Many industries in the U.S. have come and gone due to cheaper manufacturing overseas, a result of reduced labor and material costs. However, the tides could be turning when it comes to footwear as tariff threats on goods from China, the main source of footwear imports, could spark renewed interest in domestically produced shoes.
The U.S. has a centuries-old history of shoe production, once boasting manufacturers in just about every category scattered in factories across the country. While hand-sewn moccasins were produced in New England, workboots were made in the Midwest, Western boots in the South and women’s high-end footwear in New York.
Today, there remains a community of smaller, artisan brands producing shoes in Los Angeles, while more than century-old brands such as Wolverine, Lucchese and Red Wing, continue to produce footwear domestically.
For those interested in supporting American manufacturing and craftsmanship, FN has curated a list of brands from dress shoes to sandals, producing footwear here at home.
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Wolverine began making workboots in Michigan 135 years ago, founded by G.A. Krause who opened a small leather tannery. Its iconic 1000 Mile boot was introduced in 1910, aptly named because it was touted to offer consumers 1,000 miles of wear. Today, the company continues to produce products domestically in addition to sourcing footwear offshore. Its newest launch is a collection of U.S.-made workboots under the Ramparts name, however its products are also produced offshore.
Quoddy was founded by Sam and Anne Spiegel in Portland, in 1947 as a manufacturer and retailer of moccasins. The company, now based in Maine, ran into financial difficulties in the mid-1970s, and was revived by Kevin and Kirsten Shorey in 1997; John Andreliunas is now its CEO. A group of craftsman continues to produce shoes utilizing techniques dating back centuries to the Passamaquoddy native Americans. Both a direct sales and wholesale brand, it’s available at leading retailers worldwide including Mr. Porter, Matches Fashion, Leffot and Ships Japan.
To Buy: Quoddy Men’s Classic Ringboot, $450.
3. San Antonio Shoemakers
San Antonio Shoemakers, or SAS, was founded by Terry Armstrong and Lew Hayden in 1976 in an unused aircraft hangar in San Antonio, Texas. A new factory was opened in 1985 in Del Rio, allowing management to keep the business in the state while expanding. Over the years, the product focus has remained on comfort, with a collection of men’s and women’s styles that are carried in its own string of stores in addition to retailers globally.
To Buy: SAS Women’s Marnie, $160.
4. Allen Edmonds
Allen Edmonds, founded in 1922, is known for its classic men’s footwear made in Wisconsin. From its launch until 1978, the business was run the Allen family, who founded the business. Its Goodyear-welted styles, a series of sturdy shoes made nail-less and shankless (they had no uncomfortable metal bar under the instep) immediately caught the attention of consumers. Along the way, the company made shoes for officers to wear in World War II with their dress uniforms. Today, the company is under the umbrella of Caleres.
Sloggers, based in Gardena, Calif., is known for its waterproof molded gardening and rain footwear and introduced the first clear plastic overshoe called the Drizzle Boot in 1948. In fact, Doris Day wore the shoes in the film “Storm Warning” in 1951. Its current Sloggers brand was introduced in 1997, adding a recycling program in 2014 where it grinds up worn boots and turns them into a new pair. The plant can produced up to 4,000 pairs a day.
6. Red Wing Shoe Co.
Red Wing Shoe Co., Red Wing, Minn., was founded in 1905 by Charles Beckman, offering a collection of workboots to meet the needs of occupations such as oil field workers. The company added a line of women’s styles in the 1920s. Today, Red Wing continues to offer men’s work footwear and lifestyle looks, in addition to women’s lifestyle looks inspired by original designs.
Lucchese was founded by Salvatore Lucchese, an Italian immigrant in 1883. Along with his brother Joseph, the two moved to San Antonio, Texas, to set up a boot-making shop. Among the company’s celebrity clients were entertainer Bing Crosby and President Lyndon B. Johnson. It went on to make boots for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Texas governor Rick Perry. Today, select styles continue to be made in the U.S.
To Buy: Lucchese Men’s Wilson, $1,995.
Okabashi is a family-run business based in Buford, Ga., that makes its entire collection stateside. The series of flip flops and sandals is focused on health and wellness, inspired by Japanese concepts of reflexology and design. According to the company, each pair travels only 7% as far as the average imported shoe, preventing 10,000 miles of carbon emissions from ships, planes and trucks to transport shoes to the U.S. They are also made of a proprietary material that is 100% recyclable.
Esquivel, a line of high-end shoes designed by George Esquivel, are made exclusively in his California workshop by a small group of artisans. Launched in 1994, the collection is inspired by Esquivel’s travels to places including Paris, Italy and Mexico City. There are classic men’s oxfords and ankle boots to women’s brocade styles.
Alden Shoe was founded in Middlebury, Mass., in 1988 by Charles H. Alden. Back then, it typically took one craftsman making a pair a day in one-room cottages call ten footers. Beginning in 1850, a series of inventions led to the mechanized stitching and lasting operation, giving way to the birth of the New England shoe industry. While most factories in the area began closing as cheaper production moved overseas in the ’70s, Alden continues to produce classic high-end footwear for men and the only remaining factory in the area, and still a family-owned business.
To Buy: Alden Penny Loafer, $577.
11. Keen Utility
Keen’s American built work products are assembled in Portland, Ore., using materials sourced globally. The factory is manned by local craftsman, contributing to employment in the area. On site, is the company’s R&D team, which can bring new designs to production in a time-saving manner.
For a personalized approach to making shoes in America, Chaco has introduced a customizable sandal program where shoppers can custom build sandals to their specifications by selecting colors and components. They are made in Rockford, Mich.
To Buy: Chaco Women’s Z/2 Sandal, $130.
13. New Balance
New Balance assembles more than 4 million pairs of athletic shoe per year in the U.S. Specifications note that at least 70% of the shoes domestic value in produced stateside. The company operates five factories in Maine and Massachusetts, and whenever possible purchase materials from domestic suppliers. The factories employ more than 7,000 workers locally.
To Buy: New BalanceMen’s 990v5, $175.
All products featured have been independently selected and curated by our editorial team. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn commission and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.
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