Cole Haan Lunargrands: A step forward or backward?

The Cole Haan Lunargrands: A step forward or backward?

Nike sole + Cole Haan upper. Bizarre? Yes. Cool? Absolutely.

Nike bought Cole Haan in 1988. They have had iterations of Nike technology in dress shoes starting with “Nike Air” in loafers in 2000. This collaboration history eventually led to the Lunargrand. Nike has been working on the “Lunar” foam technology for sometime and first brought it to their athletic shoes in 2008. The Cole Haan Lunargrands were introducted in February of 2012 and to my knowledge are the first usage of the Lunar foam outside of the main Nike brand.

(As a side note, I’m not sure many collaborations are still in the pipeline. In a February interview with Cole Haan VP, Phil Russo, he told Sneaker Freaker, “Wait till you see what we’re working on for 2013.” However in May, Nike announced its intention to sell Cole Haan and Umbro to focus more on the Nike brand. So who knows what the future holds for these types of mash-ups.)

I tend to be more traditional minded so I usually steer clear of these cross-function mash-ups. I used to turn my nose up at the Cole Haan “Air” offerings. Dress shoes are dress shoes and tennis shoes are tennis shoes, right?

Cole Haan Lunargrand descriptions

From the Cole Haan Lunargrand launch page

The Lunargrands seem to transcend this mindsight and prove that equal parts Nike and Cole Haan can actually work. Bloggers have been eating them up and through some personal mental gymnastics (I need dress shoes with more comfort and traction for plant and site visits, right?), I decided to pick up a pair from the SoHo store while in NYC this past June.

So far I’m quite pleased. I shied away from more athletic inspired colors (gray + yellow) and decided on a traditional “milkshake” suede and red sole. Compared to Cole Haan’s other offerings these are downright stealthy, which I prefer.

My Lunargrands, Milkshake suede with red sole

The first thing I noticed about these guys is the weight. They are incredibly light. I don’t own any recent Nike sneakers but I imagine they really don’t feel any different. The flexibility is far beyond even the most broken in pair of loafers. They worked well for walking around NYC and they also served me well on a recent trip to Toronto. If you want to feel like you’re wearing sneakers but don’t want to look like it, then these are the shoes for you. But I suppose that has been the point of all the “Air” collaborations over the years right?

Florsheim Imperial Wingtips side by side with the lunargrand
Heel comparison

My new Lunargrands side by side with a thrifted pair of Florsheim Imperial wing tips, “gunboats” if you’re in the know. And yes, I know the heel is worn.

That being said, I really didn’t want to like these shoes. As I’ve said before I’m more traditional and don’t really like the cross-function mash-up. I think that leather soled shoes can be quite comfortable if you get a nice pair that are properly fitted. Leather is not always the most traction friendly, sure, but there are plenty of nicely done rubber soled, traditional dress shoes too.

The Lunargrands to me represent the dress down phenomenon but I sadly can’t resist the appeal. They are lightweight. They are comfortable in that familiar way. They were damn nice while I was on my feet all day walking around a manufacturing plant. This leads to a bigger question, is there room for progress in the world of traditional men’s wear? As a materials engineer I’d like to think there is room for new material innovations like the lunar sole but these things will always be relegated to the runway and the world of fashion. The old guard will never accept them but maybe that’s OK.

Traditional gentleman, sometimes progress is a good thing. Just don’t get yellow soles.