours I would go look him up, sooner or later, and have a talk. Yeah, he hadn't the slightest idea of who I was. To him I was just a neighbor with whom to share a bottle of wine, homemade by him. And he would fix my shoes with his magic hands. One day I tell him I'm going to Europe and what would he like me to bring him back? ‘A Borsalino hat!

Advertisement designed by Max Huber
Source: Italian Ways

When I got back to the States I gave it to him, but I would not take his money; we were just good friends. Anyway, one day I come home from a tour and find his shop is closed. So I ask his neighbor at the candy store: ‘Where's Frank?’” 
“‘He has a bad heart, so he's shut his shop and gone to live with his daughter in the Bronx. Here's her phone number.’ 
So I call her: ‘Is Frank there, please?’” 
“Yes, can I ask who is calling?” 
“Dizzy Gillespie.”

1948 | Dizzie Gillespie
Source: LIFE magazine October 11, 1948

“She drops the receiver, amazed, and I hear her asking her father, ‘What? You know Dizzy Gillespie?’ 
He comes to the phone: ‘Who's this? Dizzy who?’ I explain to him who I am and in the end he says, ‘Ah, sure! Gillespie, my next door neighbor…. So you are…YOU?’ 
How we laughed! He'd never had any idea of who I was; we were simply good neighbors. Great old man. He was Sicilian.”

Lillian Terry
From: “Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends.” - (University Of Illinois Press, 2017)


"Sicily’s where I got my collection of ‘Jew's harps.’ Do you know I used to play it as a kid? But when I listened to those Sicilian harps…wow! Boy, they were perfection, not like the American ones. So I got myself a whole box in Palermo, but now I have only four left. I've got to return to Sicily to get another box.”

The proper name in Italy is not Jew's harp but Marranzano.”

Dizzy Gillespie
From: “Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends.” - (University Of Illinois Press, 2017)

Marranzano AKA Jew's Harp

Friday, April 27, 2018


Of course!
1964 | Beth & Herbert Levine | On A Roll
Source: The Miami News | September 28, 1964

Unfashionably called SAUSAGE HEEL, it was actually named “On A Roll”, one of the many clever designs concocted by Beth Levine. The heel is made of kidskin rolled into a tight spiral while the vamp was available in leather or velveteen fabrics as seen in these - rarely - noticed pictures in LIFE magazine.

1964 | Herbert Levine for Tiffeau | detail
The zebra-patterned Roll Heel
Source: LIFE magazine | October 2, 1964

1964 | Herbert Levine for Tiffeau
The zebra-patterned Roll Heel
Source: LIFE magazine | October 2, 1964




The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns two pairs of Levine’s “On A Roll” (the first dated circa 1962, the second 1962), while the Bata Shoe Museum owns one (dated 1950’s).
Linda O'Keffe's "Shoes" missed the mark by ten year (1954, page 114).

1964 | Beth & Herbert Levine | On A Roll
At the museums: Metropolitan (L & C), Bata (R)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


1957 | Herbert Levine
The models "Anemone" (center) and "Etcetera" (right)
At Winkelman’s | Detroit
Source: Detroit Free Press | December 29, 1957

Light as a feather and colourful as a country garden …soft suede shoes made to dance through the season and on into sunny climes. (The model “Anemone”): blazing pink petunia. 
Star Tribune
December 1, 1957

For unknown reasons, the model “Anemone” was referred in a March 1958 ad as “Pink-a-dink-a-do”. Same price though.

1957 | Herbert Levine
The Model “Anemone” at Shoe Icons
Source: Shoe Icons

Above:  “Anemone” bursts into bloom on this graceful pump! $ 36.95 
Below:  “Etcetera”  -  marvellous spring-o-later pump with a triangular pin for accent. $ 27.95 
Detroit Free Press
December 29, 1957

1957 | Herbert Levine | detail
The model "Etcetera" 
Source: Detroit Free Press | December 29, 1957

1957 | Herbert Levine
The model “Etcetera”
Source: Etsy


The model “Anemone” is part of the ever growing Shoe Icons collection; it can also be seen at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Dated 1959), gift of "Beth Levine Shoes"’s author Helene Verin.

We found the model “Etcetera” in the Etsy warehouse priced $ 146.86.

