Quoddy Blucher: 3 Year Review – Is It Worth It?
- Price: $295 MSRP
- Pros: Unique handsewn style, Great materials
- Cons: Not comfortable, Expensive resole costs
Shoes with Quoddy stamped into the sole have been around since just after the end of WWII, but like many of the other Maine-based companies, that iteration of the brand doesn’t exist today. The current owners of Quoddy started far more recently in 1997. They had a goal of reviving the nameplate in order to sell shoes in their small store that also had “Quoddy” in the name. However, their timing could not have been better. Just after the turn of the century, there was a renewed interest in Americana. Not just in American-made goods, but things that are classically American, and handsewns built in Maine fit the bill perfectly.
The brand was quickly able to expand and became known for offering a variety of custom make ups, with customers having their choice of sole, leather, color, stitching style and more.
The explosive growth the company saw was both a blessing and a curse for those who loved their shoes. Originally priced not much more than a pair of imported Sperrys, the owners struggled to keep up. Delays for their shoes could often exceed 6 months, and the cheap resoles slowed down production of new models. From around 2005 to around 2015, the price of their shoes went up more than threefold, and the price of a resole went up to nearly 10 times its original price. A few years later, they ended up dropping some of the materials that were harder to work with like the crepe soles.
In spite of the many changes, one model that has been fairly constant is the blucher. Taking inspiration from several different classic handsewns, the blucher is all Quoddy. However, is that a good thing?
The Quoddy Blucher is really a combination of two styles of shoes – the boat shoe and a ranger moc. Taking style ques from each, and sometimes splitting the differences down the middle, the shoe acts as a bridge between the two styles and can have a very different impact based on the color choices the consumer selects.
This particular pair is made from a whiskey leather and brick-red sole, a combo that pushes it firmly towards the ranger moc aesthetic. Up front, the classic moc toe has started to separate slightly. The white thread that keeps it together, however, is mostly even and shows no sign of wear at all.
The leather on the toe has tight creasing, with a pull up effect that is still strong years later. The leather does show scratches and knicks, but they tend to fade into the background due to the color variation. On top of the tongue/plug panel, the quarters feature three brass eyelets with rawhide laces running through them. The stitching on the quarters is tight and straight, even if the leather panels themselves are a bit uneven.
At the top of the quarters and running along the throat, the shoe features a collar with large pinking (or the zig zag cut in the leather) along the edge. This panel is soft and comfortable, but does feature a raw edge near the eyelets. To me, this area comes off as unfinished and is really the only area on the shoe where I have a major complaint. You can’t miss it when wearing the shoe. Wrapping the panel around on itself would have gone a long way in helping the shoe feel complete.
In the back, one of the only areas where leather overlaps is a vertical panel covering the stitching. This meets a horizontal stitch that is unique compared to Quoddy’s cross-town rivals Rancourt and Oak Street Bootmakers. While others put the seem higher up, and treat it as a styling feature, Quoddy has done the opposite. This stitching is as low as Quoddy could make it – right up against the sole – and the leather was cut short to keep the back flat.
On the bottom, the shoe features a brick colored Vibram camp moc outsole. We will discuss the benefits of the materials section, but here it is worth noting that faint design along the side walls have a tendency to hold dirt more than other camp moc soles I’ve tried.
Inside, the shoe is unlined, with your feet directly against the interior of the leather. Finishing out the shoe, a full length black insole provides a bit of contrast.
Fit & Comfort:
These shoes fit true to length, and fairly wide – even compared to other Quoddy products. I’m a 11.75 D on the Brannock and I have these in a size 11 D. While I would probably order an 11.5 if I was going to do it again, unlike my other pair of Quoddys I wouldn’t have these professional stretched. Personally, I prefer a shoe to be too wide, rather than too narrow, so I prefer Quoddy’s lasts of their main competitors. Of course, everyone is going to have their own personal preference
While these shoes are not quite as bad as the Quoddy True Penny when it comes to comfort, they are not something you’ll want to wear if you’re getting your steps in. On the positive side, the Vibram sole has a bit of softness to it, and provides a bit of padding. This, combined with the leather insole, does an OK job overall.
Unfortunately, Quoddy still refuses to use any sort of arch support at all. With a completely flat insole, your feet feel like they’ve walked three times as far as they actually have. I appreciate that true moccasin construction keeps things as simple as possible, but this is one area where a classic design can be improved.
