This guide, created by /u/6t5g and /u/a_robot_with_dreams, describes most American made handsewns. Specifically, we have attempted to track down who makes what and where. Here is a diagram that summarizes our findings.
A handsewn is a shoe sewn by hand with the upper surrounding the foot, including the bottom. The sole is then attached to the upper. This video of the Rancourt factory demonstrates handsewn construction.
We mention the Maine cottage industry a few times. This industry consists of home-workers and local contract handsewers, primarily in the Lewiston, ME area, that work from home or in small conglomerations and are frequently subcontracted to by the ME handsewers.
Rancourt’s line is made in their factory in Lewiston, ME. In addition, they contract for Sperry, Eastland, Red Wing, Ralph Lauren, Timberland, Helm, and Brooks Brothers, making an average of 1,000 shoes per week. Rancourt sub-contracts out to the local cottage industry. As of 2010, Rancourt has eight handsewers, all between the ages of 42 and 62.
Rancourt has an interesting history. Mike Rancourt’s father, David, bought the original family owned factory (name currently unknown) in the 1960s and sold it to Quoddy in the early 1970s. David Rancourt worked for Quoddy for until 1982, then opened his own company called Downeast Casual Footwear, which contracted for companies like Cole Haan. Downeast was sold to Cole Haan in 1987 and both Mike and David stayed on for five years. Cole Haan expanded to several factories in Maine and Mike became the president of manufacturing for Cole Haan. When Cole Haan was bought out by Nike, they began outsourcing production. As a result, Mike (and presumably David) left Cole Haan and opened Maine Shoe in 1992 with his wife by purchasing a closed-down factory. Maine Shoe also did a lot of contract work, notably for Allen Edmonds. AE bought Maine Shoe in 1997, and Mike stayed on to work for Allen Edmonds for some time. In October of 2009, Mike opened up Rancourt with his son Kyle.
In addition to handsewns, Rancourt has a Blake line that utilizes Blake/Rapid construction using synthetic innersoles wrapped in leather. However, Rancourt replaces the innersole during recrafting. As a point of curiosity, all Rancourt shell cordovan offerings are made from natural Horween shell cordovan dyed by Rancourt.
Owned by Kevin and Kirsten Shorey, Quoddy LLC was formed in 1998. The Quoddy family has been part of the Maine handsewers for generations back to the LL Bean days. Their line is sewn in their self-owned factory in Lewiston, ME, although their headquarters are in Perry, Maine. Clicking, preparation, and customer service are handled in Perry, while sewing and finishing are done in Lewiston. Their factory produces less than 500 shoes per week. About 25% of Quoddy shoes are exported to Asia.Quoddy has a staff of about 40, and they do collaborations with several companies including UGG..
Highland Shoe Company
Started by Adam Sutton, Highland Shoe Company does not own a line, but contracts for many other lines in the US. Their factory is located in Brewer, ME. Highland produces shoes for Yuketen, Timberland, Red Wing, Oak Street Bootmakers, Alden Cape Cod, and Sperry Top-Sider, and their factory produces just over 400 shoes per week and employs about 35 people. Founded in 2003, Highland Shoe Company was bought by Justin Brands, Inc in May of 2013, which is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway and also owns Justin Boot Co., Tony Lama Boot Co., Nocona Boot Co., Chippewa Boot Co. and Justin Original Workboots. Of the shoes Highland makes, they estimate 50 to 60% of their shoes are exported to Asain markets.
Yuketen has a variety of offerings, some of which are made in America. Yuketen was a joint venture under Yuki Matsuda’s Meg Company with Ken and Kirsten Shorey during the late 1990s. Yuketen and Quoddy worked side by side until 2006. The Yuketen name is a derivation of the three founders.
All of Yuketen’s hand lasted constructed shoes are American made in their own workshop in Maine, likely in Lewiston, or contracted out through Highland or the local cottage industry. Although Yuketen’s lineup is extensive, they only produce whatever retailers order, so many models may never be made. All of Yuketen’s welted shoes appear to be made in Canada (possibly by Dayton) and Mexico (Pistolero). A pair of Yuketen shoes takes between approximately 96 and 120 hours to make.
W.C. Russell Moccasin Company was founded in 1898 by Will Russell, who established the company in response to the Wisconsin logging business. It was eventually bought by Bill Gustin, who established the line. It remains a family owned and operated company located in Berlin, WI.
A company that certainly needs no introduction. All of AE’s MIUSA handsewns are sewn in their Port Washington, WI factory, while all others are sewn in the Dominican Republic. They have done some contracting, including for Brooks Brothers. Rancourt used to do AE’s handsewn work in the late 90s and 00s.
Gokey has an incredibly rich history operating in several locations including St. Paul, MN where Gokey utilized a cottage system to produce their custom mocs. Acquired by Orvis in 1997, the Gokey/Orvis factory is now located in Tipton, MO.
Hailing from Dexter, ME, Town View Leather, owned and operated by Galen and Gayenne Wintle, offers their “Ole’ Maine Comfort Classics.” Galen worked for Dexter Shoe, a now-defunct Maine handsewer, for 22 years. They offer single and double soled moccasins designed for lounge use.
Also out of Dexter, ME, Wassookeag offers made-to-order traditional leather soled moccasins in several leather options, including triple soled mocs for heavy outdoor use.
Austin Handsewn Company is located in South Paris, ME. They are likely one of the local cottage industry companies.
Willymoc was founded in 1985 by Willy O’Neal after several decades with another Maine handsewing company. Willy works with his wife Barb out of their own workshop to create custom mocs in a variety of leathers including a wide variety of exotics.
This was an interesting search, and although we don’t doubt that there are mistakes and missing pieces, we have made huge strides towards unraveling some of the mysteries. We’ll be happy to answer questions or add more pieces if you are aware of them.
We have concluded that the Maine handsewing industry in particular is a giant incestuous cesspool of contracts and collaborations and more. It’s highly likely that there are contracts that we have not able to track down. Note that the above only contains private label, distinguished by the lack of transparency. Collaborations were not included. Thanks for reading, and we look forward to discussing our findings.