Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Trad-Ivy Tuesday: The Kobe Beef Burger of Camp Mocs

I was sharing with a reader some time back that when I lived in Montclair New Jersey, the local cobbler, in his halting home-countried pidgin-esque English gave me the final verdict on my maiden pair of L.L. Bean Camp Mocs. He had just completed their third resoling. After twelve years of constant wear and now my third set of rubber–re-treads and new leather laces, he said that the leather was too worn-out to stitch another pair of soles securely to them. I was by then, vaguely urbane but upon hearing such news, I reverted back to my Horry and Williamsburg Counties, South Carolina roots and blurted..."Do what daddy?" I reckon that Montclair New Jersey hadn't and hasn't yet again, been host to a Southern boy declaring such.
There’s no question that I got my money’s worth out of my first pair. A pair that arrived in the mail at my mama’s house in 1979. You didn’t have such things sent to the KA house back then. And keep in mind that this was back in the time when I’d still not traveled anywhere to speak of so all of the Brooks Brothers and L.L. Bean things that I encountered were either through their catalogues or from seeing someone wearing them at a college boondoggle and declaring that I had to have “it.” My Florence South Carolina Trad Haberdashery didn’t sell shoes and my hometown Weejun source sold us our Topsiders, the only other non-Weejun shoe in my line-up back then.
So in 1979, if you walked into a fratty party down in the Southern backwaters with a pair of L.L. Bean Camp Mocs on, you were a curious outlier amidst a sea of Weejuns and Topsiders. And I liked that. Just as the Trad-Prep-Ivy style ethos should be a result, not an objective, I’ve always kinda reveled in the fact that for some reason, my whateverishness has resulted in me being a bit of an outlier. Five gets ten that I was outlying in my Camp Mocs in the photo above...replete with terrycloth Daks trousers. Shut up.
Surely it isn’t surprising to you that I still have my 1979 pair. If you’ve read more than two of my stories you know that I’m a mawkish-maudlin sentimentalist who with every passing day, spends more time with my head in the past as opposed to embracing the future. And I’m not resistant to casting off material things. I’ve shed and edited ruthlessly my stuff over these past few months and will continue to do so as I slowly-ever-so-slowly, get around to moving. But the 1979 Mocs have too many memories. They’ve been on three continents as well as in every decent and indecent honky-tonk and barbecue joint in the contiguous forty-eight states. Oh, and I had them on when I peed atop a volcano in Hawaii. We drank beer all the way up and …
Here I am. Hung-ed-over to the point of bleeding out of my eyes one morning…in the summer of 1979, at my sister and brother-in-law’s first house in Birmingham Alabama. They were in their mid-twenties and my sister had just delivered her first child, a little boy, about three months earlier. My brother-in-law, the KA fratty boy who I idolized and considered the older brother I never had, was desperate. As much as he was overjoyed to be the father of a new born son, he was also twenty-six years old. And the domestic dynamics coupled with his day job, had him itching to hit the streets with me when I was there. Nightly.
And I was THE perfect excuse for going out. Every. Damn. Night. “We can’t let little ole undergrad fratty boy ADG just sit around here” he’d say to his wife and new mom, my sister. So my brother-in-law, along with my L.L. Bean Camp Mocs and I would hit the street every night for such low-brow places as Tant's, The Plaza (upside down) and once, against my wishes we went to Sammy’s. He was the coolest guy I knew at the time and he drove a great, albeit unreliable British Racing Green Jaguar. Peer pressure...family dynamics...impending liver disease and L.L. Bean Camp Mocs. 
I even used Shoe Goo on them when the leather was so worn that it just began giving up-out-around the stitching and the rubber sole. My 1979 made in America version, as I and others have written about, were different than the current L.L. Bean Camp Moc that’s made in El Salvador. I won’t bore you with the precise differences. Go back and read the old posts. But even with all of my complaints about the current version, they are, at just under eighty bucks, a decent value.
I wore my original pair ten-fold more frequently than my Bean Moc replacements so I’ll never know if the real difference is in longevity. My Salvadorian replacements will outlive me. Same goes for my Maine Hunting Boot—Shoe version that I replaced a few years ago. Still, I can’t get rid of the old ones.
