Look around any American college campus nowadays, especially in the east and south, and you will see students walking around in boat shoes. Now whether or not they have ever stepped on a boat is another matter, but on my own campus these shoes are just as popular as sneakers and flip flops.
Now I love my Sperry deck shoes ( I have the original deck shoes in classic brown), but even I admit that these shoes have become too trendy for my taste, though not a big surprise since Sperry's have been around for almost seventy years and have been fashionably "in" a few times throughout that span.
So what's a good alternative to our beloved boat shoe? Enter: the L.L.Bean Blucher Moc. These shoes were introduced in 1936 by Mr. Bean himself and were originally made as a moccasin that could combat Maine's harsh weather. For years, these shoes have been adored by people "in the know" and have never experienced a full comeback that the boat shoes have graciously been given.
Unfortunately, like all good things, the Blucher Mocs of today are no longer as durable and long-lasting as the models of years past. The original model was made in Maine with sturdy leather, and had a thick camp sole that you were able to send back to L.L. Bean to be resoled after years of wear. Guys wore their Mocs for years or even decades, and were proud of the vintage patina that would grace the leather and the extreme comfort of the shoes molding to their feet. The present day model is a cheap and flimsy shell of its forefather, and lacks the ability to develop the fabled patina. Thankfully other premiere footwear brands, largely Quoddy, have picked up where L.L. Bean dropped the ball and have restored the Blucher Moc to its original glory. The Quoddy blucher is far more expensive but can certainly be worth the investment if you have the means. My cost saving advice is to search on eBay or thrift store for the L.L. Bean made in USA Mocs, even if slightly used. They are very tough to score but I've seen a few around (unfortunately just not in my size!)
If there is a plus side to the present day L.L. Bean Blucher Moc, it is that the newer model has anti-slip soles similar to boat shoes, and are very comfortable and require little breaking in, which is a huge plus if you have to walk miles on your campus like I do. The Bluchers can be worn year round and with socks or without. I prefer to rotate my Sperry's and my Bluchers, wearing my boat shoes more in the summer and my Mocs more in the winter.
Even though the Blucher Mocs are not as great as before (what is nowadays?), you can change up the monotonous daily showing of decks shoes...miles away from actual boat decks...with the unique and full of heritage Bean Mocs.
My Bean Mocs after 2 years of wear.
The old Blucher Mocs. Notice the camp sole and visibily higher quality leather.
GQ endorses the L.L. Bean Blucher Moc, Nov. 2007