A few years back I saw Uncle Rick wearing a handsome pair of camp mocs. I said, “Hot damn. What a fine pair of camp mocs. Russells, right?”
“Afraid not, dear nephew,” said Rick. “Russell isn’t what it used to be. These are L.L. Bean.”
I felt betrayed, confused, hurt, conflicted, angry. We’re a Wisconsin family and a Russell family. For generations the men of my family have proudly worn Russell camp mocs. We wear them in the winter, in the summer, in the shack, in the cottage, in the boat, with socks, without socks. They are simultaneously shoe and slipper, balm to aching feet and aggrieved souls.
(Rick and I then talked about the amazing curly-Q knots he ties in his laces. I still don’t get how to do that. But I digress.)
My dad bought me my first pair of Russells 11-ish years ago. Maybe more. I’ve worn them…let’s just say a lot. See the pics.
My dad filled my head with “Russell will stand by their product” stuff. He said, “They’ll fix them or replace them. For life. That’s why you stick with a company like Russell.”
Well, I just got off the phone with Russell. They will neither fix nor replace them. “Those are too far gone,” they said.
Now, I want to be fair. I don’t know what Rick meant when he said Russell had gone downhill. And I don’t know what Russell could have done with my obliterated camp mocs. But it’s fair to say I hoped for something more than what I got. Perhaps a discount toward a new pair?
Maybe my dad wanted as badly as I do to believe in something that’s more myth than fact. Which is to say, maybe Russell never would have done anything to “stand by” a shredded pair of camp mocs. Not in 1962 and not in 2021. I don’t know.
Or maybe they really aren’t what they used to be.
Here’s what I do know: I just bought a pair of Quoddys. They call their camp mocs “canoe shoes.” I can learn to live with that.
Check back with me in 2034 or so to see whether Quoddy stands by its product. If they do, the Brawner men might have a new official shoe.