It’s now over 150 years since company was started by Charles Searle back in 1859. Bolton Footwear is immensely proud of their South African heritage and ensures that the brand moves forward with purpose.
Grasshoppers manufactures more than 800,00 pairs of shoes per year at the brand’s original production facility in the Southern Cape community of Great Brak and Oudtshoorn every single year. The Grasshoppers brand was established in 1966 where an astounding 22 million pairs of shoes have left the factory – destined for the feet of grateful South Africans who have trusted the trademark Grasshoppers comfort and quality for over half a century.
Grasshoppers is now one of South Africa’s most recognizable names in the footwear industry, it’s a brand that transcends, age, social and economic divides and it is a 100% proudly local, quality product. The Grasshoppers factory employs some 1000 local craftsmen (some of whom are third generation artisans) living in Great Brak River and the surrounding Southern Cape area.
MADE BY HEART & BY HAND
Besides from being a visually iconic shoe, Grasshoppers have stayed the course for South Africans because of a key factor – comfort. Designed to be worn for long stretches of time, be it at work or at play, and crafted in a time honoured shoemaking tradition, they quite literally are made to last a lifetime. ‘If we can get them onto people’s feet, they will wear them forever’ is a company mantra.
The construction of original Grasshoppers moccasins goes back to a technique used by Native Americans, where handstitched leather is fashioned to form a glove around the foot. It’s what makes Grasshoppers shoes so comfortable, each and every pair is hand finished and the distinctive long lasting crepe natural rubber sole is thanks to a technique taught by the original German manufacturing specialists.
Each and every Grasshoppers shoe tells a fascinating and feel-good story The company is the one of the largest private employers in the Great Brak River and Southern Cape area and thanks to its success, is also the catalyst to the forming of thirteen small businesses in the region, each of which makes and sells a key component of the shoe. Grasshoppers is a feel-good buy, heartwarming purchase – not only because they are such a huge part of the local cultural history but because they play such a big role in supporting an entire community in a meaningful way.
While the traditional Grasshoppers moccasin has remained the brand’s most iconic and instantly recogniseable offering, there’s no denying the rise in popularity of the Grasshopper stitch-down styles or veldskoen. Traditionally worn by Platteland locals, in recent years Grasshopper stitch-downs (Vellies) have moved into the mainstream fashion arena milennials have embraced the brand’s vellies,. They like the honesty and realness of the brand and the irony of a city kid wearing a hardcore, rugged shoe is also part of the joy.
Like with any brand icon, staying relevant is key. Which is why in the not-too-distant future, there will be a range of stitch-down shoes for female fans. In recent years many more women buy Grasshoppers Vellies and the plan is to explore that even more – womens feet are so different to mens, it’s important that a product is designed which is ergonomically sound and that customer likes the look of too. Getting things right in a notoriously fickle market is a daunting challenge, but one that the design team of Grasshoppers are up for. Being in the Grasshoppers game means being in it for the marathon and not the sprint, the brand plans to be around for many years to come, so its imperative to get everything absolutely right and that same commitment to quality and comfort remains the most important factor the cornerstone of the business.
FASHIONS FADES, STYLE IS ETERNAL
Being fitted for a first pair of Grasshoppers is a rite of passage for countless South Africans and for many, the relationship often starts at school. Beyond school days, the longevity of Grasshoppers is that they are still as relevant for someone entering the job market as for the fashion forward urbanite looking for a new pair of on trend shoes to marry with their skinny jeans and button-down shirt.
It’s been exciting to see new generations embracing Grasshoppers as their shoe of choice and it’s something the brand is really proud of – where else in the world will you find a grandfather and grandson proudly wearing the same brand of shoe?