Based on my eBay searches over the past month, and my constant visits back and forth between my bank account and Rancourt’s site, I think it’s safe to say that my annual obsession with hand-sewn mocs has returned once again. Every year right around this time, I come back to my quest for that elusive “perfect pair” of camp mocs, but every time, just before I hit that checkout button I always stop short. I’ve considered Gokey, the classic L.L. Bean model, Oak Street, the aforementioned Rancourt, and countless others, but I realized last night after passing on a pair of vintage Quoddy’s on eBay, that I never will pull the trigger because camp mocs aren’t really what I’m looking for anymore.
After spending so much of my mid-adolescence in a pair of beer-stained, threadbare boat shoes caked in some mystery odor, the camp moc just comes too close to that generic bro look that I just can’t abide by anymore. On the other hand, this morning I was flipping through the Brooks Brothers semi-annual sale and I rediscovered these Peal & Co. Lightweight Tie Loafers, which had first come on my radar when Derek wrote about them on Die Workwear about ten months back, and have been living in the back of my mind as the holy grail of loafers ever since. It had been a few months since I looked back at them on Brooks’ website, but I can honestly say after reopening that page, that if I had the money I’d be scooping these up without a moment’s hesitation. While it could be said that aside from the Goodyear Welt, materials, and slight change in shape these shoes do look awfully close to a pair of camp mocs that I could pick up for about a quarter of the cost, it’s exactly those differences that have me chomping at the bit for a pair of these, while passing on every camp moc I see. These tie loafers (also known as Italian boat shoes, but more on that further down) certainly do allude back to the handsewn moccasin traditions of the northeast but more importantly they progress beyond it, making for a grown up version of a classic piece of traddy footwear by way of Italy.
I say Italy, not England where these Peal & Co. (which were likely actually made by Alfred Sargent as my friend Jeff pointed out when I showed them to them, as Peal & Co. is now nothing more than a catchall name, but that’s a story for another day) because this shape seems to have originated, or should I say been resurrected not in Northampton, but in Milan. As Derek’s post had pointed out, the first company to make a shoe of this nature was SW1, a Milanese brand that garnered a lot of attention for the shoe when Luca Rubinacci was captured wearing them by the Sartorialist. SW1 named the shoe the Sloop, which I have always interpreted as a nice little reference to the boat shoe like design of the loafer. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no way of knowing if that was actually SW1’s intention, as the company went belly up back in 2010 I believe, but not before attracting an impressive amount of press coverage for a brand that only lasted a couple years. The SW1 story is actually a fascinating one in and of itself, as it was founded upon quite an admirable idea, and so I was pretty sad to discover that the company didn’t last.
SW1 was founded in 2007 by Francesco D’Urso, and Enrico Hintermann, two men who at the ages of 41 and 37, respectively simply decided to start a shoe company based on nothing more than their love for beautiful footwear. They came from two backgrounds that could not have been further from the clothing industry (D’Urso was a lawyer, Hintermann had been a paper and cardboard entrepreneur) but their company was backed by a hereditary obsession with shoes. Both men had inherited a wealth of shoes from their grandparents and great-grandparents over the years, and if that wasn’t enough they were both quite avid collectors in their right, so by the time they started SW1 they had over forty models and shapes to base their brand upon. D’Urso and Hintermann were dealing with classic Milanese footwear designs that had somehow been lost in obscurity over the past decade, and it was their mission to resurrect them. One such design was the Sloop, which soon became their most popular shoe, as capped off by by Rubinacci’s smiling seal of approval. While, SW1 was certainly a noble endeavor, it simply couldn’t survive, and American women’s shoe designer Stuart Weitzman bought the name sometime in the past year with current plans to relaunch SW1 as some contemporary high heel’s line so please don’t be fooled by that.
With SW1 out of the picture, Italian boat shoes aren’t exactly easy to find these days, and aside from the aforementioned Brooks Brothers iterations, there are only two other real options. First, are these from A Suitable Wardrobe which is probably the closest you can get to the original Sloop although I have no personal experience with them. There’s also this model of String Loafer by Carmina for The Armoury, which Jeff owns so I have had a chance to see them in person, and I would say they resemble more of a classic tassel loafer with a string tie as opposed to a dressed up boat shoe. While I passed on camp mocs time and time again, I can’t see myself holding off on Sloops much longer, and with menswear running though slip-ons faster than you can say Stubbs and Wootton, I don’t think I’m the only one.