At the beginning of the 20th century, a level of individualism, free-thinking 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".
The Chippewa Shoe Manufacturing Company is instilled with the freedom and the ingenuity of this truly American aspiration. Our 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.
For more than 110 years, the Chippewa Shoe Manufacturing Company has supplied America with top-quality rugged boots and shoes for every purpose.
In the same decade Ford Motor Company was founded and the Wright brothers took their first flight, the Chippewa Shoe Manufacturing Co. was established by J. B. Piotrowski and John Andrejski in 1901. Named after Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, a small logging town located in the upper Midwest United States. Soon after the company's inception, demand for the rugged boots from the local logging community increased and the company relocated from the founders original workshop to a 5 story facility on River St. in downtown Chippewa Falls that still stands today.
Timber was in high demand and fueling the industrial revolution at the turn of the century. Recognizing a demand for dependable footwear that lumberjacks need to survive in the extreme outdoor work environment of the forests of the upper Midwest and Canada. The Chippewa Shoe Manufacturing Co. introduced the first laced outdoor specific boot with the development of the Chippewa Logger Boot, making Chippewa one of oldest outdoor footwear brands in the world. From our archive, the Original Chippewa Logger was available in multiple configurations and has been a continuous part of the Chippewa brand for over 110 years.
Original Chippewa is credited for inventing the Engineer style boot. An engineer boot is all-leather tall stovepipe shaft pull-on boot with buckled leather cinches at the ankle and knee. "The Original" Chippewa Engineer boot debuted in 1937 as a semi-dress type of boot engineers prefer for field work, or other outdoor workers, whose positions make a neat appearance necessary.
The 1937 "The Original" 17" Engineer was manufactured with Horween W.P. Chromexcel leather, Goodyear Welt Construction with plain toe, English riding boot style profile. Outsole was heavy vicolized (oiled) single leather sole with top grade leather insole and hand pegged steel shank.
The classic 11" Engineer with Logger Heel and exterior counter was first introduced in 1940. The boots' lace-less tall shaft adds maximum protection to foot and shin while on the road. Outlaw biker films of the 1950s made Chippewa Engineer boots a famous motorcycle icon. With the enduring endorsement, the engineer boot style will forever symbolize the rebellion of youth and the freedom of the open road.
During Word War II, the U.S. Army 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. Chippewa's Extreme Cold Weather Minus-40 & Arctic-50 boots are deemed the "finest, warmest, insulated Goodyear® welt boots ever made".
After World War II, American's newfound economic freedom created a demand for outdoor recreational and sporting activities like snow skiing, mountain climbing and sport fishing. Chippewa prospered with the emergence of the modern outdoor sports market, producing not only general utility and specialized work boots, but also launching rugged sport and leisure footwear like the Modern Suburban and Romeo. By the early 1950s Chippewa was the leader in innovative outdoor boot technology.
In the 1950s, the Chippewa Shoe Manufacturing Company was the first to manufacturer to introduce U.S. made mountaineering boots with the 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. In celebration of over 50 years of continuous partnership, Vibram and Chippewa have collaborated to re-issue this vintage Vibram® sole.
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. 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.
The official SAC 600 Flight Boot was a technological revolution in extreme weather footwear protection. For this boot, Chippewa also introduced the first front lace system designed for quick entry and exit of the boot. This system is still in use on today's Chippewa's Emergency Protective Services Boots, used for Law Enforcement, Fire and Military applications.
Chippewa celebrated its diamond jubilee in 1976, marking seventy-five years of continued business. 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.
Through Chippewa's continuous research and development in the field, the company received approval on U.S. Patent 3545107 in 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. The design was so successful and comfortable, variations on the original Kush-N-Kollar can still be found today in current boot design. As part of the launch of the Chippewa Heritage Collection, the 1969 Original Kush-N-Kollar Boot was re-issued in 2013. The re-issued boot still manufactured with the original details that include, sterling lined gusset, wool insulated quarter, wool felt sock and a nailed Vibram® Heritage lugged-outsole.
In 1980, Chippewa embarked on a new marketing campaign, Chippewa Country USA: "Handcrafted by people who care". The campaign focused on the skill craftsmen who work for Chippewa that are truly responsible for the fine quality footwear produced by Chippewa. Over the years, this campaign has evolved into our company philosophy that Chippewa product use only premium raw materials and are Handcrafted in the USA. To this day, U.S. made boots still carry the "Handcrafted in the USA" labels as homage to the men and women that have built the Chippewa brand.
Justin Brands, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. company, acquired Chippewa Shoe Mfg. Co., in 1984. Justin Brands is the largest and one of oldest continuously run domestic boot manufacturers in the United States. Justin Brands is the recognized leader in Western and Outdoor footwear.
To this day, the Chippewa Shoe Manufacturing Co. has remained a true American Brand; representing American-centric principles by preserving a domestic manufacturing base with our U.S. factories. The brand reflects the authenticity and heritage of American manufacturing and is proudly handcrafted in the United States of America.
The past century has brought incredible changes in outdoor lifestyle footwear. Chippewa is now one of the last high-quality U.S. footwear manufacturers with a recognized reputation for tough, durable and dependable classic silhouettes.