Everyone seems to want things custom-made these days, but there’s an advantage to ready-made that’s rarely talked about. With ready-made, you can more easily see what you’re getting before you pay for it. I was reminded of this when I recently received a pair of made-to-order loafers from Rancourt. These are their pinch penny loafers – moccasin constructed, with a handsewn strap, hard leather bottom, and unlined leather uppers. The term “unlined” here is a bit of a misnomer, because few shoes are truly made without any lining. Like with neckties, “unlined” in footwear typically means there’s just less lining, not that there’s no lining at all.
To explain, well-made shoes often have a full leather liner built in, so that two layers of leather are joined together to form the upper. This gives the shoes more support and structure, so that they hold their shape better over time. I wanted an unlined shoe, however, to feel like Alden’s unlined penny loafers. Those are floppy, soft, and feel like slippers. Those who’ve worn them know how comfortable they are. The problem is that they have a skin stitched detailing at the toe, rather than a genuine moccasin stitch. This means a single piece of leather is pulled over the last, and then a “skin stitch” is made at the toe for decorative effect. A genuine handsewn, on the other hand, is made with at least two pieces of leather – one forming the sides of the upper, and another for the vamp – with a handsewn saddle stitch to join everything together. That’s the moccasin style Maine producers are known for, and to my eye looks more pleasing for such a casual style shoe.
I told Rancourt I wanted something unlined so that it would be floppy and soft like Alden’s model, so they recommended their Orion suede leather. But when the shoes arrived, they weren’t floppy at all. “Unlined,” to be sure, but they’re soft in the way that any “unlined” boat shoes or camp mocs would be. It was a bit of a let down.
Still, they’re nice shoes, and appreciably more American than my English loafers. I think I’ll enjoy wearing them this spring with oxford cloth button down shirts, cotton trousers, and Shetland sweaters. It’s just unfortunate they’re not that floppy.