A Brief History of Maine's Most Iconic Shoe

In a state with as storied a footwear tradition as Maine the mantel for "most iconic shoe" is hard won. Is it the ubiquitous Bean boot? Or the Ivy-style staple penny loafer? Maybe the uniquely American boat shoe invented and popularized by Paul Sperry? No, in our opinion Maine's most iconic shoe is the humble camp-moc. 

The trademark of the camp-moc is its comfort. The camp-moc's hand-sewn moccasin construction is lightweight, flexible, and molds to your feet in very short order. Leon Leonwood Bean invented the style in 1936, basing his initial design on the traditional hand-sewn footwear of northeastern Native Americans. But why was the camp-moc created in the first place?

If you're familiar with Maine you may have heard of a place called "camp." However, camp has a different meaning in Maine than other parts of the country. 

Camp (n.) - a part time residence, could be a house, usually a cabin with minimal electricity, wifi, cell service, or access to food, independently owned and managed by the property owner.

Cabin in the backwoods of Maine

Why would anyone want to invest so much time, effort, and money to get to a place like this? The answer is simple; Mainer's are country-people at heart so camps were created to escape the hustle and bustle of cities. 

Camp is typically in a remote location, sometimes with no paved roads for miles around, allowing one to embrace the freedom of the Maine woods. But a question remains, what do you bring to camp? Plenty of food, clothing, supplies needed to catch food (if you’re into that sort of thing), and the correct footwear for the activities ahead. The correct footwear obviously being your camp-mocs.

But what makes the camp-moc an ideal shoe for camp? The answer is simple. It's a slip on shoe that fits nicely and is extremely durable while being lightweight enough for long walks on the trail. The camp-moc is a shoe you can knock around while tending to camp without a care in the world, since that’s the whole point of camp in the first place. 

Gilman Camp-moc - Carolina Brown Chromexcel

Since 1967, a little over 30 years after Leon Leonwood Bean invented the camp-moc, we have been hand-sewing this iconic Maine style. We've modified its design by adding a sole that was built to combat the extremes of the Maine seasons. Our exclusive American-made military-grade polyurethane camp moc sole has high shear strength, meaning it takes a lot of force to damage, high abrasion threshold - making them hard to wear down, flexibility in colder temperatures - keeping them comfortable when normal soles would stiffen up, and high elasticity - making them comfortable right out of the box and perfect for trekking through the woods. 

Gilman Camp-Moc Carolina Brown Chromexcel

The most notable characteristics of our Gilman Camp-moc are the comfort and simplicity of the handsewn moccasin uppers. We craft them using traditional techniques that we have been perfecting for over 50 years with some of the best materials in the world. Unlined, full-grain leather like Horween's Chromexcel and Buckaroo makes for durable and water-resistant uppers that will still mold to your feet. The hallmark of camp-moc style is the leather lace running through the collar and plug of each shoe allowing you to tailor the fit while preserving the ease of a slip-on. Our Gilman Camp-moc is made in the USA from top to bottom and truly embodies the heritage of shoemaking in Maine.

- Matthew Gondek

Cabin photo courtesy of @kylegenereux (instagram)