So, what are moccasins good for anyway?

Discussion in 'Clothing' started by Stophel, Jul 8, 2013.

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  1. Jul 8, 2013 #1

    Stophel

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    I've always wondered just what the heck moccasins were supposed to be good for. I have read period accounts of "frontiersmen" where their moccasins "served the feet much better than shoes", and thought "you're full of c--p". Literary romanticism.

    Moccasins are nothing but a thin, soft leather sock, affording no real protection to the feet, and certainly not offering any protection to tender soles from stepping on rocks! Everyone talks about constantly mending their moccasins... why bother??? If you can walk around in moccasins, you can easily walk around barefoot, no fuss, no muss. Sure, in winter, you can make moccasins and stuff them with something in hopes of keeping your feet warm, but otherwise, what good are they? The ONLY thing I can think of is that perhaps it keeps poison ivy (the State Herb of Kentucky) off your feet...

    As a tenderfooted guy, who cannot go barefoot, because stepping on a rock or anything else causes crippling pain, I've tried them and I find moccasins utterly pointless. Now, If one had "shoepacks" of heavy cowhide leather, especially with extra soles, then you might have something (and I intend to try making myself a pair).
     
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  2. Jul 8, 2013 #2

    Black Hand

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    They do teach you to pay more attention to where you put your feet. As a result, you move slower, quieter and avoid stepping on things that might injure, maim or make noise. This is from someone who wears moccasins on nasty, rough, steep and rocky trails.

    The only time I dislike them is under wet & cold conditions. Dry and cold is much less a problem. And - yes, sometimes I go barefoot in camp. Then again, I have been known to walk bare-footed in the snow too.

    I've also found that heavy/stiffer leather makes them far more treacherous on nearly any terrain. Consequently, I switched to soft soles years ago.

    On blacktop, i.e. parades and such, I prefer shoes. They give far more protection from impact with the unyielding pavement/concrete than moccasins.
     
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  3. Jul 8, 2013 #3

    Spence10

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    Some people just don't appreciate the finer things in life, Stophel. :haha:

    My experience is as opposite that as it's possible to be. Of all the things I've enjoyed about this crazy hobby, traipsing around in the woods in homemade moccasins is the best. I look forward to it as much as I do a good hunting trip. Nothing makes me feel more connected to the natural world than the feel of the earth through a good pair of centerseam moccasins. It also transports me in my mind back to the wilds of Kentucky in the 18th century better than anything.

    I'm also a tenderfoot, but I've never had any particular problem going where I want. And, as a nice bonus, when I'm wearing my moccasins I can sneak up on a wild turkey and put salt on its tail. :haha:

    I'm sorry you are missing out on the good part.


    Spence
     
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  4. Jul 8, 2013 #4

    Stophel

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    I have a pair of deerskin center seam moccasins I made probably about 1996, watching a Mark Baker video. They're neat looking and all, and I wore them out into the woods once. I didn't really have any trouble, walking on basically flat ground, and I managed to not step on too many little sharp pointy things. The ground was even wet, and I found that the moccasins dried out pretty quickly. BUT, again, I could just as easily gone barefoot with the same effect. Moccasins don't seem to last very long by most accounts (except for mine, which have only really been worn once or twice! :haha: ), and making, repairing, repairing, and remaking them constantly for no good reason doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun.

    Seems to me to simply be frontier fashion, and aping the manner of the savages. :wink:

    I even have a pair of the Arrow "shoepacks" (they're not shoepacks at all), with the thick chrome tanned cowhide soles, which are thick, but still soft, and they are better for me, but still can be painful.

    I've also been "practicing" walking around barefoot... trying to get more used to it. With limited success...
     
  5. Jul 8, 2013 #5

    Black Hand

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    When you've worked your way up to a gravel driveway, then you should be ready to wear moccasins.
     
  6. Jul 9, 2013 #6

    Oudoceus

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    Might as well ask, what's a flintlock muzzleloader good for........
     
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  7. Jul 9, 2013 #7

    Spence10

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    Yeah, I've read those accounts, and I'm sure they were accurate under the conditions those old boys used them in. Not so for me. That pair if moccasins was made in 1997 and I've worn them for probably 60 percent of all my hunting and trekking since that time. Granted, I use them mostly in a woodland setting, not climbing rocky hills, but they have had hard use year round and over a fair bit of rocks, have waded more cold, rocky streams than I like to remember. I've never had to repair them, only adjusted the stitching over my instep once to loosen it a tad.

    As I said, I'm a bit of a tenderfoot, too. I cheat a little, wear an innersole of thin, hard leather, no more than 1/16" thick and skived thin around the edge so it conforms to my foot and the moccasin. You can't see them, I can't feel them, but they do offer a little extra protection.

    [​IMG]

    Spence
     
  8. Jul 9, 2013 #8

    Stophel

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    That's kinda my point! If I can do that, I don't need to wear moccasins! :haha:
     
  9. Jul 9, 2013 #9

    Stophel

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    I think I'll try that insole, Spence. :wink:
     
  10. Jul 9, 2013 #10

    Ringel05

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    I've seen a video where the guy makes a double soled moc pair with standard carpet padding sandwiched in between the two soles. Someone else here recommended making the mocs big enough to put flip flop soles inside, just cut the tongs off and trim if necessary.
     
  11. Jul 9, 2013 #11

    Stophel

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    I'm very interested in making "Shoepacks", which, according to the period references, are essentially the same as the French Canadian "Souliers de boeuf". Cowhide "moccasins" which became a traditional Canadian footwear, with tall boot versions too in the 19th century.
    http://gabetheshootist.com/2012/02/21/souliers-de-boeuf/

    Mine WILL be taller and have a lace which cinches tight around the ankles. I will NOT wear slip off shoes. Enough of that with the buckle shoe offerings of today. 18th century penny loafers. :barf:
     
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  12. Jul 9, 2013 #12

    Loyalist Dave

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    Well the first problem may be your 20th to 21st century feet. Those that wore them in the past did much different things to their feet.

    On the other hand...,

    "The moccasons in ordinary use cost but a few hours labor to make them. This was done by an instrument denominated a moccason awl. This awl with its buckshorn handle was an appendage of every shot pouch strap, together with a roll of buckskin for mending the moccasons. This was the labor of almost every evening. They were sewed together and patched with deer skin thongs, or whangs, as they were commonly called.
    In cold weather moccasons were well stuffed with deer's hair, or dry leaves, so as to keep the feet comfortably warm ; but in wet weather it was usually said that wearing them was 'a decent way of going barefooted' ; and such was the fact, owing to the spongy texture of the leather of which they were made.
    "
    Joseph Doddridge
    Notes on the settlement and Indian wars of the western parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania, from 1763 to 1783 p. 141

    LD
     
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  13. Jul 9, 2013 #13

    Spence10

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    `
    Here's one version:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The shoepacs are made of moose with two soles. The blanket liner has 3 soles. With wool socks and leg wraps I'm ready for cold weather. You can see that the thong which wraps and ties the top starts under the instep.

    Spence
     
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  14. Jul 9, 2013 #14

    Spence10

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    Because I'm almost always hunting when I wear my moccasins, winter or summer, they are always tied on. Slip-on is a misnomer for my mocs, it takes considerable effort to get them on in the first place, they are form fitting. One thing I don't tolerate is having greenbrier saw across my ankle as I bust through trash, so all my mocs are made with tops which can be folded up and across my ankle, and they are then securely tied on. Under my leather leggings, of course, so my ankles are safe.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Spence
     
  15. Jul 9, 2013 #15

    crockett

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    I think it is a matter of personal preference. Many years ago when I was canoing in the Canadian North some of the older Cree women were still wearing moccasins while everyone else had boots or rubber shoe pacs. The LL Bean Maine hunting shoe- the original type, had a very thin rubber sole that let you sneak around but didn't offer much protection from pointy rocks, etc.
     
  16. Jul 9, 2013 #16

    Stophel

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    According to Dodderige, and one or two other period references I have seen, but don't have in front of me, a shoepack is basically this:
    [​IMG]
    (though this is a 19th century example) It's a French Canadian "Soulier de boeuf". Very much a "slip off shoe". But these match the description of a shoepack, where the extra-soled centerseam moccasins do not.

    Another Canadian example:
    [​IMG]
    with high tops and ties.

    Something like this would be more suitable for my use, I think. :wink:
     
  17. Jul 9, 2013 #17

    Spence10

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    They would work well, I would think.

    Spence
     
  18. Jul 10, 2013 #18

    Billnpatti

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    I can tell you from personal experience one thing they are good for and that is busting your butt if you try to wear them on wet grass. The soles get wet and become as slick as snot on a doorknob. The same is true for any leather soled shoe. Of course, shoes do have the advantage of being able to have hob nails in the soles but hob nails in a moccasin is just painful. I am old enough to not only have gained enough wisdom to not wear them but also too damned old to be falling on my butt just for playing dress up. :td:
     
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  19. Jul 10, 2013 #19

    crockett

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    Thanks for the photos. IMHO the easiest to make are side seams. I agree- break your neck on wet grass.
     
  20. Jul 10, 2013 #20

    Black Hand

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    Then this will make you think - The pattern for the bottom of side-seam and center-seam moccasins are essentially identical.

    The only thing that differs is where the opening for the foot is made. For side-seams, it is placed in the middle of the leather (half way between the stitch line and the fold), while for center-seams it is placed along the side (at the stitch line). There are minor differences as to how the cuff/tops are shaped and attached (in center-seams, the cuff can be cut as part of the pattern or separate, while in side-seams the top is a separate piece).
     

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