Summer footwear is all about ease – sneakers you can kick up your feet in, dirty bucks you don’t have to clean, and slip-ons you don’t have to tie. Around this time of year, some of my favorite shoes are moccasins (either trail or camp styles), which I wear with jeans, chinos, and fatigues. They look great, don’t require much up-keep, and go just as well with American prep as they do with rugged workwear.
Mocs originally became popular in the US through LL Bean. The company’s founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, designed them in 1936 as an outdoor shoe by taking elements seen in Native American footwear. Much like LL Bean’s other offerings at the time, their camp moccasins eventually made their way to college campuses, where students wore them with madras shirts and mountain parkas.
Today LL Bean’s moccasins are among some of the more affordable options at $84/ pair, although their quality leaves something to be desired. If you’re up for spending a little more money, here are four options I really like, along with some pros and cons for each. In order of appearance:
Oak Street Bootmakers ($262): A small, Chicagoan company offering heritage-styled footwear made in the USA. Their camp mocs are built from Horween’s pull-up leather, which is a kind of waxy, oily leather that reveals a lighter color when pulled.
- Pros: The leather here is rich and thick, and has a wonderful depth in the color (as anyone familiar with Horween’s Chromexcel will know). These are my sturdiest-feeling moccasins, if only because of the weight of the leather.
- Con: The stitching on the sock liner is a bit rough, which makes these hard to wear without socks. You can throw in a pair of terry cloth insoles or wear no-show socks, but that’s an extra step other moccasins don’t require.
Russell Moccasin ($181): One of the oldest, still-operating footwear producers in the US. Russell is mostly known for their hunting boots, although they have custom-order and ready-made camp moccasins available through their site and Sid Mashburn.
- Pros: Exceptionally lightweight, these feel like you’re wearing nothing at all. Russell is also available for custom orders, which means you can get something for unusually sized feet.
- Cons: The leather is top-grain, not full-grain, and doesn’t have much luster. My left shoe also exhibits looser wrinkling, which isn’t something I mind on casual shoes, but may disappoint some.
Eastland Made-in-Maine ($310): Eastland’s mainline isn’t the best in terms of quality, but their Maine-line (get it?) is produced in Maine by Rancourt (a highly respected producer).
- Pros: These mocs are fully lined with leather, which makes them feel softer against your feet (the other mocs shown here are unlined). And although they’re exorbitantly priced at full-retail, you can easily find them at 50%-off or less.
- Cons: Possibly because of the lining, these feel tighter across the instep. I recommend trying them on in-person before buying, or at least purchasing from a place that offers easy returns. The fit here is less forgiving.
Quoddy ($275): Owned and operated by the Shorey family since 1909, Quoddy has long been a favorite of style enthusiasts. You can find their trail mocs on their site, as well as dozens of online retailers (who often order unique, special make-ups). See Need Supply, Unionmade, O’Connell’s, and Mr. Porter.
- Pros: My most comfortable moccasins. They’re easy to wear without socks, and the rounder/ wider toe-box may be more forgiving depending on the shape of your feet. Quoddy also has a nice, online MTO program, where you can design your shoes any way you wish.
- Cons: The insole is mostly made of foam and padding, with a very thin piece of leather layered on top. That gives these shoes an immediate comfort out-the-box, but it won’t form a true footbed over time. The insoles on my mocs have also come slightly unglued over time.
Note: The listed prices here can be off-putting, but smart shoppers know they can find these on sale or eBay for much less money. Russell Moccasin also has a constantly changing stock-list for unclaimed, custom-ordered shoes, which they sell at a discount. As usual, search around if you want a deal.