About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the HVAC and hydronics industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
So, you’re probably thinking to yourself: “Why does Dappered keep recommending and reviewing dress shoes? Aren’t most people working remotely or going into the office a lot less than they were last year? I don’t even need to dress up anymore in my career. These sweatpants are practically tattooed on my legs now. Aren’t most people dressing more casually now than ever before?”
Yep. You’re right, the American people at large are dressing more casually than they were even just a few years ago. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t dress nicer than you have been. Lots of recent studies have found a direct link between getting up, getting dressed, and having more positive mental health. Even if it’s just changing out of your PJs and putting on something different, that old adage of “look good, feel good” really does make a difference. At least, it does for me! So, here lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to dress a little nicer than I have been over the past year. Instead of going to work in a tee and jeans, I’ll throw on a polo or switch to an Oxford shirt and chinos with boots, bluchers, or loafers. I’m still comfortable AF, but I feel way better about myself and that seems to make a difference.
When it comes to a needed mental boost… gotta be the shoes?
Speaking of looking good, today we are taking somewhat of a deep dive into Grant Stone’s newish Fairfield brogued Oxfords. If you’re a regular reader of Dappered, you probably already know that Grant Stone produces some of the best made boots, Oxfords, derbies, and loafers within the Under-$500 price tier. What you might not know is that the family behind the brand has been in the shoe business for over 100 combined years, both here in the U.S. and abroad. I believe that’s one aspect of why their products regularly outshine many other brands that cost significantly more money.
Grant Stone has earned a reputation for superior value. For under $300 USD, you’re getting Goodyear welted footwear, constructed with well above average materials, and put together by well-trained craftspeople who do impressive work from their Xiamen, China factory. So, how good are these Fairfield brogued Oxfords and how do they compare to other common brands? Let’s find out.
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.
Leather for the uppers is sourced from France
- Brand: Grant Stone
- Style: Semi-brogue cap-toe Oxford
- Size: 10.5 US (~44 EU)
- Last: Oliver
- Construction: 270° Goodyear Flat Welt
- Upper: Annonay French Calf
- Lining: Full-grain cow from Milwaukee, WI
- Sole: Vegetable tanned outsole with leather and rubber combo heel
- Details: Blind eyelets and foam heel pad
- Extras: Two cloth shoe bags, a shoe care mat/cloth, spare waxed laces, and a mini shoe horn
- Country of Origin: Xiamen Island, China
- Price: $295 USD
My pair of Fairfield Oxfords was ordered on a random Thursday, shipped out the next day, and arrived… a full two weeks later. That was due to what UPS calls “significant weather events” and had nothing to do with Grant Stone, just some untimely Winter weather passing through the areas around us. Normally, UPS Ground would have been here within two to three business days, which is perfectly fine with me.
FYI: Grant Stone offers truly free returns within 15 days of purchase. As usual, your returns should be unworn with no signs of wear on the soles or any creasing on the uppers. They recommend trying on your shoes on carpet or on the included cloth shoe bags, which is actually pretty genius.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Easy ordering, normally quick shipping, and two week FREE returns policy.
Spare laces. Shoe horn. Thank you note. Shoe bags too.
As I’ve said before, Grant Stone nails the packaging design and shoe unboxing experience. This pair of Fairfield Oxfords arrived in an elegantly simple cardboard box with minimal branding and an antiqued bronze pull loop. The box itself is better than it looks at first glance, having some noticeable density. Inside, the shoes were safely wrapped in a three foot long by one foot wide piece of fiber cloth wrap. I’ll bet you could use that to stand on when trying on your new shoes or boots. Also included is a pair of flannel cloth shoe bags, an extra pair of waxed cotton laces, a mini metal shoe horn, a shoe care guide, and a hand signed thank you notecard. Very, very impressive, especially at this price point.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Excellent kit. The box and accessories are great; the signed card is a lovely touch.
Pretty close to AE’s Walnut in terms of color
Fresh out of the box, the first thing you’ll notice is the lovely warm tan color of these Oxfords. Grant Stone calls it British Tan and the colors on their website are pretty accurate. If you’re an Allen Edmonds fan, this is your “walnut” shade. Alden fans would call it “burnished tan”. I’ll call it whiskey, and we’ll drink to that. There’s a very light dusting of darker burnishing on the toe, heel, and along the edges where the leather layers overlap, giving the shoe’s color some depth. The final polishing has left a nice, matte shine to them. Grant Stone sources these calfskin leathers from Tannerie d’Annonay (owned by Hermès), which is a fairly well-known tannery in France that’s been in business for over 180 years. Annonay provides French calf hides for a lot of brands, including Meermin, Allen Edmonds, Alden, Carmina, and many more. There are no areas of loose grain or noticeable defects on my particular pair.
The upper stitching is clean and on target throughout, as best I can tell. The pinked edges and punched brogue holes are also finely done; I’ve seen worse on my Alden Shell Cordovan shoes that cost more than twice as much as these. This model has six eyelets, as is traditional on the more Americanized styles, and each hole is backed by a blind metal eyelet. Brown, waxed round laces come pre-laced from the factory and there’s an extra pair in the box, in case you wear through or snap your original set. Finally, the leather welts are sourced from Barbour Welting Co. in Brockton, Massachusetts. The welts are dyed “antique brown” and are wheeled, which adds a minute layer of decorative detail that most will never notice.
