Like many others, my boot passion began with moc-toes. Sure, I had some very solid boots before that—some excellent Zamberlan hikers, suede Sebago chukkas I still wear here and there, a pair of brown Wolverine 1000 Miles that somehow were stolen from my desk at work. (Or mayyyybe I just lost them? No no, definitely stolen. Bastards.) But when I made the firm decision to channel my lifelong love of sneakers directly towards quality welted shoes and boots, moc-toes were my first stop.
I endlessly considered Red Wing’s archetypal 875s, before ultimately deciding on some Thorogoods I’ve had resoled twice and wear to this day. As my first Good Boots Purchased With a Purpose, the Thorogoods started out as every-day-ers, before transitioning into dog-walking boots (Frank the Dog likes very long walks), and now are largely relegated to “real” work—they’re still brutally attractive in their own way, just differently so.
As my collection grew and I realized that Red Wing’s mocs just don’t fit my feet quite right, moc-toe boots started to fade into the background of my daily boot radar. The style was now for work-work, and plenty useful for it, but that was pretty much it.
And things stayed that way—until Grant Stone released its Brass Boot, which sells for $340. I immediately picked up a pair in crimson Chromexcel with a lugged outsole. And boy am I back chugging on the moc-toe train all of a sudden.
Some Background on the Brass
Even though it was unveiled at the tail end of 2020 (one of the few positive happenings of the year), the Brass Boot was almost Grant Stone’s second boot ever. Wyatt Gilmore from Grant Stone actually planned to release it following the brand’s initial Diesel boot, and has archive photos of samples dating back to 2014.
But the boot Wyatt saw in his head wouldn’t allow the Brass to be built on the brand’s Leo last—it needed a higher classically moc-toe sidewall. And as Grant Stone was just getting going, he wasn’t in a position to buy two sets of lasts. The Leo-lasted Ottawa split-toe boot emerged instead, and the Brass faded into the development background as Grant Stone launched new styles, including its excellent longwing, plain toe blucher, and country derby—all fantastic models that offer a legitimately incredible value between $300ish and $350—and eventually, their dressier Edward and Chelsea boots.
But now it’s here, a half-decade of dreaming and tweaking later. To me, it’s very worth the wait.
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The Magic to the Brass Boot: Their Versatility
I’ve spent as much time pondering this boot as any in recent memory. “Why,” you may ask? “It’s just a simple moc-toe boot. Aren’t they all basically the same?” No, no they are not. Or at least this one isn’t. To me, this is as intriguing as a boot of this style can get, while being smartly wrapped in a wholly digestible overall package.
The most immediately noticeable difference is the placement of the apron and the moc stitching that rings it. It doesn’t extend quite as far side-to-side as the Red Wing or Thorogood, and doesn’t lunge nearly as far forward. This can play some interesting tricks on the eye—we’ve been trained to see that stitching in essentially the same place on almost every moc-toe boot. It’s seared into our aesthetic brains. From certain angles, the Brass Boot is initially almost…confusing. But just because we’re used to something doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. And the more time I spent with the Brass Boot, the more I got it.
From the side, the Brass is a thickly muscled, classic(ish) moc toe. But looking down—what I personally consider to be the most important angle on any piece of footwear, because let’s be serious, it’s myself that I’m really trying to impress and satisfy—it’s more like: fuck it, let’s go to a reasonably upscale restaurant. From that birds-eye vantage point, you get something bordering on the appearance of a classy apron-front derby shoe, as the tall sidewall and rigid toe drift out of prominence. And there’s something unique and legitimately satisfying about that.
Ok Then So What—Or Who—Are They For?
Some very important questions whenever considering a footwear purchase: when am I going to wear these? Where? With what? And often there’s a clear answer, one that fulfills the goal of a complete footwear collection. Well, these are my casual suede loafers that I’m going to wear without socks in the summer. These are my black oxfords for weddings. These are my hiking boots, for…you know…hiking. These are my old Vans that I’ve told my Frank the Dog he can pee on, if he really wants to.
So where do these Brass Boots fit in? Well, the Brass is a perfect boot for someone who doesn’t have an overly large, “complete” collection. For them, it’s the boot that can cover a huge percentage of a small lineup’s wears through its versatility.
To me they look best dressed up a touch—their handsomeness tends to swell a bit with some nice slacks and a sweater or blazer—but they can scale down to jeans or military-type pants and a t-shirt with ease. Casual Friday? Depends on the office, but in a lot of cases, absolutely. Casual everyday? In most offices these days, yep. Work around the yard? Certainly, although you need to be willing to beat that CXL up a bit. Dinner at that decently upscale restaurant? Why not! Grabbing one too many beers at a dive bar? Sign me up, please.
As the Brass boots can handle them all with aplomb, they can eat up a hearty chunk of, say, a three- or four-pair rotation. Especially with what that lug sole can do in snow, they might even be the only pair of boots some people really need at all.
But there’s a flip to that. So much of a broad shoe collection is made up of shoes that aren’t really “necessary” in any real sense. Some are, sure. And we’re damn good at inventing reasons why we couldn’t live without the rest. I see the Brass boot as something that also fits into a larger collection—at least mine—very nicely. Sure, you may have to cook up a reason to wear them; when I look at my lineup, they don’t necessarily jump out in the way other pairs do. They’re not the flashiest, or the most uniformly purpose built. They don’t scream at you.
But there’s something satisfying about the normalness of them. Hell, I don’t always want people asking tons of questions about my boots! Sometimes a quick passing “hey those are really nice” compliment from a person who knows next to nothing about what makes one boot better than another is exactly what you need. And every time I grab them, I find myself enjoying them immensely.
How Do They Fit?
Really, really nicely. The Brass Boot is built on Grant Stone’s new Floyd last (named after Wyatt’s recently passed grandfather, legendary Alden salesman Floyd Gilmore—definitely read this amazing story on Floyd), which fits very similarly to the brand’s ubiquitous Leo last, but with just a bit more room in the forefoot. The higher sidewalls add comfort—and the ability to wear thicker socks, which I love—without too much overall volume. The heel is nice and snug for me, which is arguably more crucial than anything that’s happening up in the forefoot. They just feel good.
For reference I’m right around, possibly just under, an 11D Brannock measurement. In these, Wyatt recommended a size 10E, and I’m quite happy with them. With nicely mid-thick socks, there’s a little room to wiggle the ol’ toes, but overall the creasing—a frequent worry when a fit isn’t totally snug—seems like it’ll be kept in check. Wyatt actually says that sizing up on these in terms of width or length helps mitigate creasing (he actually wanted me to try a 10.5E, and while I wonder what they’d be like, I’m very content with these), but I’m personally happy to swap a few creases here and there for a snugger overall fit.
That’s the one thing about this boot: I’ve gotten some meatier creases where the toe puff ends and flows into the unstructured vamp, but it’s still perfectly tolerable after maybe 10 or 12 wears. And the apron itself is displaying far less creasing than my Red Wing and Thorogood moc-toes so far, which to me is more important.
Let’s Talk Outsoles
I got my pair with Grant Stone’s new moderately lugged outsole, which provides some beef and real capability. It’s the same compound as Grant Stone’s microstud outsole you’ll find on the bulk of the brand’s lineup: same measurement on the durometer (a device that measures the hardness of rubber), same density. But to me it feels bouncier and more cushiony than the microstud, and possibly grippier—of course the lugs provide grip on dirt, but even on pavement there seems to be a bit more stick.
And that outsole is a major part of the versatility of this boot. While the heel has some very visible lugs, the lugs up front are inset in a way that you don’t really see them from most angles—there’s just a slight rise underneath the boot. In terms of what you can do with them, again, it’s pretty endless. Just depends on your personal tolerance level in terms of beating up the uppers.
I personally don’t love how most moc-toes take a heel; they just look more at home on a white wedge to me. And Grant Stone also offers a wedge-soled version of the Brass, right now in a saddle tan Badalassi veg-tan leather upper, which definitely feels more appealingly work-boot-y to me. But this crimson CXL model, along with the black CXL iteration, owns the heel so very, very hard. It imbues it with both ruggedness and class in a very impressive balance.
Leather and Overall Build
Neither of these is the most unique part of the boot, so I’ll just say what’s been said before: Grant Stone boots are built to hell and quality controlled like mad, earning them their place as one of the best overall values in quality footwear, period. And at $340, these deliver on that in full.
The lined crimson CXL is wonderfully thick and meaty, the stained 360-degree reverse Goodyear welt frames everything nicely, and I dig the touch of contrast the white welt thread provides. Good solid boot.
The Stitchdown Final Take
I have to say I’m very into these boots. Yes, they may be one of the most quietly unique moc-toes, but at the same time they’re not the most showstopping boot in history. And while I often personally love and want that in a boot, I also need a little normcore here and there. These are like normcore-plus. Maybe normcore plus-plus. And that’s a pretty good place to be.
While for now it’s just black and crimson CXL available on the lugged sole and Badalassi veg-tan on the wedge, I know Grant Stone is planning on rolling out a range of leathers in the Brass, including shell cordovan. And I imagine we’ll see some more creativity in terms of contrast midsoles/welts/eyelets/etc. But the base boot here is a very nice boot indeed. If you can figure out how it fits into your collection and lifestyle—even if it seems like it might not have a place at first glance—I heartily recommend it.