How’s that old saying go? If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Which is why I’ve spent a couple of days kind of spinning my wheels regarding the Nike endorsement of Caperman or whatever his name is. I haven’t owned a set of Nike shoes since maybe the early Nineties. In 1998 I got my first set of USA-made New Balances and I haven’t really looked back since then. So instead of talking about Nike, their overseas production, or their political activism, I’d like to talk about something that just recently became a possibility: the 100% American-made athletic shoe.
New Balance is well known for their Assembled in USA products which contain less than 70% USA-made materials, and for their Made In USA line which contains at least 70% domestic materials. Until recently, however, they had no shoe that was sourced entirely from the United States. That’s changed thanks to a massive infrastructure investment by New Balance. Unfortunately, the reason for that investment has proven to be a false hope.
I’d recommend reading this whole piece at Highsnobiety, but here are the highlights:
New Balance is looking to further their progress in the lifestyle sector with the release of their 1978 silhouette – a product that is 2.5 years in the making and a passion project for Global Design Director for NB Lifestyle, Brad Lacey – which pushes New Balance’s Made in America doctrine to new heights with 100 percent of the shoe made in roughly 190 miles between Norridgewock – where the upper is created – and in Boston where the Vibram soles are constructed…
The quest for a 100 percent “Made in America” shoe began back in 2012 with the purchase of a IMEVA machine – an other-wordly device that looks like a large dental device that spits out fully formed molds.
The goal for the IMEVA machine at the time was to begin crafting a new silhouette – the 950 – which would be issued to enlisted soldiers as part of the Berry Act which stipulates that everything a soldier gets for deployment for basic training needs to be 100 percent “Made in America.”
there was a loophole for many years that allowed soldiers to purchase any brand of athletic footwear via a voucher program. Thus, shoes from brands like Nike and adidas – produced abroad – were often choices that soldiers would make.
As with anything related to political maneuvering, the wheels of progress spin ever so slow. In turn, the IMEVA machine fell silent as New Balance challenged the Berry Act loophole.
The New Balance 1978 is what ultimately got the IMEVA machine cranked back up – perfecting a modernized three-piece upper in suede and leather with perforated details on the toe box and N logo; a reflective underlay on the N logo; and a deconstructed leather collar.
I didn’t know any of that when I bought my new set of 1978s; I just knew that they were an extremely minimalist running shoe and I thought they would be good for use on a racetrack. Which they are. They’re also good for walking and they breathe exceptionally well, which makes long airplane trips less unpleasant. They won’t be for everybody, but I’m very happy with mine. I’m also pleased to be keeping that IMEVA machine running until the day that the US military gets their act together and puts the kibosh on sweatshop sneakers.