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Debating the merits of hand sewn moccasin-style shoes

leadbelly2550

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An old pair of Sperry Gold Cups gave up recently; I damaged the soles wearing them around stain and paint thinner. The rest of the shoes were fine. As I debated replacements, I weighed getting another pair of Sperry shoes against other options - made-in-the-USA shoes from Quoddy and Rancourt, on one hand, and LL Bean. I still have a few other pair of Sperry handsewns around, the pair I'm looking at was made in Indonesia. No matter, the leather on the shoe is very nice, it's well-made, and it has been a durable, comfortable shoe.

I surprisingly ended up on a pair of LL Bean bluchers, and I thought it would be helpful to drop a few photos and comments in. Apologies, I tried to flip the photo showing the place of manufacture, but it didn't take.

First, I didn't go with Sperry not due to any concerns about the brand, but I already have two pair in different shades. I also don't like the white boat shoe soles, so I only look for something with another option. For what it's worth, another, comparable pair of Sperry shoes cost around $160.

Second, I had a hard time justifying handsewn moccasins in the $250-300 range. These are very casual shoes, I mostly wear them without socks, and the goals are comfort and durability. I know the Rancourt brand from a pair of loafers made of chromexel leather that I really like - excellent quality and feel. I'll pay for good shoes; my favorite dress shoes are Alden shell cordovan, and my other shoes are either Alden in regular leather or some old pair of Allen Edmonds that pre-date some of their recent manufacturing follies; I just keep maintaining and re-soling.

Third, my initial impression of the LL Bean shoe is good. The shoe has been around for decades in some form or another. They're now manufactured in El Salvador. The leather is full-grain and reasonably soft - perhaps not quite as much as Sperry's 'glove leather' boat shoes, and unlined vs. the leather lining in some of the Sperry shoes, but a leather that should last and mold to one's feet, as these kinds of shoes are supposed to do. The laces aren't leather, more of a boot lace. I can't recall the last time I had laces break on a pair of moccasins, so this is a style choice primarily. Boot laces would probably outlast leather.

The soles are OK. You can see they're molded and stitched on from the photos. The soles have razor cuts in them, like boat shoes, though not as many, and the sole material isn't as grippy as some others I have worn. Functionally, that shouldn't be an issue; if you want really great traction on wet surfaces, look for something built for people on boat decks. The shoes have a thin insert; unless you buy a moccasin with a more robust midsole and sole, none of the shoes in this category provide much if any arch support or contour.

The shoes run true to size for length and a little wide. I normally buy E width dress shoes; the 'D' is fine for me in these, I'm glad I didn't purchase them in wide/EE - but that's an option if you need it.

Durability, of course, remains to be seen.

I'm pretty impressed with the comfort and appearance considering the price. I had heard LL Bean had gone downhill. I can't compare these shoes to vintage Bean, but they are on par with Sperry. Unless they fall apart, I'll probably wear them happily for a long time.

If you want or need the absolute top-quality option, go with Quoddy or Rancourt. Quoddy makes them to order, lots of choices - for $295. Rancourt has a number of options, including at least one in suede, for $250, but not the same made-to-order choices Quoddyu offers. Just be prepared to pay for it.
 

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