By now you would’ve heard of Tod’s No_Code. But did you know that it’s not just the ‘shoeker’—that bantered portmanteau of ‘shoe’ and ‘sneaker’ that we see emblazoned on Tod’s billboards—currently donning the feet of global nomads? Conceived by Tod’s chairman, Diego Della Valle, No_Code serves as a division within the Italian luxury brand that’s dedicated to innovation: a space for designers to collaborate and create new products that fuses craftsmanship with new technology and, of course, that are all made in Italy. Such is the Tod’s way.
For example, at the recent Salone del Mobile in Milan, Tod’s unveiled No_Code Shelter. Created by Studio Andrea Caputo, it consisted of various structures made out of wood, steel and vinyl (enlivened with video installations) as an exploration of the relationship between luxury and housing for the modern man.
But the first commercial product from the No_Code canon was Shoeker 01 by Yong Bae Seok—the Korean designer who himself embodies the No_Code ethos. “Mr Della Valle came up to me and said, ‘I watch you, you’re Asian, but not just Asian. You were born in Seoul and now live in Italy and speak fluent Italian. Your life is the modern man of today. I know you’re an industrial and car designer, but I’d like for you to create a shoe for Tod’s No_Code’,” shares Yong.
“And that’s how it started. I’m not from the fashion industry, but I took my experience from the automobile world to create a shoe for men who are constantly crossing boundaries. Or, as Tod’s likes to say, people who are living out contemporary stories.”
After the commercial success of Shoeker 01 and Shoeker 02—the No_Code footwear is now a bestselling product for the Italian luxury brand—Yong, sipping coffee with me at the top of Seoul’s prestigious Shilla hotel, is excited to unveil Shoeker 03. All this, just a mere six months from the first drop.
“The shape of the toe is the same as Shoeker 01 and 02. We have continued to base the No_Code silhouette off the classic Italian lace-up shoe that Tod’s used to make,” explains Yong. “Because, although we want to make something different, we still want to respect the heritage of the brand.”
Which explains the shoeker’s appeal. It draws existing Tod’s customers in with its familiar profile and leather detailing, but with the introduction of an EVA rubber sole and mesh vamp, it strikes a chord with a new generation of men looking for a comfortable and stylish shoe that’s just at home in the office as it is in a café or, indeed, navigating a busy terminal—be it at a jetty, train station or airport. But what’s different with Shoeker 03?
“Shoeker number three was born after I met with my design hero, Marcello Gandini, one of the world’s most important car designers,” says Yong. “I showed him my initial drawings for the Shoeker 03 and he said that he loved it as the silhouette reminded him of a miniature car. It had similar proportions. When it comes to car design, beauty of shape and proportion tends to follow the 6:4 ratio. For the shoeker, I made the vamp-to-heel ratio 7:3 as I wanted a sportier silhouette, but it’s very similar. So I took what Gandini said about the shoe being a small car and added details to that effect.”
For Tod’s Shoeker 03, traditional tied shoelaces have been replaced with drawstring laces featuring a Tod’s embossed push-button stopper (for quick fuss-free access); the mesh upper of Shoeker 02 has been swapped out for neoprene with more leather detailing (giving the shoe more structure and, thus, creating a vamp profile akin to a car’s body); and, our favourite, the Tod’s ‘T’ detailing on the side of Shoeker 02 has been ditched in favour of an elastic band featuring micro Gommino dots (a nod to the brand’s iconic Gommino loafer but, also critically, resembling the grille on the front of an automobile). If you know, then you know.
Available in all-black, all-grey or a black upper with a white sole bearing a red heel accent, the Shoeker 03 is the grown man’s version of wearing those car-look-a-like kid’s shoes with wheels for heels and LED-flashing soles (remember those?). It’s footwear fun, but for the stylishly inclined.
But Yong sums it up best: “If the Shoeker 03 was a commodity, it is definitely not a hyped-up product like tech stocks—that might be hot right now, but will eventually face a correction. It’s more like a blue-chip asset. You keep it for a long time because it ages beautifully over time and it continues to pay dividends as it goes with everything in your wardrobe.” You heard it here first. Want to invest in your personal style? Go long on the No_Code.