by Jamison Aweau / February 17, 2014
A New Retrospect of the American Endeavor
At the beginning of the 20th century, a level of individualism, freethinking, and opportunity arose from the United States of America that has influenced and changed the world. This independence has been defined as “The American Dream,” a worldwide belief in the freedom that allows all Americans to achieve their goals through their abilities and work ethic without discrimination. This desire has created a global fascination with American ideals, culture and products.
The Chippewa Shoe Manufacturing Company is instilled with the freedom and the ingenuity of this truly American aspiration. Their brand philosophy is built on a contemporary perspective of historical, political and cultural events that have shaped our nation. This viewpoint is a retrospect, expressing the strength and struggle of the American endeavor, exhibited in a modern presentation.
Chippewa is a true American Brand, representing American-centric principles and social responsibilities. Their mission is to support the employment of the American workers and the growth of the U.S. manufacturing base through design and distribution of rugged lifestyle products. The foundation for Chippewa success as a true American brand is rooted in our authenticity, entrepreneurial spirit, sound business strategy, and our unique contemporary perspective of the “American Endeavor”.
The “Great War”
Demand for Chippewa’s high quality field boots skyrocketed when the Central Powers of Europe declared war on The Allies, which comprised of the United Kingdom, France and Russia. The “Great War”, or as it is know today as “WWI”or World War 1, began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. It involved all the world’s great powers,which were assembled in two opposing alliances. Chippewa produced boots for the Allies and then for the U.S. military after the sinking of several U.S. merchant ships by Germans Submarine, U.S. President Wilson called for war on Germany, which the U.S. Congress declared on 6 April 1917.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929, signaled the beginning of the 10-year Great Depression that affected all Western industrialized countries. To compound the economic downturn in the mid 30s, there was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage in the Midwest United States, especially in the prairielands of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. With millions of acres of farmland damaged, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes and migrated west looking for work and better economic conditions. The U.S. government under the leadership of U.S. President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt created a series of economic recovery programs, dubbed the “New Deal”. The programs like the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps.) and WPA (Work Progress Administration), build parks, highways, and bridges. While at the same time supporting the arts by funding, concerts, plays and large scale art projects creating hundreds of thousands of American jobs.
Second World War
By 1939, the political tensions around the world once again erupted into a global conflict involving a vast majority of the world’s nations – eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. On December 7th, 1941, the Axis powers unprovoked attack on U.S. Pacific Fleet, at Pearl Harbor Navel base, thrust the United States entry into a two front war in the Pacific and European theaters.
During World War II, the U.S. 10th Mountain Division was created as a unique mountain warfare unit, trained to fight in the roughest terrain and under the most extreme weather conditions in the world. The 10th Mountain Division depended on Chippewa for the company’s expertise in the development of heavy-duty cold-weather footwear and Ski Boots. Chippewa would later use the same research and development to launch its legendary Arctic Collection. Even today the Chippewa Arctic Boots still feature outsoles with grooves in the heel for the vintage ski bindings as tribute to the soldiers that made them famous. Chippewa’s extreme cold weather Minus-40 & Arctic-50 boots, are deemed the “finest, warmest, insulated Goodyear® welt boots ever made”.
A Period of Prosperity
The period from the end of World War II to through the end of the 1960s was a golden era of American productivity. $200 billion in war bonds matured, and the G.I. Bill financed one of the most well educated work forces in history. The U.S. labor demands swelled, as did the middle class with the movement of low-income farm workers into better paying jobs in the towns and cities. Americans newfound economic freedom, created a demand for outdoor recreational and sporting activities like snow skiing, mountain climbing, and sport fishing.
These outdoor pursuits that were previously reserved for only the wealthy, were now available to a large and robust American middle class. Chippewa prospered with the emergence of the modern outdoor sports market, producing not only general utility and specialized work boots, but also launching sport and leisure footwear lines. By the early 1950s Chippewa was the leader in innovative outdoor boot technology. Chippewa was the first to produce U.S. manufactured boots with Italian made original Vibram® soles. To this day, Chippewa offers Vibram® soles on more boot styles than any other rugged outdoor boot company in the world.
To Serve and Protect
After World War II, there was a continuing state of political and military tension between the powers of the Western world, led by the United States and its NATO allies, and the communist world, led by the Soviet Union, its satellite states and allies. This “Cold War” fueled the largest military industrial build up in world history. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Chippewa continued to collaborate with the U.S. Military on cold-weather research and development projects, inventing some of the first insulated boots by experimenting with new insulating synthetics materials developed for the military. From this research, the high-altitude flight boot was developed for the U.S. Air Force – Strategic Air Command and CIA Pilots that flew the U-2 Spy Plane. Francis Gary Powers, CIA Pilot, was photographed with his U-2, in his flight suit and Chippewa SAC 600 Flight Boots, days before his plane was shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission over Soviet airspace on May 1st, 1960.
The official SAC 600 Flight Boot was a technological revolution in extreme weather footwear protection. The flight boot was the first insulated boot with a quilted lining of a special spun nylon felt called Feutron® and Insolite Foam. This spun nylon contained millions of tiny air cells that retained body heat while allowing the leather exterior of the boot to breathe naturally. For this boot, Chippewa also introduced the first front lace system designed for quick entry and exit of the boot. Once the zipper system is laced and adjusted to the foot, the boot is always ready. This system is still in use on today’s Chippewa’s Emergency Protective Services boots, used for Law Enforcement, Fire, and Military applications.
“Kush N Kollar”
Through Chippewa’s continuous research and development in the field, the company received approval on U.S. Patent 3545107 on December 8th, 1970 for the first padded boot collar. The Kush-N-Kollar was designed to reduce the stress of the Achilles tendon while walking for long periods of time, substantially eliminating chafing or binding, thereby improving the wear and comfort characteristics of the boot and shoe construction. All padded collars seen today are variations of the Kush-N-Kollar created by Chippewa.
A Celebration of Independence
As the United States celebrated its Bicentennial, with the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Chippewa celebrated its diamond jubilee in 1976, marking seventy-five years of continued business. In an open letter to the Chippewa customers, John T. McDonald, the President of Chippewa said, “In celebration of our 75 years in business we have designed what we consider an outstanding “jubilee” boot (5468 Minus 40) which we feel is the finest boot ever made anywhere, combining all the features a person could want for fine outdoor footwear”. It was during this period that Chippewa emerged as a leader in innovative outdoor boot technology. Becoming intrinsically associated with the highest quality and performance in rugged outdoor specialty boots. An example of this is the Chippewa Snake Boot, which was developed for hunters and outdoorsmen who needed maximum protection from snakes while in the great outdoors.
Hand Crafted in USA
In 1980, Chippewa embarked on a new marketing campaign, Chippewa Country USA – “Hand Crafted by people who care”. The campaign focused on the skill of the craftsmen who live and work for Chippewa that are truly responsible for the fine quality footwear produced by Chippewa. Over the years, this campaign has evolved into their company philosophy that Chippewa products use only premium raw materials and are hand crafted in USA. To this day, our U.S. made boots still carry the “Hand Crafted in USA” labels as homage to the men and women that have built the Chippewa brand.