Arguably the one of the most controversial shoes to ever be created, the Jungle Moc has revolutionised the idea of comfort on the trail for over 20 years. The story starts in the late 90s with the lesser known Jungle Runner and the Jungle Race, which is where the recognisable sole unit of the Moc was combined with a fell running athletic upper. This proved to be way too weird for the time, however the seeds were planted for one of Merrell’s most successful franchises from this past failure.
The brief changed, with the outdoor market looking for a casual ‘aftersport’ shoe to wear around campsites. Often referred to as a sort of rugged slipper but with everything you would expect from a trail runner, and built with a soft suede upper for a more casual aesthetic and feel. The original introduction into the outdoor market could have been considered tetchy, but a whole new casual market was broken into, solidifying the Moc’s versatility as one of the most comfortable shoes around.
Since then the Jungle Moc has been iterated into every possible version imaginable, embraced by a broad range of wearers and industries. Although the design is simple, it’s one of the hardest shoes to make correctly. Which is why the many (and we mean many) copies will never match the original. In fact, the job of manufacturing these outdoor icons requires the same unique craftsmanship Randy Merrell took to the original Merrell boot, plus meet with the demand on one of the most popular shoes Merrell has ever created.
Recently, we ran a competition with artist and fellow Jungle Moc enthusiast, Nicole Mclaughlin, to create the ultimate house shoe inspired by the Jungle Moc (below you can see Nicole’s incredible example). So, we sat down with Nicole to discuss her work, creative process, and her love of the Jungle Moc.
Nicole: First of all, the competition has been amazing. It just proves you don’t have to be a designer to make something really special. I saw some awesome submissions, and to get over 100 left me feeling really excited and inspired. Not to mention the tonnes of awesome messages on how it was the highlight for so many people during this weird time as well the chance to meet other creatives, all in all, such a great success.
It was OUR pleasure to collaborate on such an inspiring project. So, the Jungle Moc feels super relevant right now, what do you think this is down to?
Nicole: Personally, I feel the amount of sneaker collabs and drops are getting a bit tired. People are looking for a real alternative that isn’t what they’ve seen before. Not to mention dressing cosy is most certainly ‘in’ right now. People are turning to these comfortable shoes, slippers, house shoes, things that are easy-to-wear. It’s a different kind of vibe as we all embrace the comfy culture. I’m here for it!
People are certainly trying new things out in these super challenging times, so as we begin to come out this, what would you like to see kept?
Nicole: Yeah, it’s such a strange time being indoors right now. Being home. I’ve been trying to stay active and inspired. I’m not normally home this much so it’s been fun to do all the things I had on the backburner. Using up all the materials I have leftover at home. There’s been a real community feeling on social media as we’re all really doing this together. Talking to other up-cyclers and watching them get into their own creativity too. Digging deep into that creative part of the brain. Moving forward, I want everyone to keep this work ethic. You might think you’ve gotten lazier, but from what I’ve seen, people are working harder than ever. I’ve seen so many side hustles come into full fruition and that’s been absolutely amazing.
We saw a lot of that creative spirit in the recent competition, what surprised or inspired you most about it?
Nicole: It was so exciting! At first, I was a little nervous. Asking myself if anyone would actually do it? But we put it out there and the energy stayed all the way through. People were using some crazy materials, like a concrete shoe! People’s effort in the presentation too, I was pleasantly surprised. Also, afterwards I got loads of messages asking it was still on and people telling me it doesn’t stop with the competition. I felt like I made some awesome connections through the whole thing.
Back to the shoe that inspired the whole thing, Jungle Moc. Comfort was certainly the main function of the aftersport icon, so do you think that a product needs a clear function to inform the design?
Nicole: Yes, absolutely! A product should always be functional. It needs more meaning to it than just looking good to resonate with people. Style can be a function, but for me, something utilitarian is always better. Something that’s going to provide for me. So, with the Mocs, I usually wear them after climbing and climbing shoes have to be 2 sizes too small for you so they’re great for letting my feet rest after 3 hours of climbing. Plus, they’re easy to style and easy to wear so I’ve found myself wearing them if I have a busy day or fashion week where you’re on your feet constantly. They just get me through the day.
You either love them or you hate them. It’s fair to say the Jungle Moc can be quite a divisive shoe. This in mind, what would you say is your most divisive look?
Nicole: Socks with sandals. I can’t get enough of them. Whether it’s Birkenstocks or any slip on or sandal, even my personal favourite, the Hydromoc, paired with some socks. Trust me, it works. Well it works for me!
We certainly second that motion. On to your work, obviously you use a whole bunch of different materials, but do you have a favourite one you keep coming back to?
Nicole: There’s so many different materials which are great for so many different functions. Which makes it really hard to pick. I guess it depends on what vibe I’m going for. In terms of something that’s going to be wearable, ripstop or a Gore-Tex based material, waterproofing in general. But also fleece, I love fleece. Overall, I’d say durable materials. Something I can take apart and build something new out of.
So, about something you can build something new out of, do you think it’s important to revisit a classic or start over new?
Nicole: It’s a balance. Personally, I love an archive shoe brought back. Some things are just timeless. Maybe there wasn’t the right hype moment first time round, but there will always be a place for these shoes to live. That’s what’s happening with the Moc right now. It’s really current with what’s going on with fashion. There’re so many different ways to revamp something without reinventing the wheel. There will always be room for newness, room for people to push new materials and technologies onto the silhouettes we all recognise and love.
Thanks again Nicole, it’s been amazing to get to know you a bit better.
Nicole: thank you too! It was such a wonderful experience working with you guys on the competition!
The Jungle Moc comes in Black Slate, Gunsmoke and Midnight colourways, available in UK 6.5-14 and EU 40-50, full and half sizes. Discover the Jungle Moc and other Merrell 1TRL models online now.