Something I didn’t know before I interviewed White’s Boots president Eric Kinney: except for a few years here and there, a bootmaker has run the company for almost 170 years. Eric did it for 26 years himself, hand-sewing over 50,000 pairs.

Eric made a whole lot of Semi-Dress boots, White’s timeless five-inch model featuring a trademark sweeping logger heel, which those in the know consider to be one of the essential boots of all time. He also made one or two Smokejumpers, White’s top-seller developed for, and worn by, people who spend their lives jumping out of aircraft fighting forest fires. Both are constructed with White’s trademark hyper-supportive Arch-Ease last design, the Spokane bootmaker’s other claim to fame. “It feels like you’re standing on the rung of a ladder,” Eric says. But, you know, in the good way.

The White’s of today is in some ways the same operation it’s always been. In others, the past half-decade has brought mountains of change. In 2014, White’s sold to Lacrosse Footwear Inc. (which also owns Danner), a subsidiary of Japanese footwear titan ABC Mart Inc. The purchase raised concern among some White’s Boots devotees. Would it disrupt White’s tradition, and the craftsmanship they’d come to expect? To hear Eric tell it, the short answer is: no sir.

What has changed is White’s offerings, with a fervent expansion into a more widely accessible lifestyle category with boots like their MP and the White’s Reserve “dress” line (yes I used the scare quotes, but it’s certainly dressy for White’s). Also: their outward presence to the world. Insider customers used to discover White’s by word of mouth—before speaking many, many words to someone over the phone to nail a perfect fit and order their boots. Now, a revamped social media presence and product range that’s exploded from 15 styles to 100 over the last three years have White’s playing a totally different game.

I spoke with Eric at length about White’s history, the cut-no-corners construction techniques he’s still firmly dedicated to, and what all that change means for White’s today and tomorrow.

 


 

Stitchdown: I’d love if you could take me through the short version of the history of White’s.

Eric: Otto White’s grandfather Edward White started the company in the 1800s. Near as we can tell through information passed down through generations it was 1853. I think in 1901 Otto and his dad John Pierce White moved from Virginia to St. Mary’s, Idaho. Their main business was shoeing loggers and miners. In 1915, Otto’s dad came to Spokane and Otto stayed in St. Mary’s, and they didn’t meet up again until I believe 1922, in Spokane. And that’s when the business really took off. They opened up a shop in downtown Spokane.

White's Boots Store Historical

I never met Otto, but my stepdad worked with him for about a year before Otto died in 1972. Otto truly was a genius—especially on feet, and fitting people. I wish we still had it, but he kept a diary of everyone’s foot tracings and arches from going to logging camps and fitting people up. The way his mind worked is really why White’s is still around today, and why we’ve lasted—he was 100% about getting a boot that fit right.

Stitchdown: What do you understand about how his mind worked in that way?

Eric: It was all based on a true measure: measuring in three different spots. We maybe have 20 lasts, but our five main lasts can pretty much fit anybody. About 90, maybe 95% of people can wear a standard White’s last. It’s that 5% that need a true custom-measured boot. I made boots for 26 years, and the first 10 to 15 years, every day I would get a last that had build-ups all over it. But the last ten years, it became much less. I believe it’s because medicine got so good, and surgery—doctors could fix a lot of people’s feet.

Stitchdown: Interesting.

Eric: Yeah, it’s really changed. And in the last 50 to 60 years, we’ve only had three guys that do true measures. We have Gary Hubenthal, he’s our inspection guy now, but he did true measures for probably 35 years. And then Bob Putt, who just retired, he did true measures for 35, 40 years. And they’ve passed it down to Mike Kostel, who’s been here 15 or 20 years. That’s what made White’s: knowing you can get a boot that fits right. When you’re on your feet all day, it really makes a difference.

But back to Otto. He ran the business, and he died in 1972. After that White’s became an employee-owned company for about a decade. There was some good and bad in that, from what I understand. In the early 80s, Marvin Smiley, who was probably one of the best boot makers ever, took over. Marvin ended up selling the company to Skip March in 1985 I believe. And Skip March’s brother Gary became my stepdad in 1984—that’s how I got into the business. Skip retired in 2000, and Gary took over until 2017. And then Steve Sheller, who was the vice president under Gary, he took over for a couple of years until he retired. And I took over in 2019.

I think there’s been about seven or eight years total when someone other than a shoemaker was running the company. I think it really makes the business better, knowing that we don’t want to change what’s got us here. And until I’m retired, nothing will change. We’re going to explore different options, with some Goodyear welted stuff, and some sourced hunting boots from Italy. It’s a tough business to just build the same products, so we really need to try and diversify.

Stitchdown: Got it. So before we get back to today and tomorrow, do you have any sense of what kind of boots were being made way back when, say in 1860s and 1870s? Are they the logging boots I’m picturing, or what were they?

Eric: I think a lot of them were logging boots. I’m sure they were doing some sort of drive cork on a leather sole. Because I even made some of those when I first started.

Stitchdown: Can you help me understand drive cork?

Eric: It’s a leather outsole, and you soak it, then drive in these threaded corks. When the sole dries, the corks get bonded into the leather. That’s what a lot of loggers were using. I’m not sure when exactly it started, but that would be probably one of the main boots we were building, along with boots with leather soles. Semi-Dresses. I believe those started in the 30s, and we still run that style today.


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White's Boots Semi-Dress

Stitchdown: What was the original purpose of the White’s Semi-Dress boot? Who was it for?

Eric: It was for clerks, and businessmen. Back then, there probably wasn’t too much to pick from besides oxfords and derbies. So it was kind of that in-between, more of a heavy duty business boot.

Stitchdