Today’s favourite items only came onto my feet a few days ago, yet have already taken a clear position as my most favourite shoes. Ever. They truly are this magnificent. I’ve had an eye for Grenson for a while now, daydreaming about their brogues, and especially the ones with the more modern thick rubber soles. As a slightly more grown-up gent, the comfort aspect of a nice thick sole is not to be dismissed lightly, although matching it with a really distinctive brogue upper in navy blue suede made for a very pleasing combination. Having ordered a pair of Lewis V in Grensons sale, I was monumentally disappointed to find that Grensons are about a full size oversize compared to the marked size. So my lovely blue suede brogues in size UK9 are impossibly large for my normally UK9 feet. They’re available for swap or sale if anyone is interested. Pristine condition.
Anyhow, enough of the sob stories. My favourite shoes became a massive disappointment. I’m an adult, I’ll get over it. And I did, very quickly. A good friend in the UK happened to mention he had a pair of Grensons, something a bit special made in collaboration with Barbour. Of course, he had my immediate attention, and after showing some photos I was all in. The shoe in question is the Marske brogue. Especially as these are size 8, a full size smaller than what I normally use. Of course, now I know about Grensons annoyingly imprecise sizing I was fairly confident these would be a good fit. And they are. Spot on, and not only do they fit, they are really comfortable.
To start with the very first impressions I have to mention the packaging. It’s top notch. A sturdy cardboard box, proudly displaying both brands logos, and hand-written details, as befits an item of limited production. Inside, each show is packaged separately in a soft cloth bag, again labelled with the dual logos. When this much effort has gone into the simple task of merely packaging the shoes, you just know this is something a little special.
So what do we have here? Well, obviously they are brogues, of the variety known as full brogue, or wingtip. The uppers are a combination of the traditional leather, but the vamp and quarters (the non-leather, non-brogued part) are of the British Millerain waxed cotton material used by Barbour on their legendary jackets. The coffee-coloured leather makes for quite the winning combination with the dark green cotton. On the inside they are lined with rich calf leather. The laces are thin and waxed, feeding through brass eyelets. These shoes are built to last (no, cobblers joke intended).
If the over-side isn’t distinctive enough, the sole certainly should get your attention. A proper commando-style rubber sole, with prodigious grip and a Goodyear weld in contrasting green. These are after all country brogues, not your average fancypants city slicker brogues. I’ve been told that wearing these will lead me down the path of buying a Land-Rover, a matching pair of shotguns and trading Rupert the Corgi for a Labrador, and I can easily see that may be so. All part of the slippery slope that started off with me wanting a proper tweed jacket.
Now, I’ll not profess to be an expert when it comes to the construction of shoes, but from what I can tell from my own experience, both thought and effort has gone into this pair. From the combination of the materials of the upper, to the stitching of the seams, to the welting and detailing of the sole, it all leads to the conclusion that this is a properly made pair of shoes.
So, in summary, Grenson came good on these and I adore them. I’m a bit torn though on how to use them. One the one hand they’re so nice I don’t want to even slightly dirty them. On the other, they’re begging to be used like I’m sure Barbour intended. Trying to be a well dressed dad certainly introduces new issues into your life… Have Grenson redeemed themselves for being so silly about sizing? Well, I am utterly charmed by the country brogues, but I will still say that in this day and age it is quite unforgivable to not be able to mark shoes and garments with an actual and real size. Until this happens, keep in mind that the guys at Grenson have huge feet, so size one down or ideally try them on first.
Since writing this piece, I’ve been lucky enough to find the matching pair in the other colourway available. It’s difficult to decide which is the most perfect of the two! Without a shade of doubt the finest shoes I’ve had the joy of owning, and these will by all accounts last me many many years. That makes them both economical and environmentally friendly, in case you’re a little undecided about the sense in buying proper shoes.
In closing, here are a couple of videos made when these shoes were introduced. In the first, Tim Little, owner of Grenson, speaks of how the collaboration came about:
In the second, we see how the shoes are constructed in the British Grenson factory: