Meet Rising Star Cordwainer, Kyle Rancourt
- Najib Benouar
Our comrades in style over at UrbanDaddy Perks recently teamed up with Maine’s most sought-after shoemakers, Rancourt & Co., to offer a few exclusive styles of their boat shoe and ranger mocs—each of which comes in a chili pebble-grain upper or a suede that looks a lot like our favorite malbec. And we had the opportunity to catch up with Kyle Rancourt, third-generation cordwainer and all-round stand-up guy, to talk footwear.
Here’s what he had to say about flip-flops, his favorite boots and the secrets to why shoes made in Maine are better...
What’s the shoe weather like in Maine right now? It’s Maine weather, unpredictable... 80 degrees and sunny one minute, 40 and raining the next. You have to be able to adapt—a great reason for owning multiple pairs of Rancourt & Co. shoes. I’m on to boat shoes and ranger mocs now, the boots have been put away until fall. So how’d you get into shoemaking? My grandfather and my father. The Rancourt family is in its third generation, and I saw some real value and opportunity in our heritage and knowledge of shoemaking.
What is it about shoes made in Maine that makes them so much better? Is it something in the air? Pride. Our craftspeople want to produce the best pair of shoes they possibly can every time. Also, our community has been making shoes since the 19th century, so I’m sure that helps.
So, over all that time, some secret “Made in Maine” techniques have developed? Yes, hand-sewing. Companies in Massachusetts, Arkansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin all make good shoes, but Maine makes great shoes. Hand-sewn moccasin-constructed shoes offer unparalleled comfort, durability and quality—this process is somewhat unique to Maine.
Any hard-and-fast rules on how your shoes should be worn? My rule is this—when you go below ankle height (boat shoes, loafers, ranger mocs), between April and October, no socks. Boots should always be worn with socks. Boat shoes should never be worn with socks. Ranger mocs can go either way. Shorts, chinos, jeans all go great with our shoes. Just please stop wearing flip-flops in public, no one wants to see your toes. Save it for the beach.
One of the first things you notice about your shoes is the range of handsome leather. Seems like it’s something you’re dedicated to keeping very high-quality. We’ve made connections over the years with some of the best tanneries in the world, and we often visit with the salesmen from these tanneries who show us new products and new colors. The scraps are typically donated to local artisans—one good example is Paul Cunningham in NJ, who makes those Leather Head footballs and medicine balls. He uses the scraps to fill the medicine balls. They’re beautiful.
On any given day, what shoes are you grabbing for most often? Boots. I wear mostly boots from October until April. I am a big fan of chukka boots and the versatility they offer. In the summer I mostly wear boat shoes and ranger mocs. I’ve been stepping up my penny loafer game recently—keep your eye on the @rancourtco Instagram account for some evidence.
So this shoe collaboration is an exclusive, and that wine-colored suede is something we haven’t seen before—how’d you settle on that? My friend Kyle Udelson at UrbanDaddy approached me about doing another Perk, and we thought it’d be cool to do something with personality—and the first thought that came to mind was purple suede. So basically, this was inspired by Kyle.
It’s not often you get to use your own name as a double-entendre...