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Archive for the ‘Boots’ Category

The McRae Industries Story – Part 4, Made In America

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

Navigating the changing currents of government contracting

>McRae Footwear learned quickly how to deliver goods to the world’s largest customer: the U.S. federal government.

In 1969, Victor Karam, a self-described “Yankee who loves the south,” transplanted from his native New England to join McRae Industries in an executive role. A cultured Bostonian of Lebanese descent, Victor had a master’s degree in journalism but ended up in an entirely different field: women’s shoes.

An enduring leader at McRae Industries:  Victor Karam in the ‘70s and today

An enduring leader at McRae Industries:
Victor Karam in the ‘70s and today

During the Vietnam War, Victor was drafted into the Army and stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC. He met his future wife during that time, and they decided they wanted to live near her folks. A head hunter connected Victor with Branson McRae, founder and CEO of McRae Industries in Mount Gilead. Branson offered Victor a position as a vice president. “Branson always said he liked to hire Yankees because none of the southerners understood production,” Victor laughs.

“Salary negotiations were interesting. Branson asked me my annual salary target. I told him I expected to match my current salary, which at that time was $15,000. ‘That won’t work,’ Branson said. ‘It’ll never be approved by the board, because I only make $12,000.’”

Despite the dip in pay, Victor was intrigued by Branson’s company and accepted the job. He thought he would move on after a year or two, but ended up staying for more than 45 years, eventually becoming president of McRae Footwear. He continues to serve on the board of directors.

Becoming a preferred contractor

Along with its knowledge of the government’s preferred mode of boot construction – vulcanized, direct molded sole — McRae had two other distinct advantages as a contractor. With fewer than 500 employees, the company qualified as a small business. And it qualified also as having a manufacturing plant in a “labor surplus,” or high unemployment, area. The Department of Defense “set aside” contracts for small businesses, and being labor surplus gave the company a price advantage over large businesses.

Home grown: By law, in making purchases, the federal government gives preference to domestically produced and  manufactured products.

Home grown: By law, in making purchases, the federal government gives preference to domestically produced and manufactured products.

To supplement its U.S. government contracts, McRae made combat boots for other nations. For 25 years, the company has been a supplier of military footwear for the government of Israel. Over the years, McRae has also provided boots for military forces in Canada, Brunei, Great Britain, and Saudi Arabia.

“The federal government has consistently praised us for our high-quality products.”
– Victor Karam, director, McRae Industries

Following government specs

“At the time, the design of McRae’s military boots was dictated by the government,” Victor says. “We didn’t have a lot of input. We didn’t have a shoe manufacturers association. The government gave us the patterns and told us how to make the boots. Requirements were so rigid that a slight defect could cause the military to reject an entire production lot of boots.”

Talking though the specs: Being a government contractor required frequent trips to the Defense Personnel Support Center in Philadelphia.

Talking though the specs: Being a government contractor required frequent trips to the Defense Personnel Support Center in Philadelphia.

“Branson made it clear that every government specification was to be met. ‘The longer you work here with me, whether you agree or disagree with the specs, you follow them,’ he said. ‘If you see something that needs to be changed, go through the proper channels to get it changed. If you can’t, don’t change it.’’

Specifications were – and still are – exacting and relentless, from cure time for rubber to the boot’s ability to withstand pressure. Government protocols are strictly enforced with McRae workers. Government inspectors frequently walked the floors of the McRae factory. “I don’t know that any of the inspectors that came through had shoe knowledge,” Victor says. “We had to teach them.”

If Branson felt a spec were wrong, however, he was not afraid to question it – through established government protocols. That involved meeting with federal representatives in Philadelphia to clarify requirements or, in one instance, challenge a boot recall.

Victor tells the story of an inspector sent in from Charlotte, NC. “This inspector tested and rejected a production lot of boots where a wrinkle was detected. But the regulations specified boots should be rejected if a horizontal wrinkle were found when tested between both thumbs. The wrinkle detected in this lot was vertical. We showed the quality controller in Philadelphia, and we won our case.”

Looking to the future

Today, about 90 percent of McRae’s military boot business is tied to government contracts. The company also makes commercial versions of its boots.

“Staying flexible and expecting the unexpected is all part of succeeding as a government contractor,” Victor says. “Demand may fluctuate, but our purpose never waivers: To help our troops fulfill their missions though durable and reliable footwear.”

Adding on: As boot orders from the U.S. government accelerated, McRae over time added on a second 100,000-square-foot facility in Troy, NC. This facility houses the company’s direct-attach injection-mold equipment for manufacturing current-spec military boots, along with lasting, finishing, warehousing, and shipping functions.