1957 | Herbert Levine
The model “Anemone” at the MET

1957 | Herbert Levine
“Anemone” shoebox at the MET

"Thumbnail drawings illustrating and naming the shoes were made by Beth's sister Ruthie Ballin, and were affixed to the outside of the shoebox for easy identification of its content." 
Helene Verin
Beth Levine Shoes (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009)

Friday, April 20, 2018


THOUSANDS OF RHINESTONES lend brillance to this pair of $ 200 slippers, that are undoubtedly the prettiest shoes to ever waltz through an evening. Slippers like these in such unheard off colours as bright as orange, pale yellow and, of course, clear rhinestones, may be found at Ted land’s. Inspired by the Cinderella legend, the shoes were created by Herbert Levine. 
Desert Sun
November 23, 1969

1959 | Herbert Levine
3000 thousands rhinestones by Steven Arpad
Source: Desert Sun | November 23, 1959

HERBERT LEVINE hand-set his Cinderella pumps with three thousand glittering rhinestones … $ 200 a pair
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
September 11, 1958

1958 | Herbert Levine
For a selected few: $ 200 a pair
Source: Star Tribune | September 11, 1958

In 1963, Beth contacted Steven Arpad, who did the beading and rhinestone work for Balenciaga in Paris. Together they developed a technique for gluing stones to shoes that enabled Beth to create the first fully jewelled shoe, the “Dorothy” pump. When Beth wore a pair of prototypes aboard ship en route to Paris, buyers saw them and they became a sensation before she even reached home. They sold for $200, an exorbitant price at the time, and retailers couldn’t believe that women were actually buying them. 
Helene Verin
Beth Levine Shoes (Stewart, Tabori & Chang - 2009)

The Arpad technique is called pavee (and it is described here), while the name “Dorothy” might be only a reference to The Wizard of Oz as no names can be found in the advertisements.

The year however is one of the few mistakes in an otherwise solid and well researched book: it’s 1958, as seen in the ad, not 1963; also, in another part of the book, Helene Verin describes the 1958’s “Sea Mist” model (photo here below) as being created with the help of Steven Arpad. So, probably just a typo or maybe a collaboration that lasted a few years.

1958 | Beth & Herbert Levine | The model "Sea Mist"
Source: Beth Levine Shoes (Stewart, Tabori & Chang - 2009)

1958 | Beth & Herbert Levine | D'Orsay version of the model "Sea Mist"
Source: Shoe Icons

What we do know is this: the first known Arpad-Levine joint effort was a slingback with gilded heels back in 1956; the year before, the model “Ole” (upcoming) sported a rhinestone encrusted heel. The rhinestone decorations were a recurring Herbert Levine theme from 1955 to 1959. Could Arpad being involved in all of them? Probably, although we don’t have enough details to back this theory. 

Maybe one day.

1956 | Beth & Herbert Levine
Slingback with Steven Arpad gilded heels
Photograph: Ernst Beadle | Source: Harper's Bazaar/devocanada




The “three thousand rhinestones pump” is a rare beast: the only museum known to have it is of course The Metropolitan Museum of Art which owns three (3!!) pairs:

- PALE YELLOW:  donated by Beth and Herbert Levine DATED 1955

- GOLD: donated by Dolores Crevolin Gray  DATED CIRCA 1958

- CLEAR RHINESTONES: donated by Roberta Matthews Bernstein DATED 1950’S

1958 | The three 3,000 thousand rhinestones pairs
At The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Source: MET

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Lacy and beautiful - our petite feminine ANKLE STRAP SANDALS for spring and summer - by one of America’s foremost designers - Herbert Levine. 

Fine NYLON LACE to enhance your prettiest costume - formal or informal - it’s the lacy look. 

Nylon lace and kidskin in pink or nude. Nylon lace and suede in navy or black. 

L.Strauss & Co. advertisement 
Source: The Indianapolis Star | April 12, 1951

1951 Beth & Herbert Levine
The “Aced Laced” ankle strap
Source: The Salt Lake Tribune | March 29, 1951

1951 Beth & Herbert Levine
The “Aced Laced” ankle strap


1951 Beth & Herbert Levine
The “Aced Laced” ankle strap | detail
Source: Dutch Leather & Shoe Museum/The Salt Lake Tribune | March 29, 1951

Friday, April 13, 2018


No survivors from the 1949/1950 time frame - but one - or so it seems, but Helene Verin describes the very first collection:

“The Levine’s first collection, in February of 1949, consisted of one shoe, named “Femme Fatale”, which had a thin wrap-around ankle strap and a V-Cut closed toe vamp on a single sole. They showed it in a myriad of bright colours (which were considered vulgar at the time) and fabrications: satin with coloured stones, suede with grosgrain ribbons, kidskin with pearls and so on.” 
Helene Verin
Beth Levine Shoes (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009)

And here it comes the first advertisement we could find: December of the same year, and the Verin's shoe description fits.

