F.E. Castleberry Rockets

by Frederick Egan Castleberry

At the beginning of the year, Greats approached me about designing a shoe. Greats is the Brooklyn shoe company with a reputation for turning out top-shelf sneakers made by hand in Italy. After a handful of design meetings and a lot of Americanos, the result of our collaboration is the leather trainer nicknamed the “Rocket.”

Jonah naps in the green Rockets.

Jonah naps in the green Rockets.

“There's a lot of ingredients go into being a good tennis player.”
Rod Laver

We believe the same when it comes to designing a good shoe. I started with various vintage iterations of my favorite sneaker…then set out composing a luxurious love letter to it. While the low-top tennis shoe proved to be a classic after it was first introduced in leather in the late 1960s, it felt just as timely for an homage using the best ingredients. The F.E. Castleberry for Greats Rocket is handmade in Italy of full grain leather (the only type that truly gets better with age), sports an American crocodile heel tab, dual color midsole, waxed cotton laces, and rich vegetable tan Vachetta calf leather lining.

Vachetta leather is a straight-forward material. It’s an untreated cowhide, meaning it hasn’t been dyed or treated with preservation processes that more commonplace leathers undergo. This allows it to age naturally, develop a beautiful patina (a sheen of oils and other elements from the foot that darken the Vachetta leather), and allows you to wear them barefoot. Socks, wear them only to weddings…and then, well only if it’s your own.


Since launching my eponymous made-to-measure suiting, I’ve had a penchant for little design details only my clients see or will ever know about. It’s a secret handshake, more or less, between me and the wearer. The Rocket is no exception. Up the side of the right tongue, “Rocket” is scrawled in cursive with blue ink. When laced up it’s invisible. It’s a nod to middle school when we’d scribble on our sneakers. The go-to-hell green soul and crocodile heel tab is also rendered in yellow and royal blue color ways for men and women. They’re on sale now for $240 at Greats.com.