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Shoes July, 8 2013

A Look Inside the Danner Boots Factory in Portland, OR

The factory floor at Danner Boots is not all that dissimilar from other great manufacturing facilities in the United States. Best known for their boots servicing the logging industry and lacing up the U.S. Marine Corp with their “choice” rugged, all-terrain hot weather boot, Danner is about as American as it gets while understanding that we live in a global village. Where various workwear and American-heritage style movements have put the spotlight on various American bootmakers – some over-marketed – Danner remains that bootmaker continues to output the best product they can for blue-collar America – first and foremost.

Located roughly 30 minutes from downtown Portland, OR, the Danner boot factory looks to be a relatively new facility. It is a clean and well maintained factory floor, populated by various stations of production from leather inspections to punching eyelets – almost all processes done by hand. Machinery on the factory floors looks well worked and serviced. Many, I’m told, are irreplaceable.  This hardware has been put to good use.

While the American-made aspect of Danner’s production of clear importance, the company lauds the work of their factory staff, a tremendous number of them coming Portland from overseas, each bringing with them skill sets and labor that’s nearly impossible to find stateside. More than 110 factory employees, for instance, are from Vietnam, a country with a long history of shoe production. 25 skilled workers from the Ukraine bring unmatched talent in repairing and refurbishing well-worn Danner Boots. Viewing their work seems like a form of hand-to-hand combat as they visually inspect each boot to determine what will be required to bring it back to life. You can view these “specialists” in action inside the Danner Factory store just down the road from the factory.

One walk’s away from Danner with an understanding of how to make a boot, but more importantly, understanding that it all comes down to skilled workers. While some prop up Americana as examples of greatness, Danner turns the table to applaud their labor force and the folks working behind the scenes in producing their footwear.

2013 also brings major change on the retail front for Danner. While their factory store has been grounded for some time just outside of downtown Portland, the brand set to open a flagship store in downtown Portland, just across the street from Ace Hotel. Other locations will follow to help impress on Danner’s commitment to bootmaking and the Pacific Northwest.

Danner Boots is a company committed to delivering the very best boots to market without falling into the trappings of trend and fashion. While there is a clear appeal to their special boot make-ups for various high fashion houses (with more coming in months), these are asides, really. The focus is on the core, blue collar, consumer who wears and spread the Danner word. If folks like myself see style in Danner Boots as quality for city wear, then all the better. But high fashion will never pull them from delivering to their core. While we will certainly see Danner increase their offering in the casual market with the addition of casual dress footwear, the new looks will appeal greatest to the customer who knows them best.

Visit the Danner Factory Store at 12021 NE Airport Way in Portland, OR.

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