1949 | Herbert Levine
Festive footnote - jet-flecked suedes
Source: The Salt Lake City Tribune | December 4, 1949

Given the good response of their debut, a few months later they didn’t stray to much with the second collection named “ Merry Gala”:

“For a fresh, smart, spring-feel afoot! They can’t resist the opulence of Herbert Levine’s “Merry Gala” collection … blonde, honey-mellow calf, emblazoned with minute, gold railheads. Hand lasted and masterfully designed, these are shoes you’ll wear, with distinction ’til after midnight!” 
Makoff advertisement
February 9, 1950

1950 | Herbert Levine
Merry Gala collection
Source: Salt Lake City Telegram | February 9, 1950

1950 | Herbert Levine
... more ankle straps
Source: The Corpus Christi Caller Times | November 19, 1950


1950 | Herbert Levine
The Velvet Touch
Source: The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle | August 11, 1950

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


1960 | Herbert Levine Days!
Source: The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle


Beth Levine never stopped designing smart and elegant shoes but her brand soon became known for introducing the boot into elegant outfits. Eventually, her boot designs led Herbert Levine, Inc. to winning their first Coty Award in 1967 (1).

Everybody thought it was a big joke when Beth Levine designed a pair of white boots and wore them in 1953 when she made a whole collection of them. It was only a few years later that Courreges brought out his white boots in Paris, and you know the rest of the story.

Boots have been so big that it was hard to believe the fashion can last another year. The husband and wife team of Beth and Herbert Levine know the right answer, though. What else can women wear when winter is cold and skirts are still short? Almost one third of their production this fall will be boots.

Eugenia Sheppard
Corpus Christi Caller Times | August 20, 1967

1967 | Beth & Herbert Levine
The Glitter Boot
Source: The Herald Statesman | Yonkers NY November 20, 1967

This is how Beth Levine explains the boot appeal:
The boot is interesting, not because of the fashion, but because of the feeling. The first time I did a high-heeled leather boot, I had this beautiful leather I could not stand to cut, so I made it into a seamless boot. It was comfortable, even though you had to pull the boot on. The last boots I made had the lightness of weight and the comfort of a nylon stocking. I believe that the boot in some form will always be in style because it is comfortable and a bad leg can look good in it.

Beth Levine | June 1978
Footwear Technology Symposium | Gaithersburg, Maryland
For the record, the Levines received another Coty Award (1973) - two years before they closed doors - the only shoemakers to be awarded twice.

September 1970 | Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office
Beth's Boutique - Beth's Bootery

The boot business was so successful that Beth and Herbert created three new labels at the end of 1969: Beth BooteryBeth Boutique and Lafitte. Forann, named after their daughter Ann (2); was established in 1965.
Tony The Shoemaker - named after Tony Acuti, production manager at Herbert Levine, Inc. was the first off-shot brand active since 1963. (3)

1965 | Tony The Shoemaker
Source: Buffalo Courier Express | May 2, 1965

IN BETH'S opinion, "Never before have boots been such an integral part of the entire costume as for this midi conscious season." One of originals, the laced boot, is getting enormous attention from fashion savants. "Lacings reflect a definite nostalgia and also fit perfectly into the concept of softened clothes," Beth said. "It takes a little longer to dress, perhaps, but it is, in itself, an enjoyment of dressing." 
The Daily Press
Utica, NY | September 14, 1970
The Levines joined forces with all the major American designers of their time “to do shoes and boots for their collections. They are keenly aware that shoes come first - that without the right shoe a beautiful design effort can end in disaster. The designers worked with the Levine’s months ahead of their openings to assure the right shoe to complete their looks. They concur with Beth on the importance of working from the ground up.