And then someone called my attention to Rancourt and their Mocs. Rancourt...holdouts not unlike Alden, amidst the fifty-year mass exodus of New England shoe makers. I got Rancourt Venetian loafers from Leffot and loved ‘em. I even picked up a pair of Quoddy Venetian Camp Mocs and loved the idea of them…and certainly the quality of workmanship was there…but I couldn’t get the darned things to stay on my foot so some Trad kid, courtesy of ebay, got ‘em for a bargain. But what appealed and still appeals to me about these makers is their ongoing commitment to turning out the kind of goods that L.L. Bean was known for before the slow decline. You know...when they sourced more of their stuff from domestic producers and when American consumers weren’t so punch drunk from the unit price discount goat rodeo that’s so much a part of retailing today. You remember don’t you? It was when the likes of Orvis, that little operation up in Manchester Vermont, used to rely on Hulme to make their iconic Battenkill green canvas gear instead of some sweatshop out of State. Literally. On all counts.
And speaking of green…I finally decided to spend some and make some. But in typical ADG Fuzzy Diced style, I couldn’t be happy with the table-grade standard, tasty goods that Rancourt offered in their Camp Moc line-up. I reckon you could say that I was jonesing for some strange. So I sent Kyle Rancourt an email and asked him if I could bespeak something off the menu. And he said… “Do what?” and I said “Yep” and he said “Really?” and I said “Yep” and then after eleven more clarifications, guess what? Kyle said “Yep” too.
So what I ended up creating is the Kobe Beef Burger of Camp Mocs. Anthony Bourdain rants entertainingly about the absurdity associated with posh restaurants offering patrons with too much money and not nearly enough breeding, a beef patty made from ground Kobe. Here’s an excerpt from Bourdain’s rant…“Enterprising restaurants are now offering the “Kobe beef burger,” enticingly priced at near or above $100 a pop. And if there’s a better way to prove one’s total ignorance of all three words – Kobe, beef, and burger – this, my friends, is it. It’s the trifecta of dumb-ass. …you are asking the chef to destroy the very textural notes for which Kobe is valued by smarter people. …for an eight-ounce Kobe burger, you are paying for the chef to feed you all the outer fat and scrap bits he trimmed off the outside of his “real” Kobe so he can afford to serve properly trimmed steaks to wiser patrons who know what the hell they’re doing.”
So Bourdain is calling out the stupidity and absurdity manifest in both the creator and consumer associated with using such sublime raw material for such a pedestrian outcome when more standard-fare beef would suffice to the point of being indiscernible. Well that kinda sums my ass up right there now doesn’t it? My love of shell cordovan is well established. I won’t bore you with my horse flank devotion and its genesis…just go here and refresh yourself if you want the contextual antecedent under your skirt before grinding through the rest of this story. But a shell cordovan camp moc? Why not?
And while we’re at it…while we are using sublime, Kobe Beef caliber raw material, let’s really tart it up. Let’s do it in green shell cordovan. When I asked Kyle Rancourt about it, he said “Do what?” and I said “Yep” and he relented. And then I asked how much and he told me and I said “Damn.” And then I paid the man.
I speculated that their arrival would be dramatic…either good dramatic or bad dramatic. It could go either way. Listen, if you always play it safe the drama will be minimal…on both ends of the spectrum. And for me, the Fuzzy Maximalist, I take my chances and they’ve not always yielded good outcomes. My Flusser mistakes story is here.
But my Rancourt Green Cordovans are sublime in every way. Replete with the specifically requested brick red rubber bottoms and stainless steel silver eyelets—it’s the little details that often make or break these things. Brass looking eyelets woulda sunk this ship from the get-go so I bet I sent Kyle Rancourt nine-zillion emails clarifying my specs for these.
And they already have some up-front patinated character depth that only Horween genuine shell cordovan can offer. I can’t wait to see how these babies' patination evolve...lift wise and otherwise as their Horween secret-sauced remoulade-ed impregnations give up some secrets.
Are these Mocs a folly? Perhaps. Am I pleased? You bet. And let me say this about Rancourt. I’m over the top happy that they are thriving. They're a small business so they aren’t without their process hiccups and predictable challenges of trying to remain consistent in quality while attempting to scale up their business to meet thank goodness, demand…and the somewhat-free-market allowance for a decent net-net margin. No margin—No mission. And suffice it to say that I received no discount on these shoes. Kyle Rancourt isn’t even aware that I’m a blogger and he won’t be ‘till I send him a link to this story.

