Late December 2020 UPDATE: As of the very end of 2020/early 2021, it appears that GREATS might have moved production (and leather sourcing?) for the Royale from Italy to Portugal. See the kerfuffle over here. Yet some retailers such as Nordstrom, for now, are still saying Made in Italy. Perhaps they’re working off old stock? Big thanks to G. for the tip here.
About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the HVAC/Plumbing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
NOTE: The GREATS Royale, in various shades, has been on sale here and there as of late. And they seem to have just transferred a batch to Nordstrom Rack too. Sizes and color selection can be scattered depending on the vendor. At post time, it looks like the “Cuoio” color shown in this review isn’t on sale anywhere?
The GREATS sneaker brand is no stranger to the menswear community. If you’ve been paying attention to menswear at any point in the past 5+ years, you’ve definitely heard of the Brooklyn-based brand in some aspect. They were one of the first direct-to-consumer brands to really challenge the “G.O.A.T.” – Common Projects – by offering simple, stylish, and high-quality versions of the ever-popular minimalist sneaker at a more palatable price point. Now offered through sites like Huckberry, Nordstrom, J.Crew, and more, there are even more opportunities to score a great deal on some GREATS sneakers.
What is up, G?
- Brand: GREATS
- Style: Minimalist Sneakers
- Size: 10 US (43 EU)
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Stitched and glued
- Upper: Italian full-grain leather
- Sole: GREATS custom natural rubber cup sole
- Details: Full leather lining, OrthoLite insoles, and waxed cotton laces
- Extras: N/A
- Country of Origin: Italy
- Price: $179
Italian full grain leather kicks.
The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Excellent! No issues and highly recommended.
- 4 – Good. Above average, but not perfect.
- 3 – Average. Minor issues, might be good at the right price.
- 2 – Fair. Below average due to defects, flaws, or imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price.
Subtle design details like the tonal heel tab and side panels.
My pair of Royale sneakers in “Cuoio” tan leather was ordered through Huckberry on a Thursday and they arrived the very next day via UPS Next Day Air Saver. That’s unreal! It’s probably because I’m close to their Ohio warehouse, but I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t expect this to be the norm, but, just sayin’. Next day shipping is normally Amazon’s brand of dark magic, so I’m glad to see Huckberry and other vendors step up to the plate to offer it.
FYI: Huckberry offers free shipping on orders over $75 and has extended their free returns window from 30 to 60 days to allow for any inconveniences caused by COVID-19, so you’re good to go there. Just make sure you try on shoes on carpet and avoid excessive creasing.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Easy ordering and lightning fast shipping.
Lucy loves the shoebox shot.
My Royales arrived in a nicely branded and textured brown box. I prefer this box to the ones that my Common Projects or Gustin sneakers shipped in. Unfortunately there were no extras inside said box, so don’t expect any shoe trees, shoe bags, or spare laces. At this price point, I’d like to see some spare waxed cotton laces at a minimum, and some cotton flannel shoe bags would be ideal.
Score: 3/5 Stars – No spare laces or shoe bags, which isn’t on par with other brands at this tier.
Buttery smooth Italian full-grain leather. No noticeable imperfections.
I don’t speak Italian, but Google says Cuoio is Italian for “leather” and I think that’s kinda vague in terms of what you’d call this color. Me? I’d say it’s whiskey, caramel, or butterscotch. Whatever you want to call it, I think it’s a warm, mid-brown shade that is going to pair very well with indigo denim, earth-toned chinos, or even navy dress slacks if you’re in an environment where sneakers can sneak into your “smart casual” aesthetic. The Italian full-grain leather is buttery smooth with zero noticeable imperfections. I’m a big fan of the subtle style additions that GREATS has added to the Royale so that it stands out just enough from the other minimalist leather sneakers from brands like Common Projects, Gustin, KOIO, etc. Those include the tonal leather side panels and heel tab, punched holes on the vamp, and the color-matched waxed cotton laces. There’s a barely visible GREATS logo embossed on the tongue, in case you forget what brand of shoes you wore today.
Squishy insoles and perforated leather linings.
Looking inside, you’ll notice the cuoio lining that runs from heel to toe. Interestingly, they’ve perforated the side panels to help aerate the interior a bit. That’s a unique feature that’s absolutely needed. In my experience, fully leather lined shoes tend to run a bit warmer than average. The removable insoles are leather-topped OrthoLite pieces made from open cell foam. This extra cushioning feels very squishy. Allegedly, they are anti-microbial too, which is neat. After removing the insoles, you’ll notice that they’re using a fiberboard midsole and that the rubber cup outsole is stitched to the upper.
That custom GREATS branded outsole is made from natural rubber and has a neat tread pattern. It’s essentially a homage to the Margom cup sole that most other brands source, but personally, I like the tread pattern on this one better. Whether or not it lasts longer than the Margom unit is up for debate.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Great! Well made from above average materials and construction at this price point.
Custom natural rubber outsole, stitched to the upper.
Fit, Sizing, and Comfort
The all-leather Royales fit about a half-size larger than standard Brannock measurements, so I suggest sizing down a half-size from your normal Converse, Vans, or sneaker sizing. The shoe’s last is average in width with a toe that’s a touch shorter and fairly rounded. Those of you with wide or longer than average feet may struggle to find a size that works without trying on multiple pairs.
Comfort is always subjective, but I find the leather lining to be very comfortable on my bare feet as well as with socks. While the mid sections of the linings are perforated to help your feet breathe a bit better, they don’t move air as well as real athletic sneakers. If you know that your feet run warmer/hotter than the average person, I’d recommend letting them air out frequently. The removable, leather-topped OrthoLite foam insoles are thicker than most sneakers and feel pleasantly cushy. I like ‘em.
For reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in most dress shoes, including Alden’s Barrie last and Grant Stone’s Leo last. I take a 10.5 E in Allen Edmonds 65 last, as that last runs too narrow for me. I also take a 10.5 in Vans and an 11 in most Adidas or Nike sneakers.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Fits a half-size larger than Brannock, runs warmer than normal.
All in all, I’m a big fan of the GREATS Royale leather sneakers. I think they offer an understated, unique design and are made from top quality components and craftsmanship. For the price, you’ll be hard pressed to find something else that’s all-around nicer and readily available through many merchants.
Avg. Score: 4.25/5 Stars – Pretty dang good for the price! Highly recommended.