Broken Homme Crafts American Shoe Story
Somewhere between the motorcycled revved-up surfside weekend and the ‘bring home the coin’ suited work week – you will find Joshua Johnson and Jim Leatherman, co-founders of Broken Homme, a men’s footwear company in Long Beach, California.
The pair started the company in 2012 after their ‘jobs’ in the action sports industry didn’t fill the bill for what these guys wanted out of their careers. Johnson’s initial concepting and Leatherman’s passion allowed them to bring to market a fresh and relevant product to guys looking for something that set them apart.
See Sountrack: LACED | Broken Homme | #NP from JACKarcher on 8tracks Radio below.
Both being ‘shoeheads’ as Leatherman puts it, they wanted to create a shoe that was somewhere between that knock around shoe you wear every weekend and that totally cumbersome and traditional lace up you cram into for the office. What they ended up with is a new generation of American-crafted men’s shoes refined and sleek enough for the job, and sturdy and industrial enough for the hard stuff.
I spent some time speaking with co-founder Jim Leatherman about everything from their commitment to American made, the culture the guys are building, the killer website and of course - shoes.
“To be honest, we both understood the headaches that can come from dealing with foreign manufacturing, especially for a small company. So as we looked more critically at doing things domestically we realized it was actually an incredibly viable way to go - and to scale a business.
We could visit factories, be hands on. We could get product that historically wasn’t readily available to shoe companies. Hell, it took us a year to nail down how to make a product we could stand behind with all the right partners and materials,” professes Leatherman.
“100 percent sourced, manufactured and sold from the US. And that has become something we are very proud of. We are definitely not a heritage brand, but we are new, fresh perspective, and a new generation of creatives and manufacturers.
When I asked Leatherman what the goal was when they started the company he said after a big laugh, “Well our goal was to run our own business. Pretty damn simple initially.” We both laugh understanding that need to escape the corporate cloud.
“But seriously, it was to build a self-sustaining business that was out from under the thumb of others who didn’t have the same philosophies we had. And, well, you know, pave our own destiny.” He paused.
“We really wanted to be able to unleash our creative energies in our own way and make a living doing it.”
And had the goal changed? “It is essentially the same, but we want to be able to get our message and brand out to a wider audience and to get people to see our product and associate with what we are doing. And really get it and like it.”
So take a swing by the Broken Homme website and it’s a virtual ride through the feel of the brand and the guys who run it. The website is a compelling place. You definitely want to hang with this brand and the people who run it or wear the product. You get right away that it is a brand that builds product for the men that are less concerned about nostalgia, and more interested in creating their own history. Jim is quick to credit Josh Johnson’s creative force in setting the direction for most of that.
They definitely have a sense of who they are, who the guy is that wears their shoes and boots and a clear goal of what they want to be when you hang out with them. Talking with Jim is like sitting at a beach bar drinking a beer with a guy who wants to tell you the lore of the big wave that nearly beat him. Engaging, chill, and worth buying another round.
I wanted to know how the guys were keeping it fun and real for themselves. They are definitely growing and the scope of their business has changed. It has certainly moved past the “hey let’s go create some shoes” stage.
“It’s a difficult balance for sure. I think for us the fact that we can focus. Knowing that when we go into work, we are working for ourselves. That can make most anything fun, even when you are going through the shit,” he takes a deep breath. “You know, that really does keep forward progress. Even when you’re in the factory or travelling to a trade show, or something that seems never ending – someone will come up to you and be totally jacked up about wearing your shoes. That reassures you that you are doing something right. It’s a strong measure of success.”
It is apparent that these guys have something solid. I asked Jim to tell me if he was to sum up what he wanted people to know about Broken Homme, what would he say.
“We are an L.A. based business, doing the American thing. We love being hands-on. It keeps us motivated and keeps us grounded. We are young guys, taking a chance, doing what we love. We are passionate and we are good at it. We have based our business around quality. And we hope we have built a brand image that resonates.”
Describe the Broken Homme man?
- The guy definitely has an elevated sense of style. Likes to seek out new things, and really abides by American made.
- A generation of artists and musicians. And the surfer, skater guys that are looking to graduate up to the next level of menswear.
- We definitely design for ourselves. So we are basically 'selling' to ourselves – action sports guys who have graduated to the next stage of our lives. But we are still out there on the motorcycles and the boards. We are those guys.
Name some of the cool guys that should have been in Broken Homme shoes?
FDR, yeah Roosevelt would be epic. Josh would definitely want Johnny Thunders. Steve McQueen is walking in them for sure.
What’s the music playing around your offices this week?
Well it’s everything. It could be in Southern rap, Mexican guitar, blues. Everything. Let’s get a playlist from Josh!