Elsewhere on the shoe, don’t expect any kind of structure. Apart from the strip on the back and the collar, the shoe is just a single layer of soft leather over your foot. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your individual needs, but personally I found it very comfortable.
Break-In on this shoe was easy. The sole is soft out of the box, and the leather was even softer – something Quoddy does better than anyone. As mentioned above, these were probably a half size too small for me so I had a bit of stretching to get these really dialed in. That being said if you got the right size, I don’t even expect that to be the case.
With the softness of this leather out of the box and how it ages, I was certain it was Horween’s chromexcel. To my surprise, I only learned it was actually Horween’s cavalier leather when researching for this review. My previous experience with Cavalier that it was stiffer and waxier than chromexcel. This shoe blows that expectation out of the water. This leather is softer than anything I own except for my chromexcel Quoddy True Penny loafers. I don’t know how they do it but Quoddy consistently seems to find the softest hides for their shoes.
Underneath your foot, the insole is another piece of soft leather, and the upper leather is wrapped around under your foot as well. The only other part of the shoe is the Vibram outsole. Made of a softer compound compared to what Oak Street Bootmakers use, this sole has had average wear. Not great, not terrible. That being said, considering that the outsole is providing the majority of the impact resistance, that is a trade off I’m happy to make.
Ease of Care:
Like most other handsewns featured on 100wears.com, this shoe is fairly easy to take care of. While natural leather will never be care-free, a bit of Bick 4 or similar conditioner every few months is all it needs. The leather laces are also starting to wear out, but are replaceable.
When the sole does end up wearing through, Quoddy does offer a full refurbish service. In this, they replace the sole, condition the leather, clean up loose stitching, and replace the laces. This costs $129, but Quoddy does run sales for $99 multiple times a year. While the cost of the refurbishment is in line with others, I do wish Quoddy would offer a replacement for just the sole for less. Rancourt does this for $60 and seems to be doing just fine.
It is possible to get the shoe resoled elsewhere, but you need to make sure your cobbler has a blake stitching machine. Since blake stitching requires special equipment, expect to pay a bit more compared to replacing a good year welt. Outside of major metropolitan areas, resoling at a cobbler might not be an option at all.
If you’re looking to design your own, Quoddy prices their Blucher at $295-$320. They also have a large variety of in-stock combinations, including the one here, for $275 through the same link. The blucher, often in this colorway, is also carried by numerous 3rd party outlets including J Crew, Guideboat, and even Wal Mart [Update: Wal Mart has sold out!].
With so many retailers carrying the shoe, it’s typically pretty easy to find it on sale. At time of writing, Guideboat has the Toast color on sale for $150 in a nearly full-size run. Further, Quoddy has yearly tent sales where they sell them at a similar price – if they have your size.
Alternatively, there is an ebay seller that doesn’t claim any connection to the brand, but is suspiciously located in the same town as Quoddy, and only sells brand new Quoddys. They typically have great pricing, but what they have, and in what size, seems to be random. At time of writing they have mostly boat shoes, but a few weeks ago it was almost all boots.
With Quoddy’s unique blend of a ranger moc and boat shoe, there are no direct comparisons to this shoe. The closest are probably Rancourt’s Ranger Moc ($250), and Oak Street Bootmaker’s Trail Oxford ($282). If you’re looking for something more affordable, LL Bean also offers a ranger moc ($109), but don’t expect anywhere near the same quality. It’s worth noting all of these shoes are more similar to Quoddy’s Maliseet Oxford ($299) than the blucher.
While the MSRP falls between their two major rivals, Quoddy will generally still be the most affordable due to sales. Not only will Quoddy products go on the deepest discount, they also go on sale more often. From an initial value standpoint, Quoddy probably takes the cake. Of course, when choosing a shoe like this there are more important things than just cost. In this range, people are willing to pay extra to get what they want.
The Quoddy is the best for someone who isn’t looking for something too “outdoorsy.” At the same time, it’s a bit less “nautical” then boat shoes – and doesn’t carry the same fratty vibe. Quoddy is also the best at providing materials that hug your foot, which is one of the main reasons people shop for handsewns.
The Quoddy Blucher gives you a unique style with excellent materials. If you want something that is a bit different compared to the boat shoes and ranger mocs of the world, you could do a lot worse than picking up one of these. I just wish they would put a little bit of arch support in.