Grant Stone’s Brass Boots in Dark Burgundy Kudu are mighty impressive. The build quality is absolutely solid, and while the profile is unmistakably a moc toe boot, it stands out in its own way.
I have to admit, though, initially the kudu leather didn’t totally blow me away. Is there more to this stuff than some cool scars?
Yes! Yes there most definitely is. Kudu is hugely unique—often in terms of its appearance, but also when it comes to its properties, performance, and provenance. As I learned more about kudu, I realized that the animal—not just the leather itself—is quite fascinating. And when combined with the Brass Boot pattern, kudu makes for one hell of a rugged boot.
Want To Learn About Kudu, Do You?
Here’s the basics: kudu are a species of antelope found throughout large swaths of eastern and southern Africa. Kudu leather primarily comes from the greater kudu, which bears the scientific name Tragelaphus strepsiceros. From Greek, the name translates roughly to “goat-deer with twisting horns.” Nice. And an appropriate moniker, since one of the defining characteristics of the greater kudu males are their curly horns, which if straightened out would reach a length of around four feet.
The greater kudu are also distinguished by their thick manes—the bulls of their cousins, the lesser kudu, have smaller manes—as well as the large white vertical stripes on their bodies, and their generally larger size. Greater kudu are between six to eight feet in length, with a height of around three to five feet at the shoulder. Adult cows weigh as little as 260 pounds, while the bulls typically weigh up to 600 pounds.
Greater kudu live in scrub woodlands, where trees as well as large shrubs dominate. This habitat offers the greater kudu a shady respite from the sun, as well as a place to forage for their food; greater kudu enjoy eating various leaves, grasses, and shoots, as well as fruits like oranges andor tangerines. The thick shrubbery where the kudu forage is often sharp and thorny, and is the source of their hides’ characteristic scratches and scars.
In some African cultures, there is a great deal of respect and admiration for kudu. The animal itself can symbolize many values—courage, fame, intelligence, and strength among them. The greater kudu’s horns are seen by some as a symbol of male potency, and are also prized for their use as musical instruments, or as containers for honey.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has designated the greater kudu as a species of Least Concern—in other words, it’s currently at a low level of risk for becoming endangered or extinct. The populations of greater kudu are particularly abundant in the southern parts of the continent, in countries like South Africa, where herds are regularly culled through hunting. Culling not only keeps the population in check, but it also provides a bump to the local economy, allowing domestic businesses to sell all kinds of byproducts of hunted kudu: meat, horns, and also hides.
The overwhelming majority of kudu leather that we feature here on Stitchdown is created at one tannery: Charles F. Stead & Co., a tannery located in Leeds, England. Besides being known for their fantastic suede leathers, C.F. Stead is the premier source of quality elk, deer, and antelope leathers in the world of footwear.
C.F. Stead makes a variety of different kudu leathers, such as Classic Kudu, Naked Kudu, and Waxed Kudu. While they each have their subtle differences, all of these leathers share some common traits. For one thing, they’re very soft, both in feel and in temper. In spite of those qualities, the leather is also known for being quite strong thanks to its dense fiber structure.
Of course, the thing you can’t miss that sets kudu leather apart is the heavy scarring. Scarring on leather in general isn’t unique to kudu; you’ll inevitably find scratches, bug bites, or brand marks on the hides of cows and other animal leathers. But with kudu, that scarring is almost unavoidable—it tends to be virtually everywhere on the hide, and therefore essentially impossible to select around, either by a tannery or a bootmaker’s pattern-cutter.
These particular Grant Stone Brass Boots are made with C.F. Stead’s Waxed Kudu leather. This leather is treated with C.F. Stead’s top-end Janus tannage (primarily used for full grain suede), which really brings out the naturally soft character of kudu hide. Additionally, this kudu leather has also been impregnated with wax, which not only aids in its water resistance, but also accentuates all of the scratches and scars on the hide. The overall result is a supple leather with a vivid natural character, offering a striking appearance to any boot it graces—including these Brass Boots.
The Brass Boot is built on the Floyd last, named after founder and CEO Wyatt Gilmore’s grandfather, who was an important part of Alden Shoe Company for six decades. (Read more about Floyd here.) The Floyd last is similar to Grant Stone’s popular Leo last—both fit best half a size down from your foot’s normal size.
I’m roughly 11.5D on a Brannock, and on my Leo-lasted Grant Stone longwing bluchers I wear an 11D with thin socks, which provides a snug, comfortable fit. I decided to err on the side of a little extra room in these boots, particularly to assure that thicker socks would fit, and went with an 11E. Bang on, a great fit. Roomy, especially with the higher sidewalls, but quite comfortable.
Build Quality and Style
As far as my thoughts go about the overall construction and feel of the Brass Boot, I’m not gonna tell you too much different here from what Ben already covered in his own impressions.
These things are hefty—not to say that they’re too heavy to wear, just that they feel built like tanks. The thick-as-heck midsoles took a little bit of time to fully break in, but once they did, walking in the boots felt effortless. The commando outsoles are fantastic, never making me feel anything but sure-footed in my step. Still clocking in under $400, these things absolutely feel like they punch way above their weight, not only in quality of materials, but in design and finishing. They’re real lookers, and they’re expertly crafted.
Where my opinion differs from Ben, however, is in how versatile these boots can be. This kudu Brass Boot contrasts sharply against the dressier, smart-casual pedigree of most of Grant Stone’s leather offerings. With Chromexcel, for example, it’s much easier to dress a boot up or down—you can clean it up, or you can let the natural wear flourish.
With this kudu leather, on the other hand, you’re dealing with a leather that looks much less uniform, a bit more wild, and chock full of character right out the gate. When you’ve got that kind of look paired with a commando sole, it’s a decidedly more rugged package. I’m not convinced I could wear them to more stately affairs the way I could with CXL or suede. In my view, they’re made to be worn hard and get beaten up—more suitable for being your first line of defense against inclement weather, or for going out on a day hike, like I did in one of my first days with these boots.
In a way, getting a pair of kudu boots feels somewhat akin to getting a pair of pre-distressed jeans—there’s a certain roughed-up aesthetic already baked in. But unlike pre-distressed jeans, kudu leather’s already-thrashed look is actually endearing (apologies to my Old Navy lovers out there). The scarring and scratches aren’t man-made; they’re a reflection of this animal’s life in the wilderness, and a stark reminder that these leather goods that we enjoy come from real, living creatures.
The rugged Brass Boot in Dark Burgundy Kudu stands in stark contrast to the neater, more clean-cut pairs of most of Grant Stone’s catalog. The wild looks of the kudu leather keep the Brass Boot from being a true go-anywhere, do-anything boot, but it’s nonetheless an extremely cool leather and I’m happy to have the chance to experience it firsthand. Kudu, as I also learned, are just extremely cool animals to begin with, and I have a lot more respect and admiration for this leather than I did before. I highly recommend checking out kudu leather, and the Brass Boot is a superb way to showcase it.