For over a century, Thorogood has been producing footwear to support America’s workforce, as they dig in and get the job done. It’s the kind of work that isn’t always, or even often, glamorous; it’s the work that keeps the country running. Beginning with Albert H. Weinbrenner in Wisconsin in 1892, the Thorogood brand has never lost its focus on ensuring quality shoes for every kind of laborer and its commitment to this goal has earned the brand a loyal following. Now, it is expanding its collection, to support Thorogood customers as they leave work behind and explore the outdoors.
Crafting footwear that can endure daily wear and challenging conditions, while providing superior comfort and fit, is no easy task. But Thorogood’s 128 years in the industry has given the brand unparalleled insight into what its customers truly need – and how to deliver it. From the U.S. military, to the Boy Scouts, to the Ground Zero rubble crew, American workers have shown up in Thorogood shoes for decades and the brand hopes to equip future generations with their Made in America product for years to come.
Thorogood President Jeff Burns spoke with FN about the impact of being a legacy brand, the close community of Thorogood customers, and what’s to come for the brand.
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Q&A with Jeff Burns, President of Thorogood
What are the advantages of being a 128-year-old brand in today’s footwear industry? How does that heritage inform your brand?
You can’t market or fake your way to authenticity. We have been authentically Made in USA for over 128 years and people respond to that. Being a heritage brand has played an integral role in the growth of our business. Since 1892, we’ve created a legacy of industry-leading footwear: From the centuries-old machinery, to the third-generation shoemakers and the way we communicate with our customers, we are committed to maintaining the quality and integrity that our founder, Albert H. Weinbrenner, instilled in the company. Our customers know they can trust us to provide them with quality footwear that is built to last, because we have been doing it for over 128 years.
Thorogood product is worn by workers from all kinds of industries. How would you describe your customer and why is it important for you to serve that market?
We make job-fitted footwear for people who work for a living. This includes soldiers protecting our country, first responders keeping our communities safe, and tradespeople building America. Our consumers are the tough, hard-working people who don’t stop working until the job is done. They need footwear they can trust to keep them comfortable and safe all day long. Our boots are tools that will support them through whatever they must deal with that day. Our customers trust us to deliver quality footwear at a great value. They’re emotionally invested in Thorogood and what the brand stands for and we take that responsibility seriously.
This year has accelerated the growing buzz about “Made in America” product. How does having that long history in the industry inform the choices the brand makes?
We are proud to say that we have continuously produced footwear in the USA for over 128 years. Although we source some great footwear from our partner factories overseas, the heart and soul of our company is and always will be our Made in the USA footwear. Our American Heritage, Berry Compliant and Postal Certified collections are handcrafted, durable footwear made by UFCW union tradespeople right here in Wisconsin. Many companies cut corners by using cheaper components, hoping the consumer won’t notice; at Thorogood that’s not our philosophy. We insist on using only the finest leathers and components. That commitment to excellence is the reason we have such a loyal and growing following.
Thorogood has gone from strength to strength in 2020, in part due to the loyalty of your customer base. How do you engage with them and create a sense of community?
Social media has helped us to connect with our customers efficiently. It has really allowed us to stay in tune to their wants and needs in real time. We engage in conversations with them, answer questions honestly and stay humble. We wouldn’t be where we are today without our customers and the loyal dealers who support us, so it is important for us to show them how much we value them.
Why did the brand choose to launch its new Outdoor collection and how does it fit alongside the rest of your portfolio?
Our corporate headquarters and two domestic factories are in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, so not surprisingly many of our employees are avid hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. Our customers work hard during the week and play hard off the clock. Whether it’s hunting, snowmobiling, ice fishing or just enjoying the great outdoors – our strong history of developing job-fitted footwear, combined with our passion for the outdoors, has enabled us to develop a great collection of outdoor footwear. Our customer can expect the same level of superior performance from our outdoor boots that they expect from our work boots. Michael Waddell of The Bone Collectors is a huge Thorogood fan, and we have partnered with him to promote this collection. To get his endorsement is a testament to the fact that we got this collection right.
Where do you see the most excitement and opportunity for Thorogood right now?
There is such great growth potential for the brand and so much opportunity for us to grow as a company. Even though our company is 128 years old, many people are just now discovering Thorogood and they like what they see. To keep up with this organic, grass roots driven demand, we’re investing in new domestic factories, support staff and lean manufacturing initiatives to increase our production capacity. We’ve built an incredible team who work together to provide our customers the most comfortable footwear on the market –at a great value. We are thankful for our loyal dealers and brand ambassadors who have continued to support us, and are excited to see what the next 128 years have in store.
“Into The Great Outdoors”
The latest product launch from Thorogood is the Infinity FD series, a collection of thirteen styles that includes eight outdoor-specific shoes and five classic work boots. Designed to withstand the elements while offering competitive performance, the Infinity FD series is both waterproof and utilizes 3M™ Thinsulate™ Insulation – so nothing can stand in the way of adventure.
The Thorogood customer is active and full of energy in all areas of their life, not just at work. With that in mind, the Infinity FD collection incorporates an anti-fatigue, high-rebound midsole to support wearers at every step. Each style also includes Thorogood’s patent-pending FLEX-DRIVE construction, to achieve “infinite performance for limitless pursuits.” With FLEX-DRIVE, the shoe is able to offer both stability and flexibility: the boot’s heel has a 51% welt, while the toe affords comfortable durability. The outdoor products also incorporate an antifriction insole, to ensure fewer blisters and hot spots with no need for a break-in period.
In addition to the five work boots, which include Drakar and Studhorse styles, the Infinity FD collection includes a range of seven classic rubber boots and a neoprene boot. These shoes feature the same FLEX-DRIVE midsole as their work counterparts, but also offer a NASA-inspired aerogel lining called Solarcore. The Solarcore lining allows for 50% more heat retention than insulation alone – with minimal bulk or weight for a comfortable fit, no matter the inclement weather.
With the Infinity FD series, customers can trust that they’re ready to face the outdoors with everything they need to get where they want to go.