Onward. Green. No envy.


Thad said...

Actually, those shoes look great! I would definitely wear those bad boys until they fall apart.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post. Usually do.

But, I have a hard time understanding $500+ "camp mocs" - shoes intended to be extremely casual, worn in the out of doors, while camping even. Worn around the water, in the rain, canoeing, boating, cutting forewood, driving, as slippers...

Unlike other shoes, they don't need to last forever. They don't need to impress. Bean charges under $100 for a reason. Others charge under $200 for their own reasons. But over $500? It's like a $100, semi-bespoke t-shirt. I just don't get it.

The green is nice. They look high quality. But, they strike me as overengineered and over priced for what they are. My two cents.

ADG said...

AnonOverEngineeredOverpriced....Of course they are!
And you said "...while camping even. Worn around the water, in the rain, canoeing, boating, cutting forewood, driving..." I don't do ANY of that stuff except around town driving. So that makes even the eighty dollar ones impertinent to me.


ADW said...

Speaking as a current Montclair resident, I am willing to state that nobody has ever exclaimed "Do what daddy?" within my hearing, but then again, I haven't been here all that long. Do you recall the name of your cobbler? If they're still here, I need some new heels.

The Leopard said...

Well we're definitely in uncharted waters here, I think they definitely look cool but are they an oxymoron? Yes I realize I'm using a strictly literary term here but I think it fits, I'm sure the first person to see a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup said the same thing. In saying that I can see that they are definitely in your wheelhouse, definitely fuzzy. I personally have worn LL Bean camp mocassins for about 40 years now and I know the pair I'm wearing right now are not as good as my old ones but I still like them. In the future let us know how your longitudinal study of the hybrid mocs goes. Stay fuzzy!

Cubanchem said...

A wonderful story, as always. It brings me great pleasure that you love your shoes so much. Camp mocs are by far my favorite footwear, ever. I have more camp mocs than any other style of shoe. To me, they are the perfect shoe. With the exception of my old LL Bean ones made by Quoddy, the ones similar to yours in your photos, I would have to say the new ones you purchased are magnificant and as good looking as the old LL Beans. The correct vamp length, the correct sole, the correct lacing structure, truly a work of art. If I wasn't so stuck in my ways, I would relax my disdain for the manufacturer and order me some, probably in the navy shell. But I won't. I wish I could say I was too principled, but I am not. I guess I am just stubborn and don't want to break a promise to myself. I hope you enjoy your shoes for many decades to come and that they bring you much joy, or at least are with you on the adventures that bring you joy. Be well and walk mighty with your new shoes.

Greg D. said...

As expensive as they are, for what they are - they look great. I wouldn't be surprised to see green camp mocs as special edition releases, etc., etc. from the chain stores. You watch.

ADG said...

I just thought about this as I pondered the folly of such a shoe. Shell Cordovan penny loafers don't provoke anything near the reaction that these do. They are almost 200 bucks more expensive (Aldens are at least) and are now available in colors other than the standard Horween #8. And are mostly worn, like these will be, as a casual shoe. Few are the wearers of any of this stuff who are actually camping and/or boating in these shoes. I bet if I'd requested a leather sole instead of rubber, the reaction wouldn't be quite so visceral.

Old Polo said...

Yer batshit crazy...but I love it. Not for me, maybe the regular cordovan color? Naw. Sure am glad that you did it though. Somebody had to. Oh, and cordovan polo boots are over the top, but I bet they would wear like crazy. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

"Few are the wearers of any of this stuff who are actually camping and/or boating in these shoes. I bet if I'd requested a leather sole instead of rubber, the reaction wouldn't be quite so visceral."

Exactly. But a leather sole wouldn't have closed the kneejerk task assignment gap, given the pictorial prototype. Naming is so powerful, especially when there's such a defined history behind the name "camp moc," and even more especially when your lead illustration is the antithesis of your closing argument. I bet if you'd called these new shoes of yours "Old Town Stolling Moccasins," there'd not have been one whimper from your followers.


Anonymous said...

Like you, I've never been able to part with my first pair of Camp Mocs, purchased in the early 1980's. They've been re-soled a couple of times, but the leather uppers are still going strong. I'm wearing them as I write this, in fact. In the 90's, I bought a second pair as sort of a "backup." For some reason, they ran a little smaller, and have never gotten as much wear as the first pair.


Scott Alexander said...

You're my hero. I've been dreaming of shoes like these for years and have yet to find anyone offering ANYTHING close. The idea of cordovan camp mocs seems incredibly practical. I don't wear dress shoes that often, so I don't see the need for cordovan that will last a lifetime. But when it comes to great casual shoes, why not get a single pair you can beat the s#it out of the next fifty years. And in green? even better.

NCJack said...

On most, those would seem purely an absurdity, but YOU, sirrah, can pull it off with panache.

Onward, very fuzzily!!

Anonymous said...

I am sure by now you know never to tell a woman what something like this cost, but in this case, NEVER. EVER. TELL a woman you care about or may argue with or might want to settle down with what these cost, rounded to the nearest $500, up or down. This way trouble lies.

Abel Magwitch

Young Fogey said...

Fuzzier than two pairs of fuzzy dice subjected to three years of treatment with Rogaine. I love 'em!

When you get sick of them, you know my address...

And I must say, you pair thems up with them yaller cords and an appropriate shirt, and you'd be Queen Bee at a Ducks game.

ELS said...

I have almost exactly the same photo of my brother, also bleeding through the eyeballs, after my husband used him as an excuse to wet, nay deluge, our first-born's head. I suspect they both wore wells. Oh, the shame..

Anonymous said...

These are absolutely fantastic. Well done!

Anonymous said...