Really nice work on all the pinked edges and punched brogue holes
Inside, you’ll find “buttery-soft” kip leather lining running the full length of the interior. One of my favorite features here (and most people overlook this) is the smooth heel cup. A majority of other brand’s have a seam at the rear of the shoe, probably for ease of manufacturing or cost-cutting reasons, but Grant Stone takes the extra step to move that seam around to the medial, ankle area. This, along with a full grain leather heel counter (instead of firm plastic), should help cut down on hot spots, heel slip, and heel pain that other brands are notorious for during break in. There’s also a leather heel pad with some light foam padding underneath, which sits on top of the thick vegetable tanned leather insoles. While you can’t see it, there’s a cavity beneath the leather insole and above the leather outsole. Grant Stone chooses to fill this void with granulated cork which will naturally compress and adapt to your specific feet for a more comfortable fit in time. There’s also a triple-ribbed steel shank hidden underneath the cork that helps provide additional stability as you walk. For comparison, some Goodyear welted shoe brands choose to fill that cavity with synthetic foam. While that stuff might provide some initial comfort, it generally doesn’t last as long as cork, nor does it conform to your foot as well in time.
Smooth heel cup = an extra detail/step that should increase comfort
Flipping the Oxfords over, you’ll see vegetable-tanned leather outsoles and combination leather and rubber dovetailed heels. The oak bark-tanned leather soles look thick, dense, and strong; quality wise, they feel similar to the top tier JR soles on my custom shell cordovan Allen Edmonds Strands. Obviously they won’t be as slip resistant as studded or lugged rubber soles, but personally I prefer the look and durability of smooth leather soles on my dress Oxfords anyways. If you’ve ever owned a pair with soles like these, you’ll know that leather soles can be very durable so long as you avoid large puddles of water, slush, or super salty conditions. Also, any local cobbler worth their machine will have leather soles available. The sole stitching is clean and on track within the channel carved into the leather. Finally, the stacked leather and rubber dovetailed heels are both elegant and well done. I’m a big fan of the brass nails used to help secure the heel tops! Another small touch that many overlook is the “Gentleman’s Notch” on the inside corner of the leading heel edge. This shaved corner helps to prevent your heels from snagging your pants’ cuffs, although personally, that’s never been a huge concern. It’s just a nice touch and shows that extra attention was paid during the design, manufacturing, and QC processes.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Great! Top quality materials, craftsmanship, and design details. Well done, GS Team!
Can certainly hold their own with the likes of Allen Edmonds as well as Alden
Comfort, Fit, and Sizing
Comfort is always subjective, but I find well-made dress shoes to be very comfortable IF they are sized and made correctly. The vegetable tanned leather insoles are firm on the initial wear, but over time, they will take on the shape of your feet. The cork filler underneath the insoles and the full-grain leather heel counters will also start to mold themselves to your feet in due time – normally 5-10 “outings” in them, whether that’s around the house or the office. After a good break-in period, these should feel great.
The Oliver last runs true-to-size, so I’d recommend that you start with your normal Brannock sizing. This pair in 10.5D fits me rather snug, like a firm handshake, with my favorite midweight wool socks. They’re not uncomfortable at all, but my taller-than-average arches are stretching the laced “V” facings out a little bit. I could probably take a wider width and be happier, but after a few trips to the office and back, I suspect that most of this tightness will go away as the footbed sinks in and molds to my feet. Up front, I have a little bit over a thumb’s width in front of my toes (which feels right) and there’s little to no heel slip around back. All in all, a decent fit out of the box, but I’d like to try a wider width for reference.
Note: If you know that you’ll need a wider width, Grant Stone also offers the Fairfield Oxfords in an E width (and some pairs in an EE), which is only slightly longer but over a half-size fuller. Grant Stone says the E width is perfect for those that are looking for a little extra room in the instep or ball area/tox box.
For reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in wider-fitting 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: 5/5 Stars – Snug fit that will break in over time. Go true to your Brannock size!
Grant Stone is here to make you think twice about the “usual” brands
I’ll keep this short and sweet: just buy them, you won’t regret it. Seriously.
If you need new dress Oxfords for school, work, or an upscale event later this year, Grant Stone should be your first stop. Personally, I’d pair them with anything from crisp Oxford shirts and slim jeans to more formal “Southern smart casual” dress shirts and dress slacks. Their wheelhouse is with business casual sportcoats and suiting in shades of navy, mid-grey, and especially earthy tones like brown and green. These Fairfield brogued Oxfords are a home run: they look great, they’re comfortable on foot, and they’re built to last. Grant Stone continues to be my benchmark for quality – both design and construction – at this price tier. Quite frankly, I’d put them up against my more expensive Allen Edmonds and Aldens any day, and nine times out of ten, Grant Stone comes out the victor. And to the victor goes the spoils. Check them out for yourself and let us know what you think. Cheers, y’all!
Avg. Score: 5/5 Stars – Strand killers. I wholeheartedly recommend Grant Stone and the Fairfields.