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The Measure

I can’t begin to count how many men have told me they haven’t had their feet measured since they were kids. Not really surprising considering these days you’re lucky just to find someone to get a pair of shoes for you in most shoe departments

I would venture to say that many stores don’t even have devices to properly measure your feet. The Brannock Device is the standard foot measuring tool for the world’s footwear industry. But few people are able to call the device by name, much less identify its inventor, Charles Brannock.

Brannock was born into the shoe business. His father, Otis Brannock, joined with Ernest Parks in 1906 to found the downtown Park-Brannock Shoe Co. in Syracuse, New York. As a Syracuse University student, young Brannock wanted to find the best way to measure the foot. He played around with the idea for a couple of years and finally built a prototype using an Erector set. In 1926 and 1927, Brannock patented the device and created a company to build it.

Prior to inventing the device that bares his name the most common foot-sizer in the 1920s was the Ritz Stick, made by the American Automatic Device Company of Chicago. A wooden ruler, the Ritz could measure a foot’s width and its length from heel to toe, but not at the same time. The Ritz stick is still a very common device for measuring feet in the U.K. and Europe.

In a day and age when so many high tech gadgets constantly bombard us it’s comforting to know such a low tech devise withstands the test of time and quietly provides a valuable service.