After 3 years of faithful service, the time came to retire my True White Vans Authentics. My Vans were the definition of "beater shoe": bleached canvas and a rubber skate sole had carried me trough concerts, parties, tailgates, and every combination of prefix and "game" imaginable. I had washed them 4 times, Magic Eraser'd twice, and even spot-treated for, ahem, a Hawaiian Punch-based ethyl solution. But enough was enough. My True Whites had become Unsettling Beiges, and with white sneaker season a month away, I needed an upgrade.
While I could have settled with Stan Smiths like everyone you've ever met, I did a bit of research, emphasizing quality-per-dollar and minimal branding. After weeks of Googling, I chose the Greats Brand Royale in "Blanco". That's Italian for "back at it again with the white shoes".
Right off the bat, I'm blown away by how much Greats has packed into the "luxury" experience at a <$200 price point. The packaging, the construction, the detailing, all of it. According to Greats' website, the Royale is made of Italian calfskin, features a full leather lining, and sits on a stitched Margom sole. In other words, it's a direct formula output for "Common Projects alternative." Unlike Stan Smiths, Kent Wang Handgrades, or Axel Arigato Lows, however, the Royale is handmade in Italy. You pay ~$60 more over other CP Alternatives for a shoe whose greatest deviation from the real deal is just printed gold numbers. In my opinion, it was a small price for a big difference.
I've only had the shoes for a week at this point so it's too early to make any decisive calls, but I'm impressed with all that I got for my money. My only nitpick is the brown leather "G" branding on the tongue (so close to a true monochrome). I'd be much happier with white tonal leather, especially for Scandinavian-inspired minimalist fits. If it really bothers me that much going forward, I'll just seam rip it and still come out $100 ahead over used CP's.
Stay tuned for one month and end-of-summer updates as I wear the shoes more, but in the mean time, enjoy more high-quality pics below: