We met our friend James F. over on Style Forum. We check in frequently with the conversations happening there about Goodyear-welt footwear, with enthusiasts often sharing best practices and how to style these shoes and boots for any occasion. James stood out for his fervent belief in the benefits of GYW, his impressive collection, and his shrewd observations. We were curious how he came to develop his approach to style and living well. Here's what we learned.
What spurred you to try Goodyear-welt footwear? Do you remember your first pair?
My start in GYW footwear began in the early 1990s. I had a job that required a suit and tie five days a week, thus I needed nice footwear. I bought a pair that looked nice, but were really lousy, cheap shoes. My feet hurt every day. The guy I worked for said “Go get some decent, quality shoes.” He suggested Allen Edmonds, so I wound up with a pair of Park Avenues. Of course, one should rotate shoes, so I got a couple more pairs over the course of the next few months.
My feet quit hurting, and I realized that good footwear, in the right size, was the ticket.
That was years and many, many pairs of shoes and boots ago. I don’t own any non-GYW footwear, outside of athletic shoes, any longer. Plus GYW can be repaired, meaning the “actual” cost over the life of the shoe is less than buying cheap shoes every year or so.
We hear you have quite the collection going. Can you tell us more? Do you have a favorite style? A pair you feel is missing and wish existed?
Currently, my collection of footwear from all brands is north of 100 pairs. As far as Grant Stone goes, I think I’m around 30 pairs. I got to that point as the GS just “fits my foot” as well as, or maybe better than, any others I own. Heel is right, arch is right, toe room is there...almost like putting leather “gloves” on my feet. I can’t say that about every pair of footwear I own.
My favorite GS style these days is the Diesel boot, specifically in the Saddle Tan leather, with leather sole. (I even have a “spare” unworn pair still in the box, just in case GS stops making leather sole entirely.) I wish that a Saddle Tan Ottawa were part of the lineup, and a Diesel on the Cavity Wedge sole would be a very comfortable boot for long walks.
What's your secret to making your shoes and boots last longer?
To keep boots and shoes looking good, I follow this routine:
Before wear, they are brushed and post wear, brushed, and damp wiped if needed. They all have shoe trees inserted, then put in their bags and onto the shelves. If they are appearing dry, or just look like they “need it,” I use VSC [Venetian Shoe Cream] or Bick4 to condition the leather. Suede gets brushed with a suede brush, and every pair of suede shoes has been treated with Tarrago Nano-spray before wearing them outside for the first time.
I do have some dedicated “work” boots for things like mowing, yard work, etc. These don’t really get treated well, sometimes not even cleaned for a year or so, but they are work boots only.
If you could change anything about conventional men's style, what would that be?
If I could change ONE thing about men’s clothing, it’s the “casualization” of everything. I marvel at what some wear, even to the grocery store. There is nothing wrong with casual clothing or jeans, and I wear casual a lot of the time. But clothing with rips/tears/looking like it should have been thrown away years ago, shouldn’t pass for acceptable.
Do you favor any other quality clothing or men's style brands or shops/stores we should know about?
Most of my clothing (dress clothing) was made-to-measure by a custom clothier in Minneapolis, but as far as “off the rack” brands I’m a fan of Gustin Jeans, and Duluth Trading for actual work type clothing.
Tell us about an ideal day in your life...from dawn 'til dusk, what would it look like? Where would it take you?
Since I’m retired, my ideal day is every day!
Ha! Fair. Did you ever receive a piece of advice that stuck with you and made a positive, long-lasting impact? What was that advice, where did you hear it? We’ll pass it along to our readers.
The best piece of advice I ever received was along the lines of positive thinking. Actually it was
Think Big. You are going to be thinking anyway, so why not think big and abundant?
Heard it in a speech at a conference once when I was much younger. I guess that would be my piece of advice and life lesson. That, and don’t forget to let those you love know you love them.
Do you have a favorite city to travel to? Which one and what do you appreciate about it?
Las Vegas – I just enjoy the 24/7 activity. Favorite place to go on vacation – Punta Cana in the Dominican, just beautiful beaches and relaxing atmosphere.
Perfect dinner meal?
Perfect dinner meal would have to be good ol’ roast chicken, kind of plain and boring, but I like it. With a good glass of wine, just the right dinner.
Anything we missed?
I would like to say that before I bought my first pair of GS, I had researched the brand pretty well. I was introduced to Grant Stone via a post on the Style Forum social media site, one of the members was saying how great the product was, which spurred the “Made in China” debate online. Everything I read said how GS was as good/or better than anything out there. A “Black Friday” sale came up, so I took a chance and ordered my first pair of Diesel boots, in Dune. Honestly, I was a bit hesitant to order as I wondered how good a Made in China shoe could be. When they arrived, I was blown away. They were not only packaged better than a lot of footwear, had a really cool little bottle opener thing, but also they were perfect. Not one stitch out of place, no dings/scrapes/loose grain – just stunning. Plus, my wife said she liked the color! The rest is history :)
I have NEVER received a pair of GS that wasn’t great, even the B stock I have purchased. In fact, I have had a difficult time telling why or how some of the B stock became B stock as they are better than a lot of Firsts I have purchased from another company. There is no reason, in my opinion, for anyone to even give a second thought to country of manufacture with GS shoes or boots. It is a non-issue as the quality is there and so obvious.
Thank you, James for sharing your time and insights. We look forward to continuing the conversations over on Style Forum or during another lively lunch break.
Gustin premium menswear, crowd-sourced and delivered at wholesale
Duluth Trading Co. workwear, clothing, accessories and outdoor gear
- Style Forum thread
James F. photographed by Lydia Woosley at lunch at Orchard Hills Country Club in Buchanan, Michigan. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity by Allison Vicenzi.