Monday, July 7, 2014

Seeing an Everyday Object

Have you ever looked closely at one of these?

I have to say I never thought much about the Brannock Device, or even knew its name, until today when I noticed that it was from Syracuse, New York.

It was designed in 1927 and it hasn't changed much since then. Before its invention by second-generation shoe-seller Charles Brannock, the only way to measure feet was with a calibrated block of wood.

As a bonus, the devices come in green, purple, red as well as black (which I think is the only version I've ever seen). There are devices that are specialized for men's, women's, and children's feet, as well as athletic shoes and ski boots.

According to the Brannock website,

At first, the invention was valued for what it did for the local shoe store. No one else in Syracuse could fit a shoe so perfectly.... Soon, however, word of the device got around, and demand was suddenly booming. In fact, during World War II, the Army hired Brannock to ensure that boots and shoes fit enlisted men. That's when Brannock first expanded his manufacturing facilities.

Brannock believed in all the things that are supposedly dead in industry. He loved small business. He loved working downtown. And he built his product to last. While some had advised Brannock to make his devices out of plastic, ensuring that they would need to be replaced every couple of years, he refused to entertain that notion, and would only make them from durable steel. Today, most shoe stores don't get rid of their Brannock Devices for 10 or 15 years, until the numbers finally wear away from so much use. 
Thanks to Charles Brannock for this little piece of solid technology in world where everything else seems to change.

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

“Have you ever looked closely at one of these?”

Yes. Paul Lukas’s ’zine (remember ’zines?) Beer Frame (the journal of inconspicuous consumption) alerted me to the beauty of the Brannock Device. As I remember, Lukas wrote in part about the difficulty he had (as a non-professional) buying one. Now it seems, everyone can order from the website.

My issues of Beer Frame are who knows where (I just looked). The story should be in Lukas’s book Inconspicuous Consumption.