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When it comes to innovation in mens formal footwear, look no further than a pair of Rafters, now available in-shop at Tailor Cooperative.

The line between sneaker and dress shoe has officially been blurred. Crafted with the finest premium Italian leather and made to nod to hightop sneakers, Rafters have melted the traditional. They have burned through history and created the first ever hightop dress shoe, with the bold style and comfort of basketball sneakers and the premium quality of a dress shoe.

Evan Polivy, the founder of The Rafter Club, has had a passion for basketball and menswear since he was a kid and grew up obsessing over the NBA. He knows just how much passion goes behind the design of sneakers and has brought that same drive to his dress shoe line.

For those reasons we are excited to announce our partnership with The Rafter Club.

In this interview with Evan Polivy, we take a look at his passion behind creating the first ever hightop dress shoe.

TC: First, tell us where the idea for Rafter Club was born.

Evan: It’s hard to put exact timing on the brand because I have been dreaming it up for a very long time – constructing this luxury basketball world in my mind, and feeling the desire to give men more variety in formal clothing. It started to really take shape around 2015  when I was living in Brooklyn and working as a Creative Director at an agency. I guess I had gotten to the point where I could no longer contain my excitement for the concept and felt like I HAD to try to make it a reality.

TC: What initially got you into menswear and fashion?

Evan: Basketball has been my #1 passion since I was a little kid – playing it, watching the NBA, collecting trading cards, and of course wearing the shoes. I’ve always connected with the constant innovation and creativity in basketball sneakers’ designs, as well as the players and game the sneakers represent. Walking out of a shoe store in a fresh pair of basketball sneakers was a better feeling than any other product could give me. I think that passion for sneakers sparked a life-long interest in fashion. As my style evolved to be more sophisticated, I wanted to bring that feeling I got from basketball sneakers into my more formal wardrobe.

TC: The shoes are beautiful. How did you approach the design process to arrive at your current line up of shoes?

Evan: Thanks! After some painful trial and error and botched orders, I was fortunate to be introduced to a manufacturer in Naples, Italy that has a long history of hand crafting dress shoes for brands like Ferragamo. They have been amazing to work with and completely open to incorporating my new ideas into their century-old shoemaking traditions.

My design process is finding elements of basketball sneakers that I love and sketching how they could be applied to dress shoes. I pull from basketball sneakers’ aesthetics – their shapes, textures, lines, use of color, etc., as well as their functionality – how they create breathability, comfort, etc. I then work  with the manufacturer to try to recreate these elements using traditional, high-quality dress shoe materials and construction.

TC: How would you categorize Rafters, and how do you recommend people style them?

Evan: Rafters are dress shoes and are meant to be worn in all of the same contexts you’d wear dress shoes. The materials, soles, heels, etc. all keep the shoes appropriate for any formal occasion, while the basketball design elements help the shoes stand out from the homogeneity of oxfords and penny loafers. I’m trying to help work towards having as much variety and opportunity for self-expression in men’s dress shoes as there is in women’s.

Personally, I think Rafters look best when paired with slim pants tapered at the ankle so that the tongue of the shoes rests on the outside of the pants – similar to how you might style high-top sneakers with joggers. Also, all of our shoes have a pocket inside the tongue, so you can tie the laces behind the tongue and hide the knot inside the pocket for a comfortable, clean look.

TC: You recently moved to Salt Lake City from Brooklyn. How have you found the adjustment?

Evan: Salt Lake has been a much-needed change of pace for me and my wife. I love the scenery and access to nature. But one commonality between BK and SLC that I’m grateful for is the cities’ love for basketball.

TC: What do you hope people wearing Rafter Club feel when they put on your shoes for the first time?

Evan: Confidence. In a basketball arena, the rafters are a place where legends are honored. A hanging number or championship banner symbolizes overcoming tremendous odds through dedication and hard work. When you put on our shoes, I want you to feel capable of ascending to the rafters in whichever arena of life you’re playing. 

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