While Alden continues to make some of the finest shoes in the world, and Red Wing is the standard bearer when it comes to rugged American made footwear, the market for American made sporty shoes has been extremely limited. New Balance has of course been the foremost producer of American sneakers for some time, and upstarts like Victory have definitely created a lot of excitement with its small-batch-no-logo approach, but no one has really come along and put an American spin on all of the super-clean stitch-down sneakers that have been coming out of Italy. That is, up until this summer when our old friends at Rancourt & Co. up in Lewiston, Maine launched these two classic American sneakers called the Court Classics. Made from full-grain cowhide leather, these simple sneakers were at least two years in the making with Rancourt taking note of the void in the market for this type of footwear. It seems the inspiration was equal parts want and need. “We developed the court classic because we felt that a simple yet traditional high quality leather sneaker at an affordable price was missing from the US market.” And the results are impressive.
During my summer vacation to Maine earlier this month I spent a perfect Saturday morning at the Arundel Flea Market. It being Maine, there was a plethora of vintage hunting and fishing tackle on hand. The best of which was a deadstock 1960s LL Bean fly fishing vest (as pictured above), which I acquired in short order as it fit perfectly and of course because I of course needed it. Flea markets like the one in Arundel are a fairly common coinsurance in Maine, especially along route US1 which is lined with antiques stores and all sorts of other vintage hunting opportunities. The dealers are friendly, the prices are reasonable and you tend to find all sorts of interesting things and different themes than you would in Connecticut or New York. The fishing and nautical vibes are strong as are the selection of other New England centric goods. There are also fresh coffee and donuts, so there’s that. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.
There’s something about the prospect of staying in a lighthouse that adds an element of rugged nautical adventure to any trip. The small rocky island that’s home to the Inn at Cuckold’s Lighthouse may not be far off the coast of Maine’s Boothbay Harbor, but arriving there feels a bit like abandoning civilization; until you see how elegant it is inside. Nearly 12 years and $3 million in the making, the Inn, which has only two spacious suites is currently celebrating its first full (and completely sold out) season. One of just a handful of lighthouses you can stay in around New England, it was originally constructed as a fog signal station in 1892. In 1907 a light tower was added, greatly aiding the development of Boothbay Harbor as a safe haven for both commercial fishermen and summer residents.
Driving on US1 in Maine this past weekend I happened upon the Montsweag Flea Market. I hadn’t planned on stopping at this particular flea market, but I had some time to kill before we could get the keys to our summer rental and I knew there’s a lot of good stuff on US1. Once I found this place, I was not disappointed. (I didn’t know it at the time, but this flea is coincidentally listed on the map of flea markets that I made way back in 2009.)
Having given up on the Brooklyn Flea some time ago (partially because I’m not in New York all that much when it is going on and partially because it’s a bit too over-thought for my liking) it’s not always easy for me to get to a good flea market. I’ve spent more than a few early weekend mornings going to the Elephant’s Trunk in Connecticut and have found some great stuff there, or have at least had a great time hunting. Most of the time looking is what these things are all about. There’s a challenge to dig and find the cool little things that are really worth taking home. There’s a sense of adventure and hopefully a surprise around the corner. That’s keeps me coming back and what always makes me pull-in if I spot a flea while driving down the road on a beautiful Saturday in Maine.
These were my only purchases at the flea. There’s a guy in a Pharrell hat and a bunch of Maine beach beauties.
When you break it down, a summer weekend getaway comes down to three simple things: a sandy beach, a cold beer, and an L.L. Bean Boat and Tote. Okay, maybe you could toss a few other ingredients into that recipe (a bikinied lady co-pilot certainly wouldn’t hurt) but it’s hard to top the simplicity of just tossing a Boat and Tote into your trunk and taking off for the shore.
The folks at Harrison Limited down in Birmingham may be landlocked, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have good taste when it comes to boat shoes: case in point these handsome Rancourt mocs. It was only last summer that I was falling for the long-time-coming made in Maine Sperry Topsiders, but one can surely make room in his closet for two well-made pairs of boat shoes.
There have been mentions of it here before, but Harrison Limited is probably my favorite store I have never actually been to. That honor was help previously by Leather Soul, but I’ve now been lucky enough to have visited that shoe mecca the past two years in a row (and I might even see it again this April, depending on how things go).
In 1973 a group of students in Kennebunk, Maine complied a series of home-spun articles about life in New England into The Salt Book. Led by the group’s adviser Pamela Wood, they documented lobster men making traps, a barn raising, the gathering of sea moss, wrote articles about how to make your own wooden snow shoes and generally waxed on about the characters and daily life by the sea in Maine.
Recently while I was booking a cottage in Maine for the summer, I was reminded of this book and my jaunt up there last year. I have a hard time disguising my affection for the state and nothing fills me with anticipation like an escape up to Maine. It doesn’t have to just be summer — I’m equally impressed by fall, winter and spring in the Pine Tree State. Even though I grew up in Ohio, much of my family was from New England originally and we often when on summer trips to The Cape, New Hampshire and those parts. Long after those trips I am still fascinated by Yankee culture and the salty folks of New England. So even though I am stuck in this new york winter (stuck largely inside for the better part of the past six weeks due to the most ironic of injuries) the stories in The Salt Book can easily transport me to one of my favorite places.