I’ll be the first to admit that I love a great pair of stylish sneakers. Now, I’m by no means what you would call a sneakerheard, but there’s no question that the footwear preferences of The Style Guide venture far beyond rugged leather boots and the like. Be it a pair of white canvas sneakers or perhaps a more adventurous pair of basketball-inspired high-tops, there’s room for every style in a well-rounded sneaker rotation. That’s what first intrigued me about the footwear innovations going on at Brooks Heritage (led by the subject of today’s Style Guide Q+A, Global Heritage Director Shane Downey). I guarantee you, even if you’re not that into sneakers, you’ll enjoy this — and if you’ve ever wanted more insight into footwear design … you got it.
Brooks as a brand is lauded for its quality among those who pound the pavement as racers and casual runners, and they’ve supplemented that approach with the lifestyle-focused Heritage line (which you might recognize from my December trip to Baltimore). Think classic retro runners inspired by past Brooks designs and injected with some modern cool, plus versatile styling potential. That’s certainly the case with the Brooks Heritage Grand Slam Collection. Featuring two silhouettes inspired by classic Brooks tennis shoes, it’s a modern revamp done right — and it proves that a brand can surprise you with what they stock beyond just, say, running shoes. Yes indeed, I took a pair from the Grand Slam Collection — the Brooks Heritage Renshaw — for a spin on a spring break trip to Florida and was more than impressed with the comfort and style of these soon-to-be essential kicks. All of which is to say, if you’d like to learn more about the design inspo behind the Grand Slam Collection, read on for more insight from Mr. Downey. In the meantime, check out your neighborhood menswear guy (that’s me) on Instagram for spring sneaker styling tips and a look inside my footwear collection. Now, onto the questions!
TSG: Tell me about the design and research process that went into the new collection?
SD: The process to bring to life the Brooks Grand Slam Collection took about 16 months in total (Editor’s note: 16 months!) with the first 4 months just researching the past, looking through old tennis magazines and publications and then purchasing products off of eBay. We bought multiple samples and secured old catalogs that we didn’t have in our collection as a way to really educate ourselves on our previous position and what we wanted to accomplish in the re-launch of this collection. Getting the midsole and outsole right was the biggest priority and obstacle—we wanted an outsole that could be executed in both gum and solid rubber, which are staples of the sport while being soft in fit and feel (Editor’s note: The Renshaw is shown above — the Doherty features an all-rubber outsole and equally stylish looks). We had to create this new construction through old photos and similar outsoles, as we were working on a modern interpretation of what we had done in the past.
TSG: The brand has all sorts of retro-inspired runners, but what does the introduction of a tennis shoe silhouette mean for Brooks Heritage?
SD: Court silhouettes are a classic in the athletic/lifestyle world. Classic white leather ebbs and flows with trend, but is a mainstay around the world for all generations — representing a timeless aesthetic. For Brooks, the tennis shoe silhouette was the most natural extension beyond just trendS and the vintage element of the sport. This is a category that we’ve participated in the past in a strong way with marquee athletes, signature technology stories and success in the sport. Brooks has a tennis history that dates back to the early 80’s. … From our research and archive exploration, we identified a great history of product and technology innovation. It is the perfect way to celebrate our past and look beyond the run as we explore over 100 years of sport and style.
TSG: For the guy who wears stylish dress shoes or tough leather boots more often than sneakers, how would you style these?
SD: Right now — with the simplicity of street wear and overall fashion — the basics of white, black and grey are driving the industry as consumers are seeking a simple-yet-refined aesthetic that matches their apparel selections. The starkness of the white shoe along with a simple shirt/pant combo is absolutely on trend right now, as less is more. I personally would pair the pair the white-and-white leather Renshaw with a pair of slim-fit chinos for the spring with a printed button-up that would allow for great diversity from day to night on the weekend. It’s a classic pairing that is timeless in look and relevance.
TSG: Lastly, do you have a favorite shoe in the new collection?
SD: I personally love the White/Navy Blue Renshaw—it has that classic athletic/collegiate aesthetic that I like from a court shoe. I have memories of court shoes as far back as a I can remember, and what stands out is the white leather and subtle color hits like the navy blue on this Renshaw, and what it meant. From young consumers to the old timers, the white leather court shoe is a shoe and a design that stands the test of time.
Well, folks — Shane said it better than I could. For more on the brand, visit the Brooks Heritage site and shop away.
Thanks, as always, for reading — stay stylish!