In 1936 a man named Charles Danner decided to move his nascent shoe company to Portland, Oregon. The country was in the middle of recovering from the Great Depression and for budding entrepreneurs, it was a time of optimism. Danner relocated to Portland from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin because that was where the demand was—a quality logging boot sold in Portland could cost as much as $20, a substantial amount of money at the time. In return, the loggers got a pair of boots that endured rain, snow, mud, and all the other dangers of the Oregon wilderness.
It was here that Danner Boots developed its reputation for making no compromises on quality. Now the company is a favorite among hikers, outdoorsmen, hunters, and even the Marines (although that last one may be due to convenience, since Danner boots are general issue for the Marine Corps).
“We strive to deliver premium boots to our consumers and as a result, we invest in the highest-quality materials, components, and the most skilled footwear makers,” said Danner’s Product Line Manager Ryan Cade.
See a video on how Danner boots are made below:
Ryan echoed the same sentiments that brought the company to Oregon in the mid-1930s. By the end of the Second World War, Danner had already made a name for itself with its iconic “shipyard boot.” In the prosperous post-war era, other companies turned to mass production to churn out more boots at lower costs. Charles Danner, however, stuck to his vision of craftsmanship. In that way, the company is slow to change.
I sat down with Ryan to talk about the future of Danner as the company celebrates the 10th anniversary of its popular Quarry boot. We also talked about what new innovations the company is looking to bring forward in the coming months.
“I believe our focus on not taking shortcuts regarding craftsmanship, [and] always trying to exceed expectations and keeping our commitment to delivering great customer service separates Danner from the competitors,” Ryan said. “We want someone to grab one of our boots, put it on, and instantly recognize that we went to great lengths to share our passion on many levels.”
I remember my first pair of Danner boots, which arrived sheathed in a box smelling of leather and wrapped in a paper map of Portland. It was easy to see that Danner boots were well-crafted, but it takes months of wear to notice the level of attention placed on their products. In a word, their shoes are overbuilt.
“We spend a lot of time in front of people who want to see more innovation in footwear,” Ryan explained. “We pride ourselves in being in the field as much as anybody, and we get a lot of feedback from hardcore outdoor enthusiasts who spend months in the field. People expect to see a premium product from Danner and we execute that at a high level across different styles. We try to push the design aesthetics and componentry in our boots to stay on-trend, but ultimately the boot has to look and perform like a Danner—and I think our customers appreciate that straightforward approach and the lack of complexity it creates.”
How do sportsmen feel about Danner? You can watch one testimony below:
Danner doesn’t only pride itself on being US-made, the company also has a fierce loyalty to the Portland area.
“We see an increase in demand for US-made footwear and we believe we can provide boots out of our Portland, Oregon factory that reflect our heritage while adding value to a lot people’s lives,” Ryan said. “Having our primary factory in the Pacific Northwest has significant benefits. Not only are we closer to the design, development, and manufacturing processes, we also are in an ideal environment to test our product.”
And what kind of products can we look forward to soon? Danner employees like to boast that before any one boot leaves the factory, it’s been touched by a hundred craftsmen. An equal amount of effort goes into the design. Ryan didn’t want to give too much away, but he said that there is a focus on new designs in their hunting, outdoors, and tactical lines.
“We have the new Pronghorn coming in July that has the great balance of comfort and durability one comes to expect out of this hunting boot. We did significant work on the Pronghorn platform to lighten it up and give it more of the original Pronghorn feel. Additionally we have a new alpine-driven platform called the Gila. The Gila has great underfoot stability and comfort while not having a lot of unnecessary bulk. The Western hunter is going to appreciate the balance of weight, support, and an approachable price point.
“On the tactical side, we’ve expanded our ultra-lightweight Tachyon boot family with a black, GORE-TEX-lined polishable toe version. A full pair weighs around 35 ounces [size 10], which makes this the lightest waterproof tactical boot available.”
It seems that just like the boots they make, Danner will be around for a while. For those with old or aging Danner boots, the company does offer a recrafting service to breathe life back into a pair of old favorites. Perhaps a few decades down the line, I’ll give it a try.
Image courtesy Danner