Sneakers? On my Stitchdown.com?!?
It’s true, we predominantly cover welted, stitchdown, etc footwear in these parts, and with good reason: it tends to be built to last, and its ease of re-solable-ability helps make good on that promise.
That said, we never want to ignore sneakers that offer something significantly more impressive in terms of materials and overall quality—whether that’s shoes from Viberg that feature their unique “modified Goodyear” build, FEIT products with a focus on veg-tan leathers and sustainability, or Crown Northampton’s Harlestone Hand Stitch Derbies, which are honestly built with better guts than many a welted shoe.
And hey, people do wear sneakers! So while we do NOT purport to be comprehensive sneaker experts in really any sense (in February 2023 at least), we do feel it’s important to highlight brands and products that align with a nice percentage of our core values.
Which brings us to the new Coast Sneaker from Grant Stone. While the Coast Sneaker doesn’t offer the exact same construction or components as Grant Stone’s welted footwear, it nonetheless imparts a fit that’s comfortable right out of the box, and looks damn good thanks to its clean lines and premium leather selection.
We think the Coast will resonate the most with two distinct groups: 1) people who desire the predictable styling of a dress sneaker, but want to get away from a white monochrome look, and maybe need something that fits just a touch bigger, and 2) Grant Stone’s core Goodyear welt-obsessed customers who need a sneaker, but aren’t willing to compromise on leather quality and provenance—or long-term patina potential.
It’s not an easy needle to thread! But after talking a bit with Grant Stone CEO Wyatt Gilmore, and getting some quality hands-on/feet-in time with the shoes ourselves, there’s a lot to like about the Coast Sneakers and Grant Stone’s mindset in creating them.
Pattern and Design
Grant Stone initially began concocting a sneaker back in the fall of 2019. While their factory in Xiamen, China had made cup-sole sneakers before, including some samples for J. Crew, Wyatt knew the play for a Grant Stone sneaker would have to be a little different. Rather than utilizing a softer leather that would remain static in its appearance, such as the napa leather used by brands like Common Projects, Wyatt wanted to make a sneaker that featured some of the leathers Grant Stone was known for featuring in its other footwear—articles that would patina and show beautiful wear with age.
Uncertain about how the Grant Stone audience would receive a sneaker like this, Wyatt considered the project to be a bit of a gambit. “The majority of our customers, they’re kind of Goodyear welt through and through.”
Nonetheless, Wyatt was encouraged by how companies like Buttero had previously explored the idea of pairing the dress sneaker pattern with leathers that had more character than a monochrome white.
“We’re going into this thing knowing that we’re making a sneaker that’s been done a million times,” Wyatt said, “But we’re just doing it our way with the leathers that we’re [already] using. That’s a big draw to what we do.”
The Coast Sneaker is being introduced in four different leathers: Italian calf in glossy Black and Tobacco, plus GS’s popular Badalassi Minerva—a veg-tanned article that has a nice hand and suppleness, and patinas like absolute nuts when pushed hard—in Natural and Saddle Tan.
In terms of pattern, the Coast Sneaker doesn’t stray too far from the dress sneaker mold. With its lace-to-toe pattern, traditional cupsole, and overall minimalist look, it’s practically a textbook example of the style. The one outward indication of this being a Grant Stone shoe is the small horse-head logo sewn onto the tongue.
Inside, there’s a soft full-grain kip lining, complemented by a roughout panel on the heel counter that will help keep your foot secure. The insole is a kip-lined Poron sheet—no veg-tan insoles here. While Grant Stone sampled some sneakers with veg-tan insoles, they chose not to include one in the final product. “I think for the majority of people buying this shoe, they’re not going to like it,” as the style suggests a wear experience that will be more flexible and forgiving from the get-go.
The sneakers are bottomed with a cupsole from Vibram that has been cemented and sidewall-stitched. Very worth noting: as the stitching goes all the way through into the lining, it will likely be a somewhere between a huge challenge and just impossible to have these sneakers properly resoled when the time comes.
Last and Fit
Wyatt has spent a great deal of time in sneakers from Koio and Common Projects, and noted how they tend to run long and narrow. The Coast’s Naples last, meanwhile, runs a bit more short and…well, not super wide. But it is nicely accommodating for a D-width foot. The Naples is the result of multiple iterations—the GS team tweaked it at least four times, focusing particularly on the width and depth in the ball area, “so the toebox isn’t miserable,” Wyatt said.
The common advice for this last is to select your true Brannock size, or size up if you’re in between sizes (the shoes are available in whole sizes only for now). Wyatt noted that the Naples might be a bit tricky to fit into if you’re an E-width or wider, but since there’s no shank or leather insole in the Coast Sneaker, you may be able to make it work by simply taking the next size up.
One additional recommendation we’d make for getting a good fit in the Coast Sneaker: consider adjusting how the shoes are laced. They arrived to us with a straight bar lacing configuration. While some dress sneakers out there are styled with a straight bar lacing, we didn’t find this configuration to be very conducive to a snug, secure fit in the Coast Sneaker (also let’s be honest on a sneaker it’s a whole bunch of work). We’d suggest re-lacing these shoes with something like a classic criss cross pattern.
The Final Take
After the debut of Grant Stone’s Field Boot, we expected them to continue delving into more-casual styles. What we didn’t expect, however, is that they would do a 180 turn away from the rugged outdoors and go back towards the urban-centric world of sneakers. Of course, Grant Stone has a habit of defying expectations, laying low before zigging when we expect them to zag. Lest we forget, this is the same company that carries a wide variety of classic shoe styles, but then also offers plain-toe boots that are decked out in ostrich leather.
While it is mildly disappointing that the Coast Sneaker isn’t really resolable, that also isn’t what Grant Stone set out to do here. They wanted to create something with a bit of crossover appeal. A shoe that can be worn by the GYW-obsessed in situations where even a loafer or some kind of handsewn moccasin just isn’t quite right; and by the sneakerheads who just want a little more out of their sneakers. In that regard, we think the Coast Sneaker is a darn solid choice.