Quoddy True Penny Loafer: 5 Years On. The Best Maine Loafer?
- Price: $300 MSRP
- Pros: Amazing materials, Great blend of formal and casual style
- Cons: Incredibly uncomfortable for long distances
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, with the goal of reviving the nameplate in order to sell shoes in their small knick-knack 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. Customers had 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 be 6 months or more. The next-to-free resoles that they offered slowed down production of new models.
From around 2005 to around 2015, the price of their shoes went up more than three fold. The price of a resole went up to nearly 10 times it’s original price. A few years later, the brand ended up needing to drop some of the materials that were harder to work, including the crepe soles.
So, are the True Penny Loafers a cash grab by a company, or were the early Quoddy buyers getting away with something under the nose of the owners?
The True Penny Loafer fits a niche that is unique to them. When it comes to beefroll loafers (penny loafers that have a large “roll” where the strap meets the vamp, typically at the moc toe), you have a variety of choices that are slightly more formal. Brands such as Oak Street Bootmakers, Rancourt, Beckett Simonon, and even the 800-lb gorilla in the American-made footwear market Allen Edmonds all have a version with a dress shoe sole, consistent and even stitching, and construction that would be appropriate with a sport coat and wool pants. On the other side of the equation, you have countless brands – Quoddy included – who offer penny loafers that are closer to a boat shoe with a strap than a traditional loafer, generally including flat rubber soles, casual cuts of leather, and a lower and wider design of the shoe.
The True Penny Loafer fits directly in the middle. It has some of the hallmarks of the dressier loafers, a stitched leather sole with a distinct heel, smaller beefrolls that allow the loafer to sit flat, etc. On the other side, you have pinking around the collar and thicker moc toe and heel stitching, giving the shoe a more casual vibe. The customer can also specify items that can impact the formality of the shoe by selecting full grain smooth dark brown leather with subtle stitching thread, and a lining to help keep it’s structure, or opting for rough leather, with bright white stitching, leaving it unlined to take the shape of your feet.
What this middle ground means, though, isn’t set in stone. Some might argue that it’s too formal to wear ultra-casually, and too casual to wear with business attire, but I disagree and find that the True Penny Loafer tends to be incredibly versatile.
This particular pair uses Horween’s brown chromexcel throughout the upper. The moc toe uses brown thread, which does a great job of blending into the background. The cut of the leather on the moc toe itself is more on the rustic side compared to many of it’s contemporaries. With no glue to keep it’s shape tends to deform in an non-uniform way overtime.
The rustic feel is continued with a larger heel seem thread compared to most shoes in this class. Unlike other American-made handsewns I’ve seen, the stitching on the back has stayed fairly tight over time even without glue to keep it in place like Sperry uses.
Inside, this particular pair is lined with the gold glove leather interior. The color of the interior has held up well over the years. Below your foot is a siped leather sole and he heel stack of leather and cork topped off with a Vibram rubber cover.
Fit & Comfort:
In my experience, Quoddy shoes tend to be a bit wider than comparable shoes from OSB, Rancourt, Sperry and other handsewns. In addition, the lack of structure in the shoe, even with the lining, allows for give in areas that other footwear doesn’t.
This particular pair is a full size down from what I normally wear in dress shoes and two full sizes down from what I’d wear in most Nikes. They were a bit small out of the box with socks on, but quickly stretched to fit. That being said, if I was going to do it all over again, I’d probably have gone down a half size instead of a full size – though Quoddy was able to fix that for me during the resole. Be careful going too large however, the back of the shoe is very low and doesn’t do a great job keeping your foot in place.
Comfort on these shoes for the first few seconds is great. The leather they chose is just thick enough to give your foot a hug without being constricting, and the full moccasin construction means that you have that hug in all directions. Unfortunately, as soon as you take your first few steps that leather compresses and you’re relying on the extremely thin and flat sole to provide all of the support for the ball of your foot and your arch. The heel counter says it contains cork so that it will compress under your foot, but they could swap it out for wood and I probably wouldn’t notice. Don’t wear these anywhere you need to walk more than a quarter of a mile. These shoes are just not built for that.
