The professional gentleman has always had a complicated, love-hate relationship with the concept of business casual. It is somewhat of an oxymoron is it not – business, yet casual? Business was business, and casual was casual. Nevertheless, the backend of the 20th century introduced an amalgamation of a business and casual option for gentlemen. Now the lines were strangely blurred. The ambiguity resulted in decades of indecisiveness regarding menswear and dress codes within the confines of corporate America. To be fair, there were some gentlemen that successfully navigated these new uncharted sartorial waters. Meanwhile, a bevy of others stumbled through the exercise quite literally with mixed outcomes.
And while the clothing component usually landed with a standard pair of khakis and a sport shirt; footwear really struggled to find its footing (see what I did there) in this new business casual environment. It wasn’t entirely the gentleman’s fault. The industry performed a disservice by offering some truly awful, unattractive selections for the already befuddled gentlemen. You can still spot a few on lonely shelves at a local DSW. However, in 1988, Cole Haan was acquired by Nike, and so began the infusion of urban contemporary style into men’s footwear that provided much-needed clarity. The early 2000s witnessed the introduction of the LunarGrand collection. The brogue and wingtip aesthetics of a traditional dress shoe was placed atop Nike’s proprietary Lunarlon cushioning system for the ultimate fusion of business and casual. The gentleman was afforded the appearance of a standard dress shoe for the office with sneaker-like performance.
Subsequently, Nike divested Cole Haan, but the company continued its innovation with their Grand.OS technology. Enter the Cole Haan ZeroGrand. Stylish. Comfortable. And insanely lightweight. To be honest, years back, I was a skeptic of this hybridization of formal and informal. Well, approximately 7-8 pairs later, I am definitely a ZeroGrand enthusiast. I receive consistent compliments whenever I wear my ZeroGrand oxfords in and outside of work. Cole Haan’s latest work is the ZeroGrand Stitchlite. It is the same innovative technology, but this time the upper receives the sneaker treatment with a woven knit construction. The woolen texture is a handsome standout, and for temperatures that hover between 30-50 degrees, it is a great complement for seasonal changes this time of the year.
To be absolutely certain, the Cole Haan ZeroGrand Stitchlite is ridiculously lightweight. In all seriousness, the accompanying shoebox literally feels empty when you pick it up. Why? Well, the ZeroGrand Stitchlite jettisons the leather, welt, cork, stacked heel, and whatever materials that lend weight to a gentleman’s shoe. Instead, the ZeroGrand Stitchlite employs construction that would generally be associated with an athletic sneaker. First, the Stitchlite’s upper is constructed with the following materials: 23% wool, 7% baby alpaca, 40% nylon, and 30% polyester. The fabric has incredible flexibility and breathability. It is water-resistant, but not waterproof.
The midsole is constructed of ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) and the outsole is rubber. The EVA midsole provides flexibility, cushion, and is shock-absorbent. The segmented rubber outsole provides more flexibility, traction, stability, and resistance to wear. The GRANDFØAM footbed offers yet more cushioning with an almost spongy feel. I attended an event – Donuts with Dads – at my children’s school which required me to divide time between both kids. Logistically speaking, one child was located at one end of the floor and the other child on the opposite end. Therefore, I spent the entire morning walking back and forth between both kids so I could participate in each class activity. And I must admit, the ZeroGrand did not disappoint. I cannot endorse playing basketball in the ZeroGrand, but it does offer comfort and on-the-go agility normally not offered by regular dress shoes.
After Donuts with Dad, I drove to the office to begin my workday. A quick word about the office: sitting at a desk all day can be hazardous to a gentleman’s health. A sedentary lifestyle in the office can lead to obesity, high pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. Health experts recommend that a workforce trapped within the confines of a cubicle environment should dedicate time during the day for periodic standing and walking. It is not uncommon to see fellow colleagues switch out their standard dress shoes for sneakers as they take walk breaks during the workday. However, with the ZeroGrand, the requirement to switch shoes is all but eliminated. You can perform periodic walks around the office and look great in the process. Now, let’s dive a little deeper with what may be deemed as favorable or unfavorable for the gentleman.
- The ZeroGrand Stitchlite is water-resistant but is certainly not waterproof. Speaking plainly, it would be best to avoid torrential rainfalls or burly snowstorms. For gentlemen residing in specific locations, the Stitchlite is very much a seasonal shoe.
- I did not experience any accidents, however, I do not believe the knit upper will be as forgiving to dirt or stains as its leather counterparts. It would be wise to address any grime or mishaps promptly.
- Because of the unstructured nature of the knit upper, the Stitchlite may feel a little large. There is a lot of “give” to the shoe. Nevertheless, thick to moderately thick hosiery may resolve this issue by filling out excess space.
- Depending on the model, the ZeroGrand oxford collection retails for $180-230. However, Cole Haan offers a tremendous amount of sales throughout the year, so procuring a pair below retail should be easy. However, even retail represents a great deal for a quality shoe in my opinion.
- Depending on your locale, the Stitchlite may only be suitable for the Fall and Spring, although late summer is definitely a possibility as well. It is definitely not constructed for inclement weather.
- Given the Stitchlite has a sneaker bottom, having it resoled will be quite cumbersome, even perhaps for an experienced cobbler.
- The ZeroGrand Stitchlite is incredibly stylish. The woolen upper is a unique interpretation of the traditional dress oxford. As a highly polished leather dress shoe adds dignified grace to a gentleman’s presentation. Here, the woolen texture of the Stitchlite adds depth and richness to the upper. The knit upper insulates nicely against chilled temperatures without making one’s feet sweat.
- Insanely lightweight, the ZeroGrand is perfect for travel and commuting. Boasting a sneaker-like feel, a gentleman does not have to worry about comfort or cushioning. The midsole and outsole are extremely flexible; bending and molding itself to the gentleman’s unique gait.
- Historically, Cole Haan has always offered a beautiful array of color combinations that can perfectly complement any gentlemanly ensemble. I especially like the color choices for their soles. I missed out on a pair of sandy cream Stitchlites with a brick red sole. As soon as that pair went on sale, the stock was completed depleted. Damn.
- Unlike leather, creasing has not been an issue due to the construction of the woven knit upper. The knit upper has a lot of flexibility and give, but it reverts back to its original shape. I would still recommend shoe trees, although the shoe paper that they arrive with will also suffice nicely.
- Some gentlemen may not want to admit it, but there is a certain level of vanity that coincides with purchasing and wearing attire. Everyone likes to look and feel their best. The Stitchlite will definitely make you stand out. The odds are in your favor that no one else in your immediate area will be rocking the same pair of ZeroGrands that you are wearing. They are fashion-forward and will surely garner compliments. I receive praise consistently regarding my ZeroGrand kicks.
- The ZeroGrand Stitchlite represents business casual the way it was envisioned – start with a formal aesthetic and slowly add informal elements to the mix. Conversely, one can start with a casual foundation and then introduce formal details. The Stitchlite was made for pressed khakis, crisp sport shirts, cotton or corduroy sport coats (pocket square optional), and some natty socks. And given its versatility, the Stitchlite can, of course, be worn with denim jeans on strictly casual days.
Gentlemen’s Standard Approved
Disclosure: TGS was not financially compensated for this post. Item was purchased for personal use. The opinions expressed are completely my own based on my experience.