As soon as I found my way into the world of welted footwear, Grant Stone emerged as one of the most attractive brands to me—which is no small feat, especially given the breadth of options out there from more established makers—because nearly every aspect of their models is carefully pieced together, from their patterns, to the leathers they source, hell, even to the shoelaces they use.
After a deeper look at Grant Stone’s history, it’s no surprise that their makeups come out swinging; Wyatt Gilmore, one of the brand’s co-founders, is a third-generation shoe enthusiast himself with plenty of family history intertwined with American shoemaking legend Alden. Since Grant Stone’s 2016 founding, that familial footwear lineage has undoubtedly played a role in catapulting Grant Stone to the forefront of welted footwear.
But what to get from Grant Stone? Personally, I’ve had a fear of brogueing for the longest time. For a while it was because I was far too dandy; mostly focused on suits and ties, I’d convinced myself that the perceived casualness of a full brogue was incompatible with my mostly collar-and-oxford-cloth ideal wardrobe. Some of the time, I found the broguing visually unappealing (and I still do for certain makeups—brogued cap toe service boots would make me go AWOL). But I started to enjoy more visually and texturally interesting fabrics for my suits that paired well with the busyness and more casual style of a full-wingtip brogue.
The subtle details of the brogue needed to be nearly perfect for me though—they couldn’t be too dressy, nor entirely too casual and thick. Their pinking (the jagged edge along the panels) had to be subtle enough to add interest without being too distracting from the pattern itself. Overall, my goal for my first brogue was a shoe that was 1) versatile, 2) entirely palatable from any distance, but 3) continuously revealed additional details the longer one looked.
Ultimately, that focus on details is what led me to seek out Grant Stone when I finally overcame my misplaced fear of brogueing, and I was immediately taken by the color of their bourbon suede model. Unfortunately, I was too late, and it had been discontinued. Was the universe trying to tell me that longwings in fact weren’t my style? Perhaps! But as anyone who loves shoes knows, sometimes you pull the trigger on a risky pair that quickly becomes a wardrobe staple.
So I hunted down some bourbon suede longwings on ebay, and was ecstatic to find a pair practically unworn for a mere $75 and pulled the trigger. (Besides, I’m fairly confident that the universe doesn’t know the difference between chrome and veg-tanned leather. Let alone, you know, wear shoes.)
Don’t worry about missing out on the bourbon suede—Grant Stone has plenty of excellent longwings in other leathers for sale through here
So How Do They Look?
Built on the same Leo last as about half of Grant Stone’s boot lineup, from the first moment the longwings were on my feet it was apparent that they aren’t for strictly formal occasions, with their busy lines and soft uppers—yet their casual form lets them pair perfectly with most of my winter dress wardrobe.
Typically, I find that a longwing looks best in a dress-casual ensemble—khakis or trousers and a sweater; give or take a shirt and tie—but can also take on the more casual role of a county shoe when paired with jeans, or the “I’m only leaving the house today to get the mail” sweatpants look.
They’re also incredibly comfortable, which is generally the case with Grant Stone’s shoes in my experience, but even more so here because of the C.F. Stead suede uppers on these longwings. I experienced virtually no break-in period, and was walking two miles back and forth across campus (I’m in college; not your professor) after only a day of light wearing. The softness on-foot is paralleled by how they feel to the touch. As I sit writing this, I’ve been absentmindedly stroking them like a Bond villain would a cat, plotting some devious shoe heist all the while.
Softness isn’t the only thing that these uppers bring to the table. C.F. Stead—the English archetype of suede tannage since the 1890’s—makes suede that can handle nearly anything you can throw at it. Water, one of the greatest suede antagonists, will at first bead off and then soak in. Once soaked, letting the shoes dry and giving them a quick brush leaves them good as new, with all of the playful nap still intact.
These shoes are also ready for nearly any situation. So far, I’ve worn my longwings through parking lot puddles, heavily salted snow, and on several walks in the woods. I even climbed some snow-covered downed trees just to confirm what they could handle (where I also nearly ate it, and saw a bird fly by with a squirrel in its clutches . . . and I got it on video)
After every outing, a little bit of drying and some loving brushing cleaned them right up, no worse for the wear.
- Onderhoud Handmade: Possibly the Best Value in Hand-Welted Boots
- Grant Stone Brass Boot: a Uniquely Intriguing, Wildly Versatile Moc Toe
- Thorogood Moc-Toe Boot In Tobacco Leather: Five-Year Review
- Tricker’s x Division Road Bourton: Five Months Deep Into Some Wonderful Kudu
- Red Wing Iron Ranger: A Four-Year Review of a Timeless Boot
- Tricker’s Stow: A Two-Year Review of a Very Excellent Country Boot
- A Deep Look at Heinrich Dinkelacker’s Signature Buda Brogue
- Paraboot Avignon: A Wildly Comfortable, Personality-Filled Split-Toe
- Red Wing Beckman Flatbox: The Japanese-Market Rugged Beauty
Sizing & Fit
Grant Stone’s customer service recommended I go a half size down from my typical shoe size (10.5 D) for all of their lasts, and that advice has held up very well after picking up a 10 D in their Leo last (as well as in their UK and Alexander lasts, which I may cover in future reviews if Ben decides I’m any good at this).
It is worth noting that I have long and narrow (10.7 Brannock, C width) feet, and I do have a few areas where my sizing could be improved. Grant Stone’s lasts are built to be somewhat wider, and while I haven’t found these longwings to be too spacious, my narrow feet do have a little bit of wiggle room in the toe box even when going slightly over a half size down.
The heel is also marginally wider than I would consider perfect, but is easily remedied by lacing slightly tighter. The length for both my toes and heel-to-ball is nearly dead-on, despite my slightly longer foot length, as is the arch height (I have fairly average arches).
My personal suggestion would be to round your Brannock length to the nearest half size before dropping Grant Stone’s additional half-size down, but you may have to adjust up for width if you happen to have wider feet—even if they’re very wide, you shouldn’t have any problem, as Grant Stone does offer widths up to EEE in many styles.
Grant Stone makes what I would consider to be the cast-iron skillet of boots. They don’t have the super slim looks of truly high-end dress shoes, or too many fancy bells and whistles (beveled waists, etc). But, they have a wonderfully satisfying heftiness to them, obvious longevity, and they’re most definitely going to improve with age. And much like cast iron skillets, you shouldn’t ever use dish soap on them.
Grant Stone sources their upper leathers from high-quality tanneries—their suedes are typically from C.F. Stead, smooth leathers from the likes of Horween and Annonay—and employs full grain leather lining and heel counters, and a veg-tan footbed, midsole, and welt. Grant Stone also uses stainless steel shanks (good to know if you hate taking off your shoes for airport metal detectors), which adds to the overall heft of their boots.
Perceived quality is also important, and the heft of Grant Stone’s footwear contributes to their feeling of durability and craftsmanship. This isn’t to say that lighter shoes lack that same quality feeling (they certainly can; just in a different way), but there’s something so satisfying about feeling like your shoes won’t give out on you—that you could trudge through a muddy forest, climb a few trees, and not have to worry about them (video evidence above).
Seconds and Secondhand
Grant Stone at full MSRP is already a fantastic value, punching way above their price point and often drawing comparisons to the likes of shoemaking stalwart Alden. But they also offer “seconds”-quality shoes on the regular, typically shoes that have some slight cosmetic defects that relegate them to the seconds page…along with an immense discount.
Being a college student, Grant Stone seconds are no doubt an attractive option, and I’ve already picked up two pairs for myself. But here’s the thing: I can only guess why my two pairs were seconds, as there isn’t really any massive flaw on either shoe. On these bourbon suede longwings, I presumed that they were marked seconds because a brogue punch hadn’t been removed, and there was a slight slit in the welt by the heel. After about a minute with a fork to pop out the missed brogue punch and a dab of leather glue, they’re virtually indistinguishable from a pair of firsts.
I’ve also picked up a seconds-quality pair of Grant Stone’s new Chelsea boots in chocolate calf, and I’m similarly perplexed why they were considered seconds. I’ve inspected nearly every inch of these boots, and my absolute best guess is that there’s some visible grain on the uppers that caused them to be discounted. The welt work is impeccable with no missed stitches and a hardly noticeable joint, and so is virtually every other aspect of these boots, but it would seem that the slightest imperfection warranted lowering their price by nearly a third. I think it really speaks to the overall quality of Grant Stone’s footwear that even their lesser quality pairs have imperfections that are virtually imperceptible to the discerning eye.
The Stitchdown Final Take
Overall, I absolutely adore these longwings, and they’ve made their way into my usual rotation regardless of weather. I feel like I can wear these things anywhere, and having such a reliable and versatile shoe helps me eliminate a lot of decision-fatigue (and unnecessary shoe purchases).
Grant Stone as a whole, whether it be first or seconds quality, is perhaps one of the best values in ready-to-wear welted footwear—and that’s why I keep buying from them. At this price point, you’d be hard pressed to find better quality materials, neater construction, or overall a better quality shoe.