If you size right, the only break in will be making sure the soles are scuffed up. They are slightly glossy and slippery out of the box. Otherwise, if you ordered them too small, you might need a day or two for the shoe to conform to your feet but even then it shouldn’t be bothersome.
While there is no break in, the leather from the moccasin construction will mold (slightly) to your foot as you wear them so there is an increase in comfort over time – but that doesn’t mean you should be going 5 miles in them after a few wears.
The materials are A+ throughout the Quoddy True Penny Loafer. As previously mentioned, the upper of the shoe uses Horween’s Chromexcel leather, but what you might not know is that not all Chromexcel is equal. Manufacturers can specify the thickness of the leather and reject leather that doesn’t meet their standards. This pair of loafers has both the thickest and softest Chromexcel I’ve had – better than any of my Aldens, Rancourts, OSBs, even other Quoddys.
This was also my first Chromexcel shoe and it set me up for disappointment. Opening each new pair is like a heroin addict trying to find that initial first hit. So much excitement but you never find it.
The lining of the shoe is a pebbled deer-skin liner Quoddy describes as “glove leather.” It’s a description that I wouldn’t argue with. The leather is both soft and strong, and comfortable with or without socks. Of course, it better be as it makes up half the padding of the entire shoe.
The sole of the shoe is made of a very thin leather, sipped (has wavy lines cut into it like a Sperry) for easy break in. The heel is attached to the sole with glue, and moving down is a quarter inch of cork with filler, more leather, and a few millimeters of Vibram rubber. If there was one material area for complaint, it would be here. The design of the sole means it transfers all impacts almost directly to your foot. Further, the thin leather sole wore through faster than any shoe I’ve ever owned. That being said, this wasn’t a choice made to save money for the company, but to keep that blend of casual moccasin and dressy beefroll loafer. If the trade off is worth it is entirely up to the consumer.
Ease of Care:
The Quoddy True Penny falls near the middle of my collection when it comes to ease of care. First, to be clear, any full grain leather without a coating on it will need some maintenance to stay healthy and vibrant. These are no exception.
Expect to use some leather conditioner like Bick 4 every 4 to 6 months, depending on wear. While my preference is Bick, others prefer Venetian Shoe Cream or even splash out for Saphir Renovator. Further, you’ll want to give them a good brushing with a horsehair brush every few wears. This helps keep the oils in the leather evenly distributed. It’s also needed for this shoe’s party trick.
Speaking of that trick, it has the ability to shrug off scratches. With it’s thickness and the amount of oils inside, as long as this leather is maintained, it should always be able to bounce back. Even large gashes on things like escalator stairs come out with a good brushing and a warm spoon. Or, sometimes, just a thumb working the leather if that’s all I have available. Even a half decade on, this leather continues to amaze me with it’s ability to spring back.
Much like these shoes have an amazing power, they have one major weakness. The thin sole tends to wear very quickly and you’ll probably be emailing them about a resole sooner than you would with other pairs.
Customer Service Interation:
These are actually the third pair of soles on these shoes, but the first to replace a worn out set. When I first received them, one of the heels was substantially smaller than the other. It was more than an inch in difference. This was during their growing pains era, so I was kind of expecting something might be off. After contacting them, Elizabeth at Quoddy reached out with a pre-paid shipping label and offered to fix them under warranty. A few weeks later I had them back with new soles on.
Second, as mentioned earlier, I realized that I should have not sized down 3/4 a size. I requested that they stretch the shoe and put the upper on a size 12 sole during the resole. They said that was no problem, however when I received them the uppers were stretched but with a size 11 sole. Unfortunately that led to the upper dragging on the ground. While again sad to send them away again so soon, Elizabeth again offered a pre-paid shipping label. They put them as a priority and had them back in just a few weeks.
In an ideal world I would have preferred to have no problems at all, however unlike other brands (Truman…), Quoddy admits when they make a mistake and do what it takes to make it right.
