Paul Sperry, the founder of footwear brand Sperry, might've invented Boat Shoes all the way back in 1935, but plenty of brands make their own versions of the style now — like L.L. Bean, Sebago, Timberland and Rancourt & Co.
The latter, Rancourt & Co., a Lewiston, Maine-based maker of hand-sewn leather shoes, launched more than 30 years after the silhouette's inception. However, they're arguably doing it best now — with the help of collaborator David Coggins, author of The Optimist (and many other books) and editor of The Contender, a newsletter about travel, men's style, fishing and fine drinks.
Coggins is a known sartorialist, a seasoned fly fisherman, an opinionated podcaster — sweatpants? never, he'd say — and a massive Ernest Hemingway fan, an affinity that lures him to the same haunts the famous author frequented. One such place is Ketchum, Idaho, a rich town with an abundance of natural beauty. It sits at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains, built between two rivers, Big Wood and Salmon River. He's always looked for footwear that works across the town's myriad activities — something he could wear into his favorite hotel, the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, to breakfast at the Kneadery and while backing into a river bank across town, he tells Huckberry.
Clearly a custom shoe was in order, he realized, and Rancourt & Co. delivered. And now you can order a pair, too: The Coggins 'Sawtooth' Shoe, named after the distant mountain range, is a boat shoe, but bettered. It features a 100 percent France-made latex lug sole sewn to undyed Horween Natural Chromexcel uppers.
These three-eye shoes assume a moccasin-like shape, but their attached sole make them a boat shoe, at least in my opinion. (The 360-degree lacing system is even further confirmation they're not traditional mocs.)
That being said, they will earn an incredible patina over time, no matter what they classify as, especially with a few accidental dunks at the river's edge or walks through the snow back to your fire-warmed cabin.
"I’m always looking for clothes that go well from the river to the town — basically something I can wear all day whether I’m in a fly shop, a lodge or a bar," Coggins says. "And so these shoes felt like they would be at home anywhere around Ketchum."
Standard dock shoes (another name for boat shoes) lack this level of versatility. They're flat-bottomed, making them super casual, uncomfortable even. The added latex sole results in a smoother ride, and the upgraded leather makes them look luxe, not lazy.
"Like many people, I like things that are well-made and last a long time," Coggins explains. "In this case, the shoes are made with the great Horween Chromexcel — I love how it ages and wears in with use. And the Lactae Hevea soles are incredible. They’re made in France with 100 percent natural rubber latex — which basically means they have by far the most support of any moc-style shoe, and are so comfortable you can wear them all day, all night, even to sleep on a couch!"
Sleeping in shoes sounds like something one should only do by accident, but if Coggins endorses doing it, I'd probably do it. (He did write the book on this sort of stuff.) If nothing else, you'd be ready to tend to your fire, a necessity while enduring a night in a cold Idaho cabin.