It’s been a dismal year for American manufacturing, with the lights going off at the Brooks Brothers shirt factory in Garland, North Carolina; the culling of Southwick in Haverhill, Massachusetts; and the impending shutdown of the original Gitman factory in Ashland, Pennsylvania. Surely even the most cynical trads are hoping that at least one factory will pull out all the stops to fight back against the unfolding made-in-America Götterdämmerung. That seems to be the case with Rancourt & Co., the 52-year-old moccasin maker based in Lewiston, Maine. On June 24th the company sent an email worryingly titled “We Need Your Help – Support Our American Factory.”
The email’s body laid out a plan that, if successful, could prevent Rancourt’s factory from being hit with pandemic-induced layoffs. Rancourt is making seven of its best-selling styles available at wholesale pricing via a crowdfunding model. If the threshold of 150 orders is met for a style at its wholesale price (which knocks off $100 or more from the price of each), it will go into production and ship in 8-12 weeks.
Among the styles in its crowdfunding promotion are several that may appeal to Tradsville denizens, including its Read Boat Shoe, Gilman Camp Moc, Classic Ranger Moc, and Beef Roll Penny Loafers (and if anyone’s going for a 70s Japan-influenced Heavy Duty Ivy-look, I could see the Acadia Chukka working, too).
One of the reasons I’m so passionately proselytizing for the shoemaker is that Rancourt’s been among my chief footwear sources for the last five years. I’ve accumulated five pairs in that time, and the level of comfort that comes from a broken-in pair of Rancourt moccasins is something to behold. That quality, and the fact that these are decidedly un-precious shoes that can take a beating and only look better with age, sees me wearing Rancourts 3-4 times a week and almost exclusively when I travel.
Among those currently offered in the promotion, I own the Gilman Camp Moc, the Classic Ranger Moc, and the Beef Roll Penny Loafers. I like slipping into the camp moc with shorts and an OCBD for quick errands in summer, though I’ve also found them to cozily pair with Shetland sweaters, cuffed khakis, and thick socks for in fall and winter. The ranger moc is what I wear in lieu of sneakers, and mine have seen action hiking and bike-riding and make a great foul-weather shoe with a bit of leather dressing. As such, I like wearing it with Levi’s 501s and a Barbour jacket.
But I’ll admit that the penny loafers are my favorite. Their stretchy chromexcel leather has formed to my foot like no other, and among the things I look forward to most when warm weather returns is the feeling of slipping into them with my bare feet (admittedly, I do wear no-show socks). The shoe’s beef roll detail, soft, rounded shape and moccasin stitching make it great for knocking about with chinos or denim and an OCBD, but the leather midsole keeps it smartly elevated. I’ve resoled my pair perhaps three times and they’re still going strong.
Anyhow, that’s more than enough about my own shoe-wearing preferences. The point is, it’s easy to grumble about how no one supports American manufacturing anymore, and our mom-and-pop factories are doomed. But here’s a golden opportunity to directly support a small domestic maker in its time of need, with prices competitive to what’s offered by the many ex-American Made brands that have offshored. If you’d like to see Rancourt stay in the former category, this is a chance I wouldn’t pass up. — ERIC TWARDZIK