Adding on: As boot orders from the U.S. government accelerated, McRae over time added on a second 100,000-square-foot facility in Troy, NC. This facility houses the company’s direct-attach injection-mold equipment for manufacturing current-spec military boots, along with lasting, finishing, warehousing, and shipping functions.

SHOT Show 20 – Under Armour

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Under Armour has three new footwear styles I love.

First up is the Loadout. This AR 670-1 compliant boot has a smooth toe and Vibram sole featuring mega grip rubber.

Designs cues come from UA’s popular Speedfit including the Micro G midsole from the running side. Offered in Black (polishable toe) and Coyote.

Next up, the Hovr Dawn WP which is based on UA’s Hovr running platform. It incorporates their Storm waterproof breathable membrane but is only available in Black or UA Barren camouflage. There’s also a Molded Ortholite anti-microbial sockliner to prevent the growth of odor causing microbes. This boot was actually brought over from UA Hunting, but looking at it, the decision makes complete sense.

It may look chunky but the wide sole offers stability and yet weighs just 17 ounces. Coming Fall/Winter 20.

Finally, it’s the Valsetz 1.5 5″ which is also now available in Grey which is a great option for those wearing Wolf Grey clothing.

It incorporates UA’s ClutchFit ankle support system and a TPU toecap. Once again, it’s got the running shoe Micro G midsole and a Molded Ortholite anti-microbial sockliner to prevent the growth of odor causing microbes.

SHOT Show 20 – Oakley Elite Assault Boot

Monday, January 27th, 2020

New for 2020 is the Elite Assault Boot from Oakley.

The AR 670-1 compliant boot features the Vibram Litebase Outsole along with a Vibram SPE Midsole, 8″ Cordura upper and their low profile Lace-Lock system which creates a locked-in fit.

The Elite Assault Boot is I’m told, the first in a complete refresh of their boot line with more models coming in the future.

SHOT Show 20 – Reebok Strikepoint

Friday, January 24th, 2020

Coming this April from Reebok is the Strikepoint which promises to be the lightest Berry compliant boot on the market. What’s more, it’s also AR 670-1 compliant.

They worked with Vibram to get the weight down and left out the liners in the upper so it’s much more like a traditional jungle boot construction.

Reebok Introduces Trailgrip Tactical Work Boot Series

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

St. Louis, MO (Jan. 21, 2020) – St. Louis, MO (Jan. 21, 2020) – Warson Brands, official licensee of Reebok for duty and uniform footwear, is excited to introduce its popular Trailgrip platform to law enforcement and military professionals with its new Trailgrip Tactical series.

All three models of the Trailgrip Tactical are built on a slip-resistant rubber outsole with an active traction lug bottom, great for durability and grip in a variety of terrains and surfaces. A MicroWeb lacing system keeps the foot locked in with lateral stability. Comfort is provided through a combination of a DMXRide Foam Midsole for super-responsiveness, a MemoryTech Foam Footbed for shaping to one’s foot, and a mid-cut design for ankle support over the long haul. All models contain no metal components for convenience in high-security environments.

RB3450 and RB3455, soft-toe black 6” and 8” versions of the boot, provide excellent coverage in all weather environments with standard waterproofing, while the RB3455 adds extra weather protection with its 200G 3M® Thinsulate® insulated lining.

RB3460, debuting in a coyote color, comes with a composite toe with extra-wide space for the toes. This 8” version, like the others, is easy to put on or take off due to the standard side zips.

The RB3450, RB3455 and RB3460 are now available for purchase at an MSRP of $135.00, $149.00 and $143.00, respectively, at reebokwork.com/trailgrip-tactical. Reebok Duty will display the full line of Trailgrip Tactical boots at SHOT Show booth #10179.

Reebok duty footwear and the Trailgrip Tactical series are also available through select retailers throughout the United States. For more information on the Reebok Trailgrip Tactical, visit reebokwork.com/trailgrip-tactical.

SHOT Show 20 – Drifire

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

Drifire has developed an overboot for cold weather climates that will take you down to -30F. Currently undergoing evaluation.

SIG Range Day 2020 – New Kicks from 511 Tactical

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

The new Norris Sneaker from 5.11 is puncture resistant and comes in at just under a hundred bucks. New colors for 2020 include MultiCam Black and Coyote.

Keen – The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Hiking Boots

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Hiking Boots

Keen has a blog post on their site detailing how to choose the right hiking boots for your needs. The post goes into the various styles of boots, how to fit your boots, materials and composition, and even care. You can check out the full post at the link below.

www.keenfootwear.com/guidesreviews/blog-article-20039