When I first heard about Grant Stone, I was a little dubious. The new brand makes Goodyear welted shoes and boots in classic designs with American sourced materials, BUT they make them in Xiamen, China.
Now I’m a worldly enough consumer to know that “made in China” doesn’t automatically equate to “made like garbage”, but it’s safe to say that Chinese production process is much more of a black box than something made in the United States or Japan.
The black box in this case, however, put out a very well made product. The shoes from Grant Stone are roughly the equal in construction and material as their domestically made counterparts. Full disclosure, Grant Stone is also an advertiser (see the chiclet banner).
- Name: Grant Stone Derby in Black French Calf
- Materials: Black calfskin uppers, cow lining, raw veg-tan welt and outsole
- Construction: 360 degree split Goodyear welt
- Made in: China
- Brass eyelets
- Semi-structured toebox
- Shoe bags and alternate white laces included
- Available for a $340 at Heddels
The derby is a very sleek and good looking shoe. The natural welt combined with the black calf and brass eyelets makes for a more casual and more wearable shoe than your typical dress pair.
360 degree welts can come off looking clunky, even on boots, but the design here is balanced appropriately to make them feel natural and unweighted.
Grant Stone’s signature detail seems to be cross stitching below the eyelets on the front quarter.
That said, this pair won’t be winning any points for originality. The shoe is basically stitch-for-stitch the same as an Alden Plain Toe Blucher. It’s a razor’s edge to produce a classic shoe without heavily referencing the established makers, but this is fairly obvious.
To Grant Stone’s favor, if you’re going to take notes from someone, it might as well be Alden.
Grant Stone uses what they call the Leo Last, which is described as similar to the Alden’s full-footed Barrie. That assessment is spot on, I sized down half from my true Brannock size and they fit perfectly with a snug heel and ample room in the toebox.
Break in was about what you’d expect for an all leather shoe with a thick veg-tan sole–long. It took about 7-8 wears before they started to feel natural on my feet, which is no discredit to the shoe (more on that below).
If you’re going to talk the Alden talk, you’ve gotta be able walk the walk too. And these shoes, despite their Chinese origins, are constructed quite well. (I can’t speak to the overall quality of production shoes, as these were expressly made samples.)
The 360 degree welt is near flawless, with a very even trim where the split comes together. The heel stack and edge dressing are burnished well, stitching is even and uniform, although you can see a little bit of backtracking to lock in stitches on the quarter.
Now comes the portion of the review where we destroy the shoes. If welted footwear has something dirty to hide, it’s almost always in a place where the consumer can’t see without ruining their purchase. Luckily, we have no hesitations at breaking our new toys.
Grant Stone advertises that they use a 1.2mm full grain cow lining, a 3.5mm veg-tan leather insole, a steel shank and cork filler, and a veg-tanned leather outsole. And that’s exactly what we found.
The material quality on this shoe is very high, equivalent to the brands that they take cues from. The only synthetic materials we found in the shoe were an EVA foam heelpad and a plastic heel counter, both in no way detrimental to the overall quality.
The cowskin lining was as thick, if not thicker than claimed, with a small layer of structural interfacing between the calf and the lining.
One other thing to note is that while the calfskin uppers were clicked well, free of scarring and defects, they did smell strongly like sharpie straight out of the box. That scent, however, faded after a couple wears.
The shoes use a healthy amount of cork and that insole is thick, thick, thick. These shoes will take a good long while to break in that insole, but once it does, the other materials and construction ensure you’re set for years to come.
The foreign produced Alden clones we’ve seen in the past have cut a significant amount of corners to reach a lower price point. But that isn’t the case with Grant Stone. Their shoe may be produced in China, but it’s of near if not equal quality to the shoe it emulates and is about 40% cheaper.
The question you’ll need to ask yourself is, is domestic manufacturing and classic brand cachet worth several hundred dollars? To some, it absolutely is. But if you’re looking squarely at the $300 range and considering brands like Meermin, Jack Erwin, or even Allen Edmonds, I strongly suggest you consider Grant Stone as well.