The Levine’s did shoes for the collections of Geffrey Beene, Seymour Fox, George Halley, Victor Joris, Kasper for Joan Leslie, Adele Simpson, Richmond Tarn, Jacques Tiffeau, Pauline TrigĂ©re, b.H. Wragge and the furriers Maximilian and Revillon.” (4) 

Add to the list Oscar De La Renta, Emilio Pucci, Halston, Bill Glass … Not that it is important, but feel free to find yourself a celebrity list of Herbert Levine enthusiasts as it is widely available everywhere.

1974 | Herbert Levine
Vinylite Pump
Source: The Post Crescent | February 7, 1974

By 1975, the exorbitant price of making shoes in the United States along with the budding popularity of sneakers, led Herbert Levine, Inc. to stop production. Herb had had enough: he took care of his employees’ pensions and severance, and then he proceeded to shut the doors forever. 
Although the Levines had had several offers to licence their name, they felt they would lose control of the quality, which was, to them, unthinkable. Herb felt that no licensing arrangement had ever succeeded and pointed to Schiaparelli as an example: “It was just royalties for a name.” 
Helene Verin,
Beth Levine Shoes (Steward, Tabori & Chang, 2009)

Funny how the Schiaparelli reference is so contemporary.

Filed November 26, 1976 | Granted December 27, 1977
Betherb, Inc. Patent of a two-portion boot

As soon as they closed production Beth and Herbert founded Betherb, Inc. and kept operating within the industry as consultants; an article from August 1976 - when their designs were showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts - placed them working with producers of shoemaking machinery. Betherb, Inc. also had a few patents under their belt.

Herbert Levine died of lung cancer in 1991, while Beth passed away in 2006, aged 91, also of lung cancer. She was still involved in collaborations with well known designers.

The brand Herbert Levine was briefly resurrected in 2008 by Dennis and Lynne Comeau (5), another husband & wife team, but it didn’t last and the label is now owned by an investment group whose Facebook page is dormant since May 2012.



The Coty American Fashion Critics' Awards were created in 1942 by the cosmetics and perfume company Coty, Inc. to promote and celebrate American fashion. The City awards were discontinued in 1985.

Helene Verin | Beth Levine Shoes (Steward, Tabori & Chang, 2009)

Helene Verin attributed the birth of Tony The Shoemaker at the end of 1969, but advertisements of the brand can be seen starting from May 1963; Forann closed its doors in March 1973.

The Daily Press | Utica, NY - September 14, 1970

Dennis Comeau is a shoe designer who practised under the late Bandolino designer Enzo Angiolini. Along with his wife Lynne, he gave new life to historical brand Bernardo. Bought and sold in a few years, they tried the same with Herbert Levine with a less successful outcome. Side note: Dennis Comeau was actively involved at the beginning of the highly influential New York punk scene although details are fuzzy.

1970 | Beth & Herbert Levine For Tony The Shoemaker
The Challis Boot
Source: The San Bernardino County Sun | December 7, 1970

Friday, April 6, 2018


1962 | Herbert Levine | The model NOVEL
Source: Desert Sun | September 7, 1962

The great profile of the Herbert Levine shoe, urbane as it is, comes from the designing genius of a farmer’s daughter. This erstwhile milk maid is named BETH LEVINE and she is the artistic half of the team of Levine and Levine who personally watch over the birth of 5,000 pair of shoes a week. 
Beth met and married Herbert Levine during World War II while she was a member of the American Red Cross and planned and directed entertainment for servicemen. After the war, with the memory of having spent several years on her feet dancing and dashing from place to place, and with the full realization of the persuasive powers of Mr. Levine, she agreed that shoes were certainly a most important item and that Herbert Levine was, indeed, just the one to promote them. 
So, in 1948 Beth and Herbert founded Herbert Levine Inc. with the arrangement that he was to handle the selling and business details and she was to be responsible for the designing of the shoes. 

November 1957 | Herbert Levine
Harper's Bazaar

From the outset the Levine set their goals high. Theirs were to be shoes which literally stood for elegance, fashion and new ideas. To achieve a new concept of shoe fashion the Levines will go almost to the ends of the earth. To this day Beth Levine, who instigated the trend to the extremely slender heel, has designed over 100,000 pair of shoes which have been made in the United States, airmailed to France and there fitted with an unusually slender, tapered heel [the famous Jordan Heel (2)] and then re-airmailed back to this country as a complete shoe. 
Mrs. Levine is understandably proud of her shoe designs because of the unusual use of fabric, leather and color combinations for which the Levine shoe has come to be famous. During yearly travels throughout the world the Levine personally select, for their shoes, brocades from India, silks from Siam, velvets and silks from France and tie silks from Italy. 
Although Beth Levine has found it exciting creating such designs as the “stocking shoe”, an innovation in shoe designs which strikingly glamorizes the legs of many of the world’s most famous entertainers including the very beautiful legs of Marlene Dietrich who owns several pair, she believes that the most satisfying thing about her designing work so far has been the creation of beautiful, radically new silhouettes which place as much emphasis upon fit and quality of workmanship as they do on fashion. 

