Philly’s Most Underrated Shoe Store: Head Start Shoes

Under the radar but utterly cool, Philly's Head Start Shoes proves luxury goes beyond a red sole.


Boots (and sandals, and mules, and heels) for all! Photo via Head Start Shoes on Facebook.

As a shopping editor, it’s imperative that I keep my stuff organized. The retail scene in Philly is always changing, and I need to stay abreast of what’s opening, closing, relocating, expanding, etc, etc. (Organization tip: I have a massive binder filled with business cards I collect from my scouting trips; each organized by retail category, with notes on why I liked—or did not like—each store.) But with all the changes, there are some spots that remain total gems. I think of these as The Stalwarts, the stores that stay steadfastly cool, but sometimes slip out from my radar. Stalwart #1: Head Start Shoes.

One of the most unassuming stores in the city, Head Start (in business since 1978) is the city’s go-to spot for shoes of a particular brand of cool. The shelves aren’t stocked with Louboutins or Manolos, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a ton of pin-thin stilettos here (except for maybe a few from Ixos). Instead you’ll find chunky block heels from Moma, modern platforms by Roberto Del Carlo, and the best boots ever (by Fiorentini & Baker, obviously).

You go here for Euro-cool—most everything is durable, wearable, walkable, cobblestone-friendly. You don’t go here for flashy red soles or It Shoes. It’s a quiet luxury here—quiet, perhaps, to a fault. But I recently discovered that the shop’s formerly clunky website has been replaced with this—hoorah! But it proves that flash doesn’t always win. (Anyone remember the appropriately named Stiletto on South 18th? It’s now Dandelion.) In any case, I plan on tempering my annoyance at winter’s final blast (more snow? Seriously?) by investing in a new pair of shoes—perhaps one of Ixos’s amazing oxfords.

Go here for: A mix of ultra-curated brands that outlast blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em footwear trends.

My picks: These mules by Vic Matie (okay, I guess you can’t totally pry me away from my heels), these Buttero gladiators, and these chic Momo loafers.