A Battle for the President’s Sole

The companies jostling for brand placement on Barack Obama’s big day

Ira Boudway

PHOTOGRAPH BY 731

Until 2009, every president since Ronald Reagan took the oath of office with his feet in a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes. The Wisconsin company tried hard to keep the streak going when Barack Obama was choosing his inaugural wardrobe. They sent the president-elect’s valet two pairs of laceups: the classic black Park Avenue for the ceremony and a new model with a more squared-off toe, the Hyde Park, for the parties.

They were doubly disappointed. “I’m highly confident he wore Cole Haans,” says Allen Edmonds Chief Executive Paul Grangaard, “which would not have been made in the United States.” After glimpsing the interlopers on TV, the company sent a message to the valet, who told them there was still a chance Obama would change into their shoes for the inaugural balls.

Stiffed again. “I took the president’s shoes off at 3 a.m.,” Grangaard says the valet reported by e-mail the next morning. “I wish they had said ‘Allen Edmonds’ on the bottom, but I’m sorry they did not.”

Grangaard took heart when Obama later appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in what looked like a pair of LaSalles or Delrays, two similar Allen Edmonds models. “It was maybe a little bit of wishful thinking on my part, but I think he was wearing them,” says Grangaard. One clue: He’d learned about a month earlier that an Obama aide had bought both of those shoes at the company’s store a few blocks from the White House.

Now, Grangaard is once again angling to revive his brand’s status as shoemaker to the president. “We’re hoping to get in touch with the valet and offer to send a new pair,” he says. “It’s a new day.”

Hoping to Win Michelle’s Hand

J.Crew’s website crashed the day after the 2009 inauguration as people rushed to buy the green leather gloves worn by the new first lady.

Chuck Schumer Approves This Cheese

The New York senator is in charge of the inaugural luncheon — and he made sure the president will be seen enjoying a wide variety of delicacies from Schumer’s home state, including wines, cheese, honey, and maple syrup. (A staffer stresses there’ll also be South Dakota bison and Maine lobster.)

Obama’s Crystal Bowl

Didn’t get Obama a present? Lenox has you covered. For the seventh consecutive inauguration, the Pennsylvania crystal maker will grace the president and vice president with engraved glassware, which it calls “the official inaugural gifts from the American people.”

Party Like It’s Windows 95

The Obamas are expected to attend just two official balls — down from 10 in 2009. Those who don’t score tickets can dance and drink the night away at less lofty affairs backed by corporate sponsors including Heineken, Microsoft, Pfizer, Bacardi, and Gibson Guitar.

What Rhymes With Inaugural?

When Obama named Richard Blanco the inaugural poet, his books jumped up Amazon.com’s poetry bestseller list. His publisher rushed to print 3,000 copies of last year’s Looking for The Gulf Motel. Original print run: 1,500.

American Bubbly

For the eighth straight inaugural, the president will be toasted with specially labeled bottles of Korbel’s California sparkling wine.

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