Greats, a new footwear brand based in Brooklyn, makes designer sneakers for $59. The online-only company was founded last year by Ryan Babenzien and Jon Buscemi who wanted to create a line of modern sneakers based on iconic silhouettes (think updated versions of the low-top and the trainer).
"We sat down and said, 'Let's pick the greatest silhouettes in men's sneakers and design our own take on it,'" Babenzien says. "The high-top, the Chuck Taylor, and so on. We started referring to it those silhouettes as 'the greats.'"
The company's latest addition, the Bab, combines the structure of a chukka boot with the lightweight nylon fabric of a running sneaker. It has an elastic bungee-pull at the heel, a honeycomb insole, and an EVA polymer outsole which lends some toughness to the body. It's currently available in three colors – black, white, and red – and will expand to eight color options over the course of the summer.
Babenzien and Buscemi know sneakers. Babenzien served as the head of entertainment and lifestyle marketing at Puma and K. Swiss, while Buscemi worked with DC Shoes and co-founded Gourmet Footwear. The two men had often talked about starting their own label, but it wasn’t until they saw the success of other direct-to-consumer companies like Warby Parker and Everlane that they decided to take the plunge.
"We saw all these smart entrepreneurs launching fashion companies, but they weren't from the fashion world themselves," Babenzien says. "Because we did come from fashion, we felt like we might be able to bring something special to the table."
Much like Warby Parker, Greats isn't beholden to retailer markups, so it can keep prices low. The Bab costs $59 for one pair, less if you buy two or three at a time. The independent business model also allows the pair to be more experimental with their designs, Babenzien says. "It's a bonus of not having to answer to a store that wants to play it safe."