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.