Happy Fourth of July!
Why Buy American Made
American made gear has several advantages over gear made overseas. First and foremost, American made products are held to quality-control standards that are hard to replicate and regulate in markets that produce a lot of competing apparel. That’s not to say other folks can’t get it right, but when you buy American, you can rest assured that American standards are going into the work.
Not only are quality standards in place, but the workers who craft American goods are held to a high standard in their work. Labor costs more in the US than in most places where apparel is produced, and producers here hire skilled craftsmen for quality that makes that added cost worthwhile. Those American workers enjoy better working conditions, and in some cases as with Wisconsin’s own Thorogood boots, the employees own the company itself.
As lovers of the great outdoors, let’s not forget the environmental benefits of buying American. The carbon footprint of a pair of shoes comes mainly from producing the material it’s made from and the cost of transporting that pair of shoes from where it’s produced to where it’s bought and worn. The growth of inexpensively-produced “fast fashion” has dramatically increased the apparel industry’s carbon footprint, as cheaply-made goods are produced in enormous numbers to be worn for a short period of time and then discarded when they start to wear and break down. According to McKinsey Sustainability, the average consumer purchased 60% more clothing in 2014 than they did in 2000, and that trend has only accelerated. That means they’re discarding clothes at about the same rate. All that cotton, polyester, wool, leather, and rubber has to be produced, assembled, and transported - just to be worn for a few seasons and discarded when it starts to show signs of wear.
By choosing quality products built to last, we can interrupt the cycle of fast fashion. Add to that the decreased carbon footprint of transporting a pair of boots to your door from, say, the Belleville plant in Illinois versus a production line on the other side of the world, and the carbon savings really start to mount.
American Made Shoes and Boots
So let’s talk American made. This Fourth of July, millions of Americans will head out into the summer sun for barbecues and pool parties, cold drinks and fireworks. It’s fitting that our nation’s Independence Day takes place in the summer, because what better way to celebrate America than to get out and explore it? Those of us who hit America's backcountry trails this summer know how important those hiking boots are - I’ve got a loving, almost mystical relationship with my hiking boots (we’ve been through a lot together).
Danner Shoes & Boots
If your idea of celebrating America involves Grand Canyon climbs and night skies awash in stars, let me recommend some of the awesome hiking shoes Danner Boots is making. These Portland, Oregon artisans have been building Danner hiking shoes for nearly a century - great hiking boots like the Jag. At 4.5-inches, the Jag is high enough for strong ankle support on uneven terrain, but not so high as to stifle movement. It’s lightweight, flexible, and both waterproof and breathable. Or if you’re the trail-runner type, you might opt for their low-top Trail, just 3” high but complete with Danner OrthoLite technology designed to cradle your foot and armor it against the impacts of pounding the terrain. Danner hiking boots are made by specialists who know what hiking boots should be.
Thorogood Work Boots
We can’t exactly get out on the Appalachian Trail all the time, though. If what you really need is a good pair of American made work boots, don’t worry, because the union craftsmen over at Thorogood Boots have you covered. Thorogood’s waterproof boots are the industry standard in on-the-job footwear. Thorogood’s recently-reissued 1957 Series is a 6” waterproof work boot with a 90-degree heel and storm welt construction that raises the edges of the foot to hold on tight during strenuous activity, and a fiberglass shank and steel safety toe to hold its shape - no matter what happens. I can’t recommend anyone higher than Thorogood work boots.
Belleville Combat Boots
If you need to go more tactical, I’d turn to the folks in Belleville, Illinois (my home state). When it comes to outfitting US soldiers, the armed forces turn to Belleville combat boots. Winners of the Defense Department’s Defence Quality Excellence Award, Belleville Boots has been delivering combat-quality footwear since 1904. Their 8” ONE XERO Assault Boot is built extra tough, highly-cushioned for long, rough treks, with a sturdy, deeply-treaded Incisor outsole. Plus, at just 20oz., this thing is super lightweight. Belleville shoes are all made of the highest quality, but for my money, the whole line of lightweight Belleville desert boots takes the cake. And, of course, they’re made in America.
Go Celebrate America
Once you’ve got your feet clad in some hardy American made shoes, get out there and celebrate your country this summer. We as Americans are truly blessed to have this beautiful country just beyond our doorsteps. Take a moment on July 4th to appreciate the hard work that went into your hometown. We all built America. Generations of American construction workers raised our cities. Service men and women fought and died (and continue to fight and die) to protect those cities and the folks living and working there. And while we can’t exactly take credit for Yosemite, remember that it’s your fellow Americans who did the work to carve out and clear those trails you’re enjoying.