Chippewa Boots has been churning out tough as nails American footwear for 113 years. Think about that for a minute. When Chippewa launched, there were only 45 states. It was the same year that Theodore Roosevelt became President and Walt Disney was born. The brand predates the Ford Model T and the first Wright Brothers Flight. Hell, it’s even older than the Boy Scouts. That’s an impressive legacy, to say the least. And to celebrate it, Chippewa has recently come out with a range of shoes and boots that draw from the label’s rich history in both design and presentation. They’re calling it the Original Chippewa Collection.
Chippewa’s VP of Operations, Scott Milden, recently took some time out to discuss the new line over email. Here’s what he had to say.
Well Spent: Tell us about the Original Chippewa collection.
Original Chippewa blends the modern durability found in contemporary outdoor products with the heritage and authenticity of American craftsmanship. This Collection is an assembly of vintage-inspired footwear for individuals who appreciate classic boots with a distinctive identity. We have over 113 years of archived catalogues, documents, and samples to study and reference. Every Original Chippewa box, catalogue and label is based upon these old marketing and sales materials.
The Original Chippewa collection also contains a selection of re-issued archive shoes and boots, which have defined the Chippewa Brand. Original Archive boots are modern reproductions, made from materials like Horween leather and Vibram outsoles, and manufactured in limited numbers using traditional techniques. Each Archive boot is selected and named for its unique place in our brand’s History.
The Originals have a slightly higher price tag than Chippewa’s main line boots. Why is that?
In addition to being handcrafted in the USA, all Original Chippewa boots are Goodyear welted, made using hides from some of the best tanneries in America, and have premium components like pressed-in-the-US Vibram outsoles.
Though pricer than Chippewa’s main line, the Originals are still significantly more affordable than “Heritage” styles from other brands. How are you able to keep your prices low, but your quality high?
Our Original Chippewa Collection is produced in our own factories. Our Parent company, Justin Brands, owns four US-based facilities, making it one of the largest bookmakers in the country. This economy of scale allows us to deliver superior product quality at a fair price.
How has Chippewa / Justin managed to keep those factories going, when so many other American companies haven’t?
We have been committed to American manufacturing for 113 years. To continue to maintain this domestic base, it’s crucial that we create a greater awareness about the origin of products. There is an increasing desire amongst consumers for products that are culturally authentic and unique. This is already apparent in established luxury brands, where “Made in Italy” is an automatic endorsement of quality and prestige. Currently, “Handcrafted in the USA” is synonymous with durability, quality, and pride in craftsmanship. It’s important we continue to promote that.
Aside from owning its own factory, and having a lower price point, what else separates Chippewa from other longstanding, American bootmakers?
I believe the one major factor is that most of the other heritage collections are rooted in workwear. Original Chippewa is an outdoor brand. Also, we were founded in 1901, which makes us older than the rest.
Chippewa recently collaborated with J.Crew on a handful of exclusive styles. How did that come about? Are there any other upcoming collaborations you can tell us about?
J.Crew has been a long time supporter of Chippewa. Every year we work with them to develop exclusive versions of our classic boots. There are some great ones coming in 2014.
To celebrate the launch of the Original Chippewa collection, and to pay homage to the most authentic contemporary American denim brand in the world, Original Chippewa and the Jean Shop have collaborated to make the Original Jean Shop Engineer boot. It’s an 8-inch, Moc-toe Engineer with a heavily oiled Horween leather upper and 3/4″ Vibram outsole with a classic logger heel.
What would you say to someone who’s still on the fence about buying from Chippewa?
Original Chippewas are generational boots. Your Grandfather fought in them, your father worked in them, and now you can live in them. Original Chippewa is The Best. By Far.
For price and purchase info, visit Chippewa Boots.