When I was in the shoe store last week, I was amazed to see one of these on the counter.
I was the last generation of kids who went to shoe stores where shoe salesmen waited on you, ran back for shoes in stock, and always measured your feet with one of these. I felt like every time I left the house I was getting my foot smushed in one of these. Probably happened twice a year. I figured it would always be part of the shoe-buying process. I didn't know that A) shoe stores would become like grocery stores one day, everything laid out for the grabbing, and B) eventually your shoe size kind of stabilizes. The latter I should have known, and the former I could have guessed. We had a Fayva nearby, after all, although I think we only went there a couple of times.
The tool pictured is the amazing Brannock Device, a hard metal gizmo that measures for length, width, and arch length to get the best fit possible. Charles Brannock invented the thing in 1927, and it is still made in the U.S. by his company today. I was very happy to find one in a Famous Footwear, and judging by the Brannock site, Payless uses them as well.
So we salute you today, Charles Brannock! With a simple but complex idea, persistence, and an erector set, you changed footwear and podiatric health for the better. Those devices were the very symbol of the adult retail world to me, along with items like cash registers, rubber stamps, deli scales, adding machines, and of course the credit card imprinter with the gas station logo on it.