One benefit of how Quoddy makes their shoes is the number of times they can be resoled. Unlike a goodyear welt, where the welt can wear out and make it cost prohibitive to resole or a stitchdown where anything less than perfection means you can only get a couple resoles, Quoddy can simply move the stitching slightly in or slightly out on the upper once the original holes wear down.
Resoling itself is a fairly easy process. On their website they have a top line option called resole/refurbish. Once you check out, they email you a pre-paid UPS shipping label the next business day. Once you send it off it’s all in their hands.
- January 13th: Purchased resole
- January 14th: Received shipping info
- January 15th: Dropped off at UPS Store
- January 21st: Received by Quoddy
- January 28th: Shoes sent from Quoddy
- January 31st: Shoes were back at my doorstep
All-in-all, just over 2 weeks turn around time is extremely reasonable.
As for the resole itself, in addition to swapping out the sole, Quoddy replaces the insole, laces (if you have them), tightens any loose stitching, and conditions the leather. While a nice-to-have, one of the benefits of this shoe is just how little the leather had worn out. I didn’t notice any real difference apart from the new insole.
It used to be very rare to find Quoddys on sale. With the majority of their footwear being made to order, you only ever found them on sale when a retailer decided to pick up the brand and then either went out of business/stopped carrying them or you drove to Maine during one of their tent sales. I was lucky enough to find the former when Guideboat was looking to unload some of their old stock at $179.
Today finding a pair on sale is much easier. Quoddy’s tent sales have now moved online. It’s pretty easy to find something good in your size, as long as you’re quick and not too picky. Another great option is this eBay store. It’s located suspiciously close to their factory and sells Quoddy seconds. I have my suspicious it’s Quoddy themselves selling here, though unfortunately their prices have trended up over the years.
Of course, if you want to go custom you can order directly from Quoddy for $300. A bit more if you want lining.
Much like their shoes, finding a sale on their resole is increasingly easy recently. Normally listed at $129 (including shipping), Quoddy typically runs a sale for $99 several times a year. Sometimes you can even buy in advance and only ship once the shoes are ready.
Going back to the question at the top. Are these a good value at today’s market prices? Or, did a lot of us miss the boat?
First and foremost, it’s clear Quoddy isn’t cutting corners. The materials they use set them apart, even from the other Maine-based handsewn makers. Further, they remain one of the very few footwear makers that still use a proper moccasin construction where the leather wraps completely around your foot. This construction requires more material and time to make, and justifies a higher price.
Second, it was also clear that under their old prices they couldn’t keep up with demand. A shoe isn’t a good value at any price if you have to order it years before you need it. Raising prices did two things. First, it slowed down the orders to give them a brea. Second, it allowed for them to invest in new machines and staff to better handle future orders.
Finally, Quoddy makes these shoes entirely within America, with American materials. American labor is expensive, and shoes will take a price hit from using American goods and services.
With the construction and investments they needed to make to grow the brand, I don’t think it’s possible for the company to profitably make these shoes for much less than what they are selling for. It’s hard to argue about cost if you really like this aesthetic.
While the price of the shoes are more than fair, I’m not so certain about the resole. Rancourt, OSB, Allen Edmonds, and more are able to resole their shoes – within the United States – for anywhere from a bit to significantly less than what Quoddy. They also still offer great customer service. Further, while I can understand the benefits of the thinner leather sole, it’s undeniable that the material costs of these three brands are facing higher material costs in addition to their lower prices.
I’ll likely continue to utilize Quoddy’s service as I know I can trust them. Unfortunately, it’s hard to shake the feeling that I’m being fleeced on the resoles. Especially with as quickly as these soles wear down.
The Quoddy True Penny Loafer – particularly in these colors – offers a completely unique look that you can’t get anywhere else. Straddling the line between casual and business casual, these are an incredibly versatile shoe. I have no doubt these will see a lot of wear in your closet. Quoddy sets themselves apart with their materials, and it makes a real impact on wearing them. I just wish they still offered resoles at a reasonable price.
Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments below