from the bottom up.
True moccasin construction starts with selection of the last (a foot shaped form made of wood or hard plastic). The last is the heart of the shoe making process and dictates the volume and shape of the interior of the boot. Corresponding parts and pieces such as the vamp, molded sole, quarter, gusset, and toe piece are all carefully cut by hand from our curated selection of leathers. After being sewn together by our century-old Puritan Stitching machines, the shoe is soaked to soften the leather before being “pulled over” onto the last. Here it is tacked in place until it dries on the last. Next the boot maker trims the toe piece and vamp to marry the two with Russell’s signature overlap stitch, which was invented and patented at Russell in 1941. Pulling the whole boot together in a water and abrasion resistant seam, the overlap stitch remains a centerpiece Russell’s aesthetic and function. Unencumbered by any guides, the shoe maker carefully and efficiently makes each stitch with awl and waxed thread.
It takes many years of training for a Russell boot maker to acquire the skills necessary to construct a pair of true moccasin boots or shoes, and there is a good reason for this. True moccasin construction is a far more intricate process than more common welted or stitchdown constructions. This is primary due to the fact that there is no way to make a moccasin without the skillful hand stitching process of the boot maker. The iconic overlap seam on the toe piece is not just the hallmark of our moccasins, it is also the integral stitch that binds the whole boot or shoe together. On other types of footwear, the upper is pulled underneath the last where glue and fillers cover the joints where no one will ever see them. On a moccasin, the boot is lasted from the bottom up with one piece of leather: the Vamp. The vamp forms a footbed that hugs your feet on all sides, and allows your foot to flex and feel the ground. Because a moccasin is made from the bottom up, there is no way to sew a moccasin together, except by hand. At the toe piece, the shoe maker connects the upper and the vamp with the overlap seam. Here in the light of day, everyone can see how the moccasin is put together, and if you were to cut off the modern sole, your boot would still be wearable. In fact, the modern sole is really the only structural difference between a Russell Moccasin and moccasins made and worn for millennia by Native Americans. The resulting product of true moccasin construction is greater comfort, lighter weight, and unmatched longevity.
True Moccasin Construction
The Single Vamp illustration shows the basic form of true moccasin construction. Note the continuous piece of leather (the vamp) which forms a sort of "hammock" around the foot. Being a single piece of leather, the vamp allows for direct translation of your foot movements through the sole and onto the ground.
This configuration is the same look from the exterior as a single vamp, but it has the added benefit of a second internal layer called an inner vamp. The inner vamp is a water repellent leather booty that lines the boot from the ankle down. This proves excellent water resistance and extra side-to-side support for the foot. Since it too is a single piece of leather, it does not inhibit ground feel.
Single Vamp + Molded Sole
The Single Vamp boot is prized in hot climates because its light weight, minimal break in, and packability is difficult to match. For more boot-like applications, the addition of a molded sole helps provide support and protection from rocks and thorns, while keeping the primary benefits of single vamp construction. This configuration is most commonly seen on models like the Sporting Clays Chukka and Joe’s PH.
Double Vamp + Molded Sole
This configuration goes a step further than Double Vamp with the addition of a half-vamp called a Molded Sole. Originally developed for the Signature South 40 Birdshooter in the 1980s, the addition of the Molded Sole provides increased stability and protection on a variety of terrains. In function, it is like a heel counter, but for the whole foot. Since the stitching on the Molded Sole only penetrates the outer vamp of the boot, the water resistance is maintained. The cut away of the Double Vamp + Molded Sole clearly illustrates the foot surrounded by three layers of leather with no two seams facing one another. For extreme conditions, this configuration provides the maximum water resistance, stability, and protection that moccasin construction can offer.