They really are gorgeous, Max. You're dead on about the up-front patinated depth that only genuine shell offers, how am I gonna confront my closet now that I've been to paree. You've got a singular ability to mess with our minds you know, the neurology of stereotyping is what I was trying to get at last evening....peoples don't know what to do with concepts like shell cordovan caamp mocs or Beluga peanut butter.


James said...

Something tells me that in your funeral plans there in a request, no make that demand, that your casket be lined in shell cordovan, perhaps green even.

ilovelimegreen said...

Now you know I like green and you know I like camp mocs but I don't like that horizontal seam across the back of the ankle. WHat do you call it? Does it have a function? Is it an optional option than can be opted out of in the ordering process?

Anonymous said...

I don't mind your spending what I estimate to be at least $600 on casual shoes of a design originally intended to be used for purposes not ordinarily appropriate for very expensive shoes. I am, however, a bit confused about the insistence on silver eyelets. I mean, you have yellow-accented laces, a yellowish lining, a brick red sole, and green--i.e., blue + yellow--outer. Brass would seemingly be the right choice. Or not?

Gerard said...

I read your story yesterday and thought - wow, what an indulgence! But you aren't a politician spending my cash, so I find it hard to get emotionally invested in your shoes. I hope you wear them in good health and I hope you get to pee on em in your old age as you blog around the assisted "living" facility--shell hold up well for that. They will definitely be right at home where you do like to camp --airport bars and high end hotels--and it is the little pleasures in life that make it worth living.

Anonymous said...

"Be well and walk mighty with your new shoes. Cheers, Pedro"

Pedro, that was a very nice bit you left for Muffy D. Prep. Very nicely finessed. It's not that she takes swipes at the deep south, except that she does. Nice touch.

-Appreciate your style

C said...

"The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely."

-Oscar Wilde

Haven't stopped admiring them since I first saw them.

Cubanchem said...

Dear Anon two posts up, thanks. I'm sure I'm a bit of a peculiararity, Pedro + Southerner + Preppy = something to tilt your head at and raise a brow. I meant no swiping nor disrespect, I just think there's more to traditional, conservative dressing than being from Maine. I get my "style", for lack of a better word, from my parents. Classical and traditional clothing, classical and traditional thinking, just makes sense to me.

CL said...

Anyone tried Minnetonka camp mocs? They look pretty good to me.

ADG said...

ADW…Its been years…a bunch of them. But the shoe place was on Bellevue Avenue beside Tony the Tailor…who by the way, used to do great work.

The Leopard...Uncharted indeed. Longitudinal? Probably.

Cubanchem...Sorry, man. And you know that I mean it.

Greg D...When they hit the chain stores…I’m done with ‘em.

Old Polo...Thanks, boss. Yes indeed, it was destiny that I do these. Bam.

AnonymousTired…leading antithetical to closing…you’ve found me out.

AnonymousCan’tPart…I enjoyed seeing the pic! Thanks for linking it.

Scott AlexanderBoyMon...I can’t live up to the hero stuff my man!

NCJackie...Thanks I think. I spose evvybody has to be good at something.

AbelMagwitchanem...I know. I know.
Young FogeyMondaddy...You can expect them sometime in 2014 I reckon.

ELS...It’s all a part of growing up. Kinda.

AnonymousRested...the neurology of stereotyping is what will always provide me something against which to play/cast/behave/attack

James...Great to hear from you! I’m gettin’ cremated. Next Thursday actually.

ilovelimegreengal...No the seam isn’t functional and no, you can’t d/c it. Sorry.


Gerard...I love the “not emotionally invested in my shoes”...Exactly! And I’ve already peed on them.

Conor Aubry...Thanks to you. And Oscar.

RHW...Go and get yourself a pair.

Reggie Darling said...

Okay, you have officially gob-smacked me. I am still irritated that my 10 year old LLBean Camp Mocs aren't like the ones I loved as a teenager at St. Grottlesex, but I still wear them, much to the disapproval of others in my household. These Rancourt mocs look to be about perfect (I admit the brown ones are more my speed), and I sit in awe and admiration for your ability to instigate and then carry off the wearing of them in green CORDOVAN, no less! Great post, as always! Reggie

RHW said...

I had to come back again this morning and look at these emerald beauties... Damn.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous September 18, 2012 1:48 PM -

I think that it is a mistake to assume that casual means disposable. The internet loves to talk about "beater" clothes and the careless way in which they can be destroyed; I suppose the thought is that they allow a person the luxury of carelessness without the luxury price tag. What the internet does not love to talk about is how wasteful it is, or how the low prices of "beater" goods are often subsidized by unethical labor practices.

Anonymous said...

Would love to see an update on these mocs, how they're breaking in. I found my cheap self a knockoff version - green Florsheim Tienomite mocs.