It took only weeks of shoppers staying home due to coronavirus-related restrictions and concerns to tip some retail stores into bankruptcy. Whether the pandemic was the root cause for chains such as Neiman Marcus or J. Crew, or just the final cause (as it may be for Brooks Brothers), it’s hard to judge. But all businesses need revenue coming in to survive, and people are understandably just not shopping, for now.
It’s not surprising that the effects are being felt at other levels of the supply chain that ends with clothes in your closet. One of our favorite makers of moccasin-style shoes, Rancourt & Co., is trying a new approach to keep their factories open and their shoemakers employed. Rancourt announced last week that they would be “crowdfunding” manufacturing this summer. That is, rather than relying on orders and gauging demand, making shoes, and then selling them, they’re taking advance orders from people at a price lower than retail. Rancourt’s factory in Maine has been in and out of the Rancourt family for decades, and has made shoes for Allen Edmonds and Ralph Lauren, among others. I still scour eBay for a deadstock pair of Rancourt-made RL loafers to replace the ones I had in the early 2000s.
The benefit of the crowdfunding effort for Rancourt is clear — real, paid-for demand. The benefit for the customer is you get a quality mocc-style shoe at a significant discount — what Rancourt is calling “wholesale.” Rancourt is offering seven styles in this manner, with shoes in brown or tan Chromexcel leather, and sneaker styles in black or white. Boat shoes are $150 (vs $250 full price), chukkas $175 (vs $280), and leather-sole loafers $180 (vs. $295).
The most natural lane for Rancourt’s style would be wardrobes rooted in Americana, but moccasins aren’t limited only to vintage LL Bean catalog cosplay. My top picks of the models on offer would be the classic beefroll loafer or the Acadia chukka, a 3-eyelet ankle boot. The loafers are an easy office (or home office) shoe, ideal with khakis and an OCBD but also workable with pin-rolled fatigues and a lighter weight flannel. Unlined, they’re a great summer shoe with shorts and no socks (or, white socks?). The boots’ baseline is straight leg denim, canvas pants, or military surplus styles. I could see wearing them with some threadbare vintage military chinos and a reverse weave sweatshirt.
Sizes are available from narrow to extra-wide and from men’s sizes 5 to 14. The only real catch is that you’ll have to wait a while — Rancourt says orders placed now will ship in 12 to 16 weeks. But hey, you’re not going anywhere right now, anyway.