I’m a boot freak. But even I can’t wear boots everyday. I needed something dressy and a little more formal. When I discovered Grant Stone shoes I immediately ordered two pairs. Upon arrival I loved them so much I ordered a third pair. I guess I’m a shoe freak now too.
The packaging was meticulous, which I could tell was going to be representative of the quality of the shoes themselves. Inside the box, each shoe was individually wrapped in a cloth bag with wooden bead closure. Inside another small bag were extra laces and a combination shoehorn and bottle opener. A match made in heaven.
Grant Stone currently offers two models. I grabbed the Plain Toe in Crimson ($325) and the Longwing in Dune ($335). After I wore them for a few weeks I added the Longwing in British Tan ($335). My next will surely be the Plain Toe in Black ($325) to round out the collection.
Usually breaking in a new pair of dress shoes kills my feet after a day or two. I don’t know how, but I wore these everyday for a week and it was smooth sailing the entire time. They’re Goodyear Welted like a boot but offer the style and panache of a dress shoe. I found they worked equally great with suits or denim.
Each is made by hand on their own Leo last. Man are they solid. I loved that the specs were hand written on the inside lining of each one. They feature full grain leather uppers, and full grain lining. The insole, welt, midsole, and outsole are made of veg tanned leather. Cork filler and steel shank round out the construction. There are no shortcuts at Grant Stone. Once you go with a shoe like this you won’t buy shoes in a department store again.
Director Wyatt Gilmore is a third generation shoemaker. His Grandfather is in his 60th year at a little outfit called Alden (you may have heard of them). Wyatt’s introduction to shoemaking began at D.W. Frommer’s Bookmaking School in Oregon. While at school, he learned not only the hand making process, but also his “no compromise” philosophy behind every pair. He interned at a Goodyear Welt shoe factory in Xiamen, China and decided to set up shop there.
I recently had the chance to ask Wyatt some questions about his shoes, his pedigree, and how he came up with the name Grant Stone. Here’s what he had to say.
JL: Tell us about your pedigree and family history as a shoemaker.
WG: Both my Dad and Granddad have been in the Goodyear welt industry for their entire careers. My Grandpa is actually still working at Alden Shoe company, going on 60 years this August. As you can imagine, they both live and breathe shoes. Over the years, I have noticed they really focus on the orthopedic side of the business, emphasizing the importance of different lasts and the fit. They were the catalyst which sparked my interest and kept me here in China to learn more.
JL: After all of that history, when did you start Grant Stone?
WG: My Dad has been making GYW footwear in a factory in Xiamen for some time now. Over the years, the idea of making our own brand didn’t seem feasible because of the time needed to handle the everyday business. Last year we felt the timing was right and decided to go all in.
JL: Tell us about the Leo last and why you settled on that one.
WG: It was important to us that we started with a plain toe and longwing brogue. The Leo last is a classic shape for these patterns (Nettleton look). We spent some time getting the fit right and so far the feedback has been great. It offers a relatively snug heel fit, medium arch support and is a little full in the ball/toe box area to give some room.
JL: Where does the name Grant Stone come from?
WG: Grant Stone was a salesman at Alden Shoe Company back in the mid 1900's. My family always described him as being a true gentleman. Not only the way he dressed (never seen without a jacket and tie) but in his mannerisms but and how he treated everyone around him.
JL: What are your favorite features or characteristics of your shoes?
WG: Aside from leathers and finishing, the thing I enjoy most is the lining and insole. After you wear a leather insole shoe for a couple weeks straight, you put on a athletic shoe and it can get hot (especially in 80+ degree weather) and feels like your walking on something really unstable and squishy. I remember being really surprised to find that a heavy leather shoe can be much cooler and more comfortable than a mesh sneaker in the hot summers.
JL: What are you most proud of up to this point?
WG: Although we have just started, it’s always a nice shot in the arm when you get a note from a customer saying they love the fit of the shoe and can’t wait for another pair.
JL: What sets your shoes apart from other shoe makers?
WG: I genuinely feel we offer some of the best ready-to-wear goodyear-welt shoes in the market. That includes all of the North American and European GYW brands which range from $400 – $800. However, I don’t look at these brands as our competitors. This better grade market is small and unsaturated. The more GYW brands making quality shoes, the better. We want to offer different make-ups and product which can compliment what people already have.
One area I feel we shine is fit. It also seems most people don’t realize that there is more to a shoe than the leather being used for the upper. The materials used internally which are harder to see are equally important, if not more. We just stick to the basics, using the best materials we can find and combine them with a last that fits.
JL: What projects are next for Grant Stone?
WG: We want to become a quality shoe brand. Widths is one of our priorities but this will take some time. We need to build a base first along with some new lasts and patterns. So many things to do!
Boots are next on the list which we are really looking forward to. Of course experimenting with different leather and making some unique make-ups will also be part of the program. There are so many tanneries out there making great leather, the options are endless so we haven’t even scratched the surface.
Do you know of an awesome product out there that we should feature? Let us know via twitter @bandholz