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STYLE : Shoe Store Taps Into Happier Days

January 13, 1994|JEFF KRAMER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Long before high-tech Air Jordans and disposable dress shoes danced onto the scene, feet dressed differently.

Shoes had sole, not to mention rugged double stitching and hand-carved leather uppers. People wore the same comfortable pair year after year and threw them out only as a last resort.

Now those same chubby, rock-solid shoes of the '40s and '50s are making a comeback of sorts at 7605 1/2 Beverly Boulevard.

The trendy little shop in West Los Angeles, named Re-Mix, specializes in shoes from yesteryear, including wingtips, cap toes, two-tone Spectators and a risque assortment of pumps.

The shoes are not knock-offs of originals nor refurbished "antiques." Rather, say the store's owners, Paul Glynn and Phil Heath, they are "dead stock," brand new originals painstakingly culled from warehouses and other secret sources.

"You've got to snoop around and talk to people," said Glynn, declining to specify his source for the shoes. "There's lot of travel, lots of small towns, cheap hotels and (bad) food."

In the year since it opened, Re-Mix has given Glynn and Heath a way to indulge their passion for fashion and to capitalize on the craze for all things retro.

The store's clientele ranges from style-driven hip-hoppers to young attorneys to musicians George Clinton and Lenny Kravitz, and actors Kim Basinger, Laura Dern, Carrie Fisher and Jeff Goldbloom, according to the owners.

Younger customers tend to see the shoes as a fashion statement, mixing and matching Buster Brown-style little boys' shoes or orthopedically correct "Red Cross" granny shoes with long dresses, for example.

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Other patrons are drawn to the craftsmanship rarely found in modern models.

"People like the quality, the uniqueness, the details that they just don't do anymore," Heath said. "Manufacturers don't even spend any time promoting those aspects. It's buy it, wear it, throw it away.

"I think there is a thing about going back to a simpler, sturdier time when shoes were these things you lived with."

The shoes cost between $20 and $100, and while they can make great costume accessories, that's not the main reason people buy them.

"Most of our customers buy them as everyday wear," Heath said. "It's not just something you buy as a goof."

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Current stock includes sturdy 1940s-era work boots, Red Ball Express sneakers and a pair of 1960s platforms purportedly made of marijuana hemp. There's also a pair of "spade shoes," just the thing to go with your zoot suit.

The store, decorated with life-size, hand-tinted posters of burlesque dancers and bathed in the soft sounds of jazz, sells 50-year-old sweaters and dungarees as well.

It also serves as something of an art gallery, displaying funky furniture and other odds and ends from artists Ruben Ramirez, Jim Reva, Jon Boc and others.

Among the odder--and less politically correct--items for sale are alligator and ostrich-skin handbags and sea turtle shoes.

But not to worry. The animals gave their lives for fashion decades before legislation was enacted to protect them.

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