More ThanMade in USA

Our Commitment to the Craft

As a young man, I spent my afternoons, weekends, and summers working as a cobbler’s assistant at my father’s shoe repair. Most days, it was the same thing: bluchers and loafers, brown and black. But every now and then, we'd see something special. I remember seeing a pair of scotchgrain wingtip oxfords from the early 1970's. They seemed, at first, drastically overbuilt: soles that must have weighed 4 pounds, steel cleats in each heel and toe, a Storm Welt with decorative wheeling, deerskin lining, and uppers which, over 20 years and so many polishes, had developed the sort of finish I would one day know by name. But there was something more to them than all that—something more substantive, something more real.

Oak Street Bootmakers was founded to make sure that sort of craftsmanship not only survives, but is available to as many people as possible. When we began work on our first collection, we had no idea just how many challenges we’d face manufacturing here at home: a shortage of qualified workers, limited access to machinery, and a supply-chain with more than a few missing links. Ten years later, we remain more committed to domestic manufacturing than ever before—not in spite of these challenges, but because of them. For us, ‘Made in USA’ is not selling point—it’s the whole point.

—George Vlagos, Founder

Bucking the Trend

American shoemaking is in critical condition. Today, over 98% of footwear sold in the United States is made overseas. Recently though, and for various reasons, people have become increasingly concerned with the origin of goods they purchase. Many manufacturers have responded by introducing or re-introducing ‘Made in USA’ footwear into their lines. We welcome the competition and believe all shoemakers benefit from a larger and healthier domestic supply-chain. Unfortunately, however, ‘Made in USA’ doesn’t always mean what you might expect.

Several manufacturers have begun making uppers overseas and just ‘bottoming’ (attaching the soles) in the United States. Others might make a product domestically but with materials of dubious quality. And we know of at least one company using uppers fully-assembled overseas, complete with little ‘Made in USA’ flags. It’s not our job to determine whether any of this is right or wrong—our job is to simply make the best footwear we can. ‘Made in USA’ might be open to a certain degree of interpretation, but we want our customers to know precisely what it means when we say it.

Know the Difference

Manufacturing Practices “Made in USA” Made in USA
Meets the minimum FTC requirements to claim “Made in USA”
Assembles 100% of shoe or boot in the USA, from heel-to-toe ×
Acquires all materials domestically or from Preeminent Suppliers1 ×
All components are crafted by hand, not pre-assembled overseas ×
Uses domestic sources for boxes, packaging, and printed materials ×
Produces all shoe care products and accessories in the USA ×
Entire product line is made in USA, not just a few “heritage” styles ×
1Preeminent Supplier: We only procure materials from overseas manufacturers with 25 or more years of continuous operation, headquartered in a nation ranked as ‘Very High’ by the United Nations Human Development Index.

It’s slow.
It’s expensive.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hides with Bona Fides

All our footwear is crafted using leather sourced from the world’s leading tanneries. Each of our tanneries produces leather with proprietary, time-honored tanning processes and has been in continuous operation since 1945 or earlier.

Horween Leather Co.

Chicago – USA

C.F. Stead Sheepscar

Leeds – England

Tannerie D'Annonay

Annonay – France

Seidel Tanning Corp.

Milwaukee – USA
Dainite Rubber-Studded Sole - Not Afraid to Bare Our Sole

Not Afraid to Bare Our Sole

All our leather soles and stacked-leather heels are made right alongside our footwear. Our branded rubber Camp Soles and Boat Soles are made in a Vibram® factory. When it comes to specialty rubber soles, we also use British-made studded soles from Dainite® and Commando® soles from Itshide®—and a variety of rubber outdoor soles from Vibram’s factory in Italy.

The Parts You Never See But Always Notice

We take great care in selecting all our materials—including those most will never see. For example, we source our welts from the Barbour Welting Company in Massachusetts, the foremost innovator in welts since 1892. You’ll never see the Barbour logo in your boots but you’ll appreciate their craftsmanship every time your feet stay dry in the rain.

Barbour Welt - The Parts You Never See But Always Notice
Massachusetts' Barbour Welting Company has been in continuous operation since 1892.
Oak Street Bootmakers Logo Die - A Chain of Many Links

A Chain of Many Links

Our domestic supply-chain includes far more than tanneries and welt makers. Every day, we trade with die makers, lace distributors, metalsmiths, brushmakers, purveyors of waxed thread—a pantheon of people whose livelihoods depend on the support of companies like us and customers like you. These are highly-specialized small businesses and, in many cases, they are the sole-remaining domestic resource capable of providing their goods or services.

Keeping The Network Online

It’s taken us a decade to connect our network of vendors and suppliers and, to be honest, we’re still working on it. In many ways, American shoemaking remains a literal cottage industry, wherein numerous craftspeople and suppliers are working out of their garage or backyard. You won’t find them with a search engine. To find the guy you need, you have to know a guy who knows the guy. We are dedicated to keeping all these guys (and gals) in business, not just for us, but for all those who seek to preserve the great tradition of American craftsmanship.

Oak Street Bootmakers Factory - The Next Chapter
Oak Street Bootmakers Factory - The Next Chapter
Oak Street Bootmakers Factory - The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter

Unfortunately, nothing on Skillshare teaches the safe and effective operation of a 1945 Landis #12 E Sole Stitcher. That may change one day but until then, the best way to learn is at the side of someone who's been using one for a decade or two. There aren't many people who have the know-how to make a good pair of boots, which is precisely why it's so important to support those who do—and those who want to learn. The story of American shoemaking is one of ingenuity, ambition, and more recently, perseverance. Help us make sure this latest chapter won't be the last.