90% of my Shoes were Made in China

After concluding a previous post about replacing my horde of Chinese-made socks, a reader (thanks Brian) wisely recommended that I investigate the origins of my socks’ companions: my shoes. Over the course of the last month, I have been prepping for the “Great Purge” to make sure that I am not left naked, or at least, not barefoot, afterward.

Well, it is a good thing I checked my shoes.  Let me put it simply: If the Great Purge was to happen tomorrow, I would be left with one pair of leather boat shoes and some soccer cleats (all I would need in my perfect seafaring, soccer-playing world).

Prepare yourself for an itemized shoe breakdown… I own, well owned, eight pairs of shoes: two pairs of leather work shoes, three pairs of casual shoes, and three pairs of athletic shoes. All but the two pairs previously mentioned were made in China. And unfortunately, the boat shoes were in disrepair. Essentially, I had to replace them all.

Consequently, the shoes went in the trash, and I went to the store. Because I am not rich, I would not be able to replace all eight pairs in one go. My wallet dictated that I could only buy four pairs: two for work and two for play. And honestly, that’s OK. I can live with four pairs of shoes, which is a greater number of shoes than what is provided to children by TOMS. (Most TOMS shoes, by the way, are made in China.)

My girlfriend and I hit up Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade. We went to Steve Madden first, as that is where I purchased my old dress shoes. After about a minute of checking labels, I knew that I wouldn’t have much luck here. (My girlfriend, who isn’t boycotting China, bought some smart black pumps.) About 90% of Steve Maddens are made in China. The rest came from India or Mexico.  Aldo was largely the same, with a few shoes originating in Romania or the Dominican Republic.

Skunked at both stores, I headed to Nordstrom. While Nordstrom still had a number of Chinese-made shoes, I found some brown boat shoes that were made in Indonesia and some classic black dress shoes that were made in the, wait for it… USA!

With my work shoes settled, I now needed to find a pair of casual shoes and a pair of trainers.  My previous casuals were Vans, and I was determined to make my future casuals Vans. Is there a more relaxed pair of kicks than Vans?  No.  No there is not.  Unfortunately, both of my old pairs of Vans were made in China, which made me very nervous.

After looking at about 400 tags, I learned a very interesting thing. Common shoes like Vans, Converse, and Nike are about 95% made in China. But, if you are persistent, you will find a few shoes from each brand that are made elsewhere. I have no idea why, that’s just the way it is. At the end of the day, I walked away with a pair of Vans Authentics and a pair of Nike trainers that were both made in Vietnam.

The most important thing I learned from my shopping expedition was that about 90% of the shoes we commonly wear here in the United States are made in China. But unfortunately, I am now left with more questions: Why are so many shoes made in China?  Why aren’t more shoes made in Vietnam, Indonesia, India, or the Dominican Republic?  Can’t we spread the manufacturing love?

I really have no idea.

Full Disclosure:  I do not own a pair of TOMS shoes. I do like the idea of buy-one-give-one products though. I wear Warby Parker glasses, which gives one pair of glasses for each one that you buy. These, unfortunately, are also made in China. But because these are prescription glasses, and will take some time to order, I will have to replace them after the Great Purge.

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5 thoughts on “90% of my Shoes were Made in China

  1. Well…shoot Josiah, that is too much of a shoe adventure. I would keep in mind when you come to the great Northland that you check out shoes here. There are a few stores I can think of that sell shoes made in USA, even MN. Red Wing Shoe Co. is one that comes to mind right away. Did you check REI?
    Proud of you for purging…thinking about doing it myself.

  2. [...] and horrified.  Will I be left with a full wardrobe (at least we know I will at least have some shoes to wear)?  Will I have any dishes left to eat on?  Will I even be left with anything to clean [...]

  3. Michele says:

    Ugh. I wish Vans were still manufactured in California. We need to reform our trade with China. We shouldn’t buy products from a Communist totalitarian regime that uses slave and child labor.

  4. Jansen says:

    Vans made in China thrown into the bin…replaced by Vans made in Vietnam…wow! That´s really a good change!! Fortunately workers in Vietnam have very good working conditions and perfect salaries.

  5. evan says:

    Hey Josiah,

    Great article! We make shoes in Peru, using fair trade practices. http://www.fortressofinca.com/

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