Q&A with Grensons Owner and Creative Director, Tim Little
We were lucky enough to sit down with the Owner and Creative Director of Grensons, Tim Little, check out the full interview below:
What was it about Grensons that made you decide to take the brand on?
I think probably the main thing is history, it was a company with a wonderful and amazing history that hadn’t really told its story in the last 20 years or so. A lot of people didn’t know much about Grensons, I’ve known about the brand from when I was young but hadn’t heard about it for a long time. So, delving back into the story of the brand and the company and seeing all this amazing history, that was it really, the opportunity to bring that out again.
What is the process of designing and creating a shoe?
The process starts always with an idea to me. I’m not somebody who sits down with a pencil and thinks, “how do I draw a great shoe?”, it’s more about an idea of a type of shoe. So we might think of something if we took this brogue and put a chunky sole on it, or what if we put this and changed that leather? What if we made a last with a bulky toe or wide shape or really narrow? It kind of starts with a group of ideas, what if we did a hybrid between that type of shoe and this type of shoe and played around with it. It starts with all of these kinds of ideas, there’s an in-house design team, we sit together and we go through the ideas, I’ll put in my various thoughts, they’ll put in theirs, we’ll say “can we make that work?”. They go off and draw a few things up, then we get into prototypes and things.
The bit where it really starts to happen is the prototype stage. As soon as we get the first prototype back from the factory you can immediately tell whether it’s going to work or not. Sometimes you look and think, “No, that’s completely not going to work, that was a bad idea.” Other times you will look at it and think, “Yeah with a few tweaks I think this might go in the right direction.”
So that’s how it starts, then the design team develops it further, do more and more prototypes, lots and lots of tweaking. The sales team is always saying “the shows are coming up, you better hurry up”. We’re always making lots more changes, eventually, the product is ready and it goes into production.
What is your personal favourite Grensons shoe?
That’s a really difficult question, I think probably, it would have to be the Archie triple welt. To me, that is like an exaggeration of the heart of Grenson. I wanted to do a shoe that was just everything Grenson was about and exaggerated it, so it’s a brogue but it’s got exaggerated big punching, it’s on a big wide last, it’s got this amazing handmade welt to it that has loads of handwork in it which shows all the craft, all the time and everything. I love that shoe, you look at it, you wear it and people notice it then asks you about it. I think that’s what Grensons is all about.
Any tips on how to look after Grensons?
There are a thousand and one things you could do to look after your shoes better. The single most important thing is probably to rotate them, a really well made English shoe like ours, if you wear it every day, what happens is, it gets quite damp even if it’s hot. If it’s hot they get even damper, because the moisture from you goes into the shoe. The shoe lasts about half the time when it’s wet, so if you walk around in a shoe that’s got moisture in the leather, the sole for example will wear out a lot quicker. If you can rest them and wear a shoe every other day if you’ve got two pairs, three pairs even better. Put shoe trees in there, put them away and wear them a few days later, that’s important.
The other thing of course is to use decent polish, not just a very waxy polish that sits on the surface to give it a high shine, but a polish that’s a little bit more of a leather food that soaks into the leather and keeps it really supple. It’s all about the leather, it’s a very natural product and looking after that leather is what it’s all about.
How did you come up with ‘the good shoe’ slogan?
That’s really easy because someone came up with that in the 1930s at Grensons. When I got here, one of the first things I did was get all the old brochures and catalogues out. I noticed from about the 1930’s to the 1960-70s, all the catalogues and all the advertising that they did was this beautiful little slogan, “the good shoe” and I loved it because what’s so nice about it is, it’s so understated, it’s so English. It’s not saying, “the best shoe, the most incredible shoe, if you wear this shoe you’ll be fabulous” and all of that, just “The good shoe.” We thought, let’s just bring it back. We got our graphic design guys, we just want to do that logo, so give us a piece of artwork for it. They went away and redesigned it, but I said, “I don’t want it redesigned, I want it exactly like it was just recreated in the old typeface.” And so, we use it all the time now, it feels really relevant even though it’s kind of 1930’s design, I love it.
Who is the most memorable person you’ve made shoes for?
When I first started making shoes under my own brand, I first started Tim Little in the 90s, I was doing like making shoes for Chelsea when they played in the cup final in 97 and stuff like that. But there’s this guy who is my hero called John Lee Hooker and I thought I’d really love to make shoes for him.
I contacted him through his agent, which took a long time, all my shoes are also named after blues songs, his agent asked for a catalogue, so we sent a catalogue and he chose a pair of Chelsea boots, they were called “slidewinder” and his agent called, saying he couldn’t get them on, he was quite old and they are quite difficult to pull on. He sent them back and said, “do you have any loafers?”, so I sent him a pair of loafers and the message came back saying they were perfect.
As he was putting them on, he saw on the inside that they were called, “Whiskey & Women”, which is the name of one of his songs. This was by chance, I hadn’t sent it for that reason, but apparently, he loved that. That was my favourite moment that he was walking around in a pair of my shoes.
A big thank you to Tim and Grensons for the chance to get to know more about such a wonderful brand if you want a pair of Grenson shoes, we stock a wide range at Aphrodite, shop here.