Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Monday, July 8, 2024

Boat Shoes vs. Camp Mocs

“Boat shoes” have been trendy this year.  On the fashion runways this season, all kinds of styles of shoes have been lumped together and called “boat shoes” - such as by British Vogue – including Camp Mocs, Driving Mocs, Blucher Mocs with their 4 eyelet tie, and the Timberland 3-eye with a lug sole moccasin type shoe that my father wore in the 80s.

But if you are shopping for shoes, “Boat Shoes” should refer to a specific type of shoe.  And if you just ask for a Boat Shoe and actually get it, one might be missing out on something better suited.

One example.  Two newer readers have recently asked me about how Boat Shoes compare to Camp Mocs,  so I thought I would compare the two across some common use cases.  

First, they do have many similarities, of course.  They both have moccasin construction.  They are made of leather uppers and rubber soles. They are both casual shoes.  They are both equally good for women and men.

But there are difference, highlighted by different uses.

Boat Shoes, 3 Eyelet.  All photos by/of Muffy Aldrich.

Camp Mocs with White Sole, 1 Eyelet

For On a Boat

If you really want shoes for a boat, most of my friends opt for various sneaker hybrids with more secure lacing.  A sneaker is a safer fit; you are also less likely to lose a shoe at sea, a not inconsiderable inconvenience.  

However, between the two,  Boat Shoes are more still more secure than Camp Mocs.  They simply have more eyelets, with two or three, compared to Camp Mocs’ one.

As well, Boat Shoes always have a non-marking sole, while Camp Mocs may or may not.  While white soles are often the sign of non-marking, it should be noted that Dubarry offers sailing boots that have a dark sole but they claim they are indeed non-marking on boat decks despite the color.   And on any of these styles look for the razor cut soles for traction.

Winner: Boat Shoes

Boat Shoes are sometimes used on boats. But sailing sneakers and sailing boots are more often used.  Newport to Bermuda start.

For Dressing Up

For men, both Boat Shoes and Camp Mocs can work a bit dressed up when paired with a more formal pair of khakis, navy blazer, and tie ensemble (for example, at a summer wedding) and can look rather snappy.  Camp Mocs, however, do a somewhat better job in this department.  They can look a bit more polished, especially if they are polished, and they also tend to shape the foot in a flattering way.  

Camp Mocs have more of the good of a loafer without the bad of a loafer.   

Winner: Camp Mocs


For Around Town

Both shoes excel at Around Town wear. 

In theory, Boat Shoes have to be tied and Camp Mocs are a slip-on shoe, but Boat Shoes are often never untied, so that’s a wash.

Both look particularly good sockless.

But both can also look good with the right socks (Wool Ragg socks and the occasional old-fashioned, plain Aran colored wool “athletic” sock) and both look terrible with the wrong socks (dress socks and most dark socks).  So both can and are worn year round.  

Camp Mocs can perhaps take sock wearing a bit better.

Winner: Tie

Saw these Sperry Topsider Original Boat Shoes, 2 Eyelet, in Newport while we were waiting for our Black Pearl chowder to take back to the boat.

Camp Mocs for Women, Jamestown RI, at the End of Year Boatyard Party

My Camp Mocs for Women

My Camp Mocs for Women

Conclusion

Just as with the category of Fisherman Sweaters, Boat Shoes when used as a broad category is rather unsatisfying and leads to confusion for people just learning about such items.  It also leads the way to generic off-shored knock-offs as one-season disposable fashion items sold at a high profit, which is probably the goal of most of today’s magazines anyway.  

Instead, in our house, we have great examples of each, handmade in New England, which have served us well through hard wear over many, many seasons.  

I Took This in the Late 1980s, Heading Out to Isle of Springs in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
The Hybrid; Camp Mocs with a Boat Shoe Sole, Worn with the "Old School Wool Athletic" Sock.

I took this shot of Dubarry Sailing Boots in Long Island Sound 

Our Sperry 3 Eyelet Boat Shoes

And Sometimes There are No Shoes at All - Took this in Narragansett Bay

In my old Topsiders for Women

31 comments:

  1. Love my Sperry Gold Cup AO's and my LL Bean Camp Mocs.

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  2. I have worn both for ages. The Sperry Kudu, long gone, will always be my favorite, but my new Quoddy camp mocs are pretty sweet and better suited to life in town.

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  3. Gokey Lug Sole Camp Moc is by far my favorite. Bean Camp Mocs have been a disappointment in the past.

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  4. Two different items! Truly each have their time and place! And the old standbys still do their job! Thank you!

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  5. I have any number of Sperry, Quoddy and Sebago 'boat shoes' along with a pair of Dubarry boots, but when working foredeck on anything shorter than 45 feet, I rather wear the Musto Dynamic Pro shoes... fabulous grip... Still cannot understand why anybody would be running around on deck without wearing shoes...

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  6. I crewed on Lake Erie races one summer. Literally no one wore boat shoes. Sneakers or Sperry Cvo's only. Boat shoes were for the bar after the day was done. As you said- to easy to lose a shoe.

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  7. I've never been a big fan of camp mocs; I have a pair of Bean Bluchers I like.

    I like Sperry's two-eye boat gold cup boat shoes - particularly the ones with the brown, non-marking latex soles. Latex has a fair bit more 'give,' so they cushion feet better than the traditional white soles. I wear these with no-show socks and custom 3/4 length orthotics so they're actually comfortable for walking. On the water, Sperry's shoes that are sneaker-like (the Billfish, I think) fit better and have mesh drainage panels, like many other modern water shoes, which is a big plus over old-school boat shoes.

    If you are willing to sacrifice appearance for function, Keen's Zerraport II is an excellent sandal/shoe for sailing and paddling. The open strap construction allows water to drain quickly, rubber toe bumper keeps the piggies intact, the soles are non-marking and have channels to purge moisture, and the midsole is contoured and cushioned - easy to walk in them. They also have enough room to accommodate neoprene booties in cold water.

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  8. Surprisingly, I was able to pick up a pair of Ralph Lauren deck shoes in Palm Springs last December that were knockouts. They're logo-free, comfortable and supportive of my aging arches, and they look great. I'm nobody's idea of an RL fan, but I was impressed by these, as I wore my last pair of Quoddys until they were literally in tatters.

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  9. I love my Rancourt camp mocs and Quoddy boat shoes. Both are made in the USA and will last forever. I used to buy Bean’s camp mocs, but they are all but disposable at this point. Rancourt is having their Summer Pre-Sale right now and if you don’t mind waiting a bit, you can get a great price. Shipping dates are approximately November 29th, 2024.

    No, I do not work for Rancourt. Yes, I do wear my camp mocs nearly every day here in Tampa. Yes, the boat shoes or camp mocs are $199 and made in USA.

    https://www.rancourtandcompany.com/collections/spring-summer-2024-pre-sale

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    Replies
    1. Yes, the Rancourt camp mocs are fantastic.

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  10. It has been decades since I have been sailing, but my father insisted that if we wear boat shoes on land that we must also keep a pair for the boat. He was very particular about his deck and likened it to not wearing street-worn sneakers on a basketball court.

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    Replies
    1. that's pretty common. Boat shoes worn on land pick up grit that invariably degrades or marks up decks.

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  11. I've been wearing Sperry AO boat shoes for a good 45 years now. I've bought them in different colors but tend to mostly wear the original brown with the white soles. I've looked at the alternatives, including the overpriced stuff made in Maine and have found I remain quite satisfied with Sperrys made, now, in the Dominican Republic factory (iirc). In my younger years, sailing in SoCal, the one thing I found them not terribly good for was fiberglass decks!

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  12. LL Bean camp mocs work for me.I have a pair I bought at a thrift shop in East Greenwich RI in 1995 for $8. For longer wear II rotate them seasonally with a pair of Eastland Camp mocs for which I paid retail in a store in North Canaan Conn in 1993.. I can’t remember how much they cost. But it was more than $8. The seasonal rotation approach has worked well for me. Both pairs have plenty of wear left in them.

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  13. Since it is now rather vulgar to own a sailboat designec for crews and racing (can anyone seriously justify the expense of One Design Racing with millions starving around the world) this discourse reminds me of discourse with a horse, of course, of course. Since he abruptly left this Blog after being disgraced by two (very) lesser beings, Ferd has mentionec to me in offhand conversation that the only True Prep shoe in this genre is the long lamented Sebago Campsides in Black with red soles. Period. Anything else is obsequious and therefore not Prep. But I don't know.

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    1. If you were a regular follower of this blog you would be aware that one of the (very) lesser beings to whom you refer, acquiesced to Ferd's request and asked him to return to the blog (I'll give you a clue-it was me). Ferd did not have the courtesy however to respond. I would also point out that neither of the (very) lesser beings to whom you refer, hid under the "anonymous" tag. So "anonymous" I will make your life a lot happier and no longer take any part in this blog. I would hate to upset you any further.

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    2. Jesus, Ferd. Grow up. Give it a rest. You're too old for this nonsense.

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    3. Ferd died last year. I assume he is resting well although I dare not speculate on his precise location.

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    4. Ferd did not "die last year."

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    5. Yes, if Ferd had died last year he would have let us all know.

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    6. May we PLEASE NOT use the Lord’s name in vain on this blog? May the moderator please remove that blasphemous comment by Anonymous on July 9. JDV

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    7. Perhaps it is not blasphemy for others

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  14. Who makes the camp moc shown in the 2nd picture with the white soles?

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  15. Never went sailing, but started wearing Docksides in college in the early eighties, then graduating to Top Siders. Owned and wore out many pair over the years. In my forties, though, I settled on LL Bean Blucher Mocs for their added support and tighter fit, and continue to wear those into my sixties. JDV

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    1. Does one really graduate from Docksides to Top Siders?

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    2. Well, sure. The only brand sold in southwestern Virginia at the time were Docksides. TOPH lauded Topsiders, but could not find them. After college I went to graduate school in Virginia Beach and started buying Top Siders there. So, I suppose in two ways I graduated to them.

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  16. One issue with the Sperry Topsider. If there is a small stone within a mile and a half of your location, it will end up inside your shoe.

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  17. Been wearing the LlBean Mocs for at least 45 years. They are the most comfortable, versatile shoe I’ve ever owned. Dress up with a blaze, tie, OCBD, and khaki', or just shorts and tee shirt, how can one go wrong. Even travelling to Europe slide on/off at airport. And yes during my collegiate years I was my own self cobbler, glue and duct tape were often part of my moc maintenance!

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  18. Not currently sailing so it's LL Bean Camp Mocs most of the time, unless I'm wearing a suit, hiking or cutting firewood. They don't last like they used to, but are inexpensive enough to replace every two-three years.

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