Leather / Shoemaking / Shoes

Different Moc-Toe Styles

The biggest stylistic problem that I’m still seeing with my boat shoes is the moc-toe. I haven’t taken the time to make a pattern and cut the plug carefully before I sew it on and, instead, have just sewn it on with lots of excess material and then cut it to shape later. Not only does this waste material, but it’s sloppy and doesn’t end up looking very good. Instead of creating a small, neat seam between the plug and the vamp, this technique causes the seam to jut out at a right angle to the rest of the shoe.

Exhibit A:

Boat Shoe MKIII (uncut plug)


Boat Shoe MKIII (final 3 no-eyelets)

The solution to this problem seems to lie in cutting & skiving the plug and the vamp before sewing them together. Skiving should reduce the bulkiness of the seam and cause it to appear much smaller and neater like a traditional boat shoe. So I’ve started the process of creating a pattern and I’m expecting that my next few shoes will start getting worse before they get better as I hone in the pattern and try to get everything right; which, as always, will be a long process of trial and error.

In the meantime, I’ve been looking at all sorts of different boat shoes online to get a better sense of some of the design variations there are out there and, in so doing, I discovered that the design of a moc-toe appears to have all sorts of different permutations that I never expected. Not the least of which is the very same style that I’d been doing: the “high & tight” or “flat top” look. At first I just came across a few off-brand, handmade shoes that were made this way…

Such as this one, by a company called Conker in England:

Conker Boat Shoe

It looks like Conker had some of the same problems that I did with this design, such as the way that the moc stitch creates a lump under the lace flaps because it is so raised. I tried to solve this by trimming the material above the moc stitch as low as I could, but it’s still a problem. As is the fact that it’s inherently ugly.

But then, to my surprise, there were some more reputable companies making this type of moc-toe as well. Like Sperry:

Sperry flat top

It’s definitely much smaller & neater than mine, but still the same idea.

Looking further, it was neat to see just how many variations there were on this theme. I was expecting at most maybe a few different stitching styles, like these cross-stitched Quoddys:



But there are also many other, very different styles… Like these Vans Mesa Mocs, that have what looks like a regular moccasin stitch around the top but, in this case, the material from the plug extends past the seam and lays over the front of the vamp.



Or these, from a company called Pierrepont Hicks, who seem to have embraced the bulky extra material that protrudes from the stitch (when you sew it like I do) by sewing over it so that it bunches up in little pleats.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 12.11.09 PM


Or these Nikes… Granted, they’re not exactly boat shoes but they do employ the same basic elements of a moccasin type construction. In this case, however, they’ve focused their creativity on the area underneath the stitch rather than on the stitch itself. I just found it an interesting example of how creative you can get with something so simple as a top-stitched shoe construction. I mean, here I was worrying that my shoes looked crappy because they’ve got a bulky toe seam while Nike was making shoes that resemble gills or the bottom of a mushroom.



All this really helps give one the sense that there’s no particular way that a moc-toe has to be done and that there are a huge number of variations out there. But even if it is just a matter of taste, I still have to say that I prefer the traditional, smaller seam. But still, seeing all of these really did make me want to play around with different designs.



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