1954 | Beth Levine ...
... is that something extra

In private life, Beth Levine keeps as busy a schedule as she does during “office hours”. The Levines live in Lower Manhattan in a spacious terraced apartment. On the home front Mrs. Levine is the attentive mother of a lively three year old daughter. It is especially for little Anna Sam Levine that the designing-half and the business-half of Herbert Levine Inc. spend their weekends on a Long Island farm. But, every Monday morning, it’s back to the city and the hum of business activity for this enterprising pair of talented young shoemakers. 
Source: Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada)

The above text is taken from a J. Magnin ad from September 27, 1956, and while it serves as a proper introduction, it’s not completely accurate. For instance, Herbert Levine married Beth Katz on November 1946 after they had been an item for four months. Herbert was Sales & Advertising manager at the shoe manufacturer Andrew Geller and Beth showed up for a job interview. (1)

Two years later, both unhappy of what they were doing they decided to go independent with the help of Herb’s friend Sidney Kornblum. They established Herbert Levine, Inc. on January 1949 (not 1948). The rest of the advertisement is the usual marketing fluff but at least is faultless when it comes to Beth Levine’s way of doing shoes. Their combined crafts led them to winning the Neiman-Marcus Award in 1954.

17th Annual Neiman-Marcus Award
Beth & Herbert Levine
Source: Sweetwater Reporter (Sweetwater, Texas)

Dallas, Aug. 21 - UP - A dairyman’s daughter and her Phi Beta Kappa husband will reach out for muchly-coveted Neiman-Marcus fashion “Oscars” when the Texas specialty store fills its lush pink and grey halls at its 17th annual fashion exposition. The accolades will go to Beth and Herbert Levine for their part in glamorising the world’s most famous feet.

…The young Levine’s are the operators of Herbert Levine, Inc., the sixth largest operation of the shoe industry and now 10 times its original size. And this year the firm will attain a capacity of 5,000 shoes a week. Young Beth and her size 4-B feet took leave of the family’s dairy farm in Holstville, Long Island, to become a stenographer and a shoe model for Palter Deliso. Subsequently she was employed at other leading quality shoe factories and given a chance to combine her styling and designing talents.

… the use of gold cloth and brocades from India, silks from Siam, velvets from Lyon, the silks from Como, cottons from England and dress silks from Paris has earned the Levine’s a reputation for fresh and trend-making fashions in exquisite footwear. But they feel their most vital work has been in radical new shoe silhouettes which the industry had therefore felt could not be made to fit.

Beth and Herb made shoe history with their importation of a complete wooden heel from Paris - the famous Jordan Heel. (2) And the assembly of a complete resort collection of shoes set another “first” for the famous couple. 
Sweetwater Reporter (Sweetwater, Tex.)
Vol. 57, No. 197 - August 22, 1954

1958 | Herbert Levine
Source: Star Tribune Sun | May 4, 1958

On our most recent visit to New York City we were keenly disappointed not to see Herbert and Beth - but true to form, they were in Europe discovering new leathers and the like. The Levines have always since their partnership, both personal and professional, been interested in new leather developments, new tanning methods, new textiles and other materials for shoe manufacture, They're also highly sensitive to general fashion trends which indicate changes in shoes. Quite in addition to fabric and leather and general styling, they recognize endless heel interest. 
Louise Wilson
Courier Journal (July 28, 1967)

PART 2/2


Beth Levine Shoes by Helene Verin (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009)

CHARLES JORDAN, Parisian bottier - not to be confused with Charles Jourdan, founder of the brand of the same name.

If you were mislead - like us - by Caroline Cox’s “Vintage Shoes” you might be aware that Beth Levine worked a brief stint at I.Miller but never as a designer, let alone their chief designer.

1958 | Beth & Herbert Levine
At Joseph Salon, Long Beach