If you go to your closet and look at your hunting boots, it’s about a 97 percent chance that your foot protectors are made in a foreign country on the Asian rim. In the US, only a handful of small companies still make product in the homeland. Most of them are small, custom boot manufacturers that build highly specialized products that are driven by small, niche markets. With a history of domestic boot building since 1933, the Danner Company opened its new facility in Portland, Oregon just a few weeks ago employing over 500 people in two shifts. I was the first journalist admitted inside this plant with a camera to walk a pair of boots through the line and to see just what it takes to build a stellar pair of “RAT” boots for the US Marines.
Two shifts, 500 employees enter a sparkling clean facility to work and build boots in America for Americans.
Lots of Leather
Leather is the most basic ingredient of any boot, here you have the makings of more than one thousand pairs of RAT boots.
Each boot has numerous cutouts that happen in pre-assembly. This worker picks and cuts the larger leather sections that will be stamped out later.
While the leather and nylon pieces are cut, the quilted Gore-Tex liner is sewn in one piece as a finished bootie. FYI; Danner perfected the breathable bootie liner decades ago and sold the technology to Gore-Tex.
Each Danner RAT Boot comes with an approved Marines insignia on every pair.
Except for the sole, all the parts are assembled and ready for sewing.
Many Machines and Steps in the Transformation
With more than one dozen stations and many hands, all these parts are transformed into what’s called in the boot biz as the “upper”
The Last Sole
The final Vibram rubber sole is trimmed.
The sole is buffed, and the boot is inspected for a rigorous list of quality control specifications.
Packed and ready to ship to a Marine expecting an excellent patrol boot that can even be repaired or rebuilt. For more information click here.
If you procure a pair of these heavy duty Danners and you think they could be ready for the incinerator, think again. You can send them back to their place of origin where they’ll be affectionately rebuilt even if your dog used them as a training bumper. Danner’s recrafting shop is connected to their retail store in Portland, Oregon. You can watch though the looking glass as you see a pair of boots come back to life.
When you call Danner, you’ll most likely speak to TC who will guide you through the process to help you order the correct repair, or even a complete rebuild of your boots.
Order and Parts
Once your order has been assigned its specific repair, your boots hit the shop floor with all of the parts placed in a bin ready for the repair table.
This craftsman trained for years before he gained the skills to move over to the boot repair shop. This pair of beat-to-death logging boots is getting new Gore-Tex/Danner quilted liners and later, a new set of Vibram soles.
Ready to Go
With new liners, soles, leather holes repaired, this pair of boots is polished and ready for the mountain for another decade or so.
For more information on rebuilding a pair of US Danner boots go here.
Danner’s primary goal is to build footwear for hunters, loggers, the military and law enforcement. The factory produces meticulously hand-crafted “old school” stitched-down leather boots combined with nylon that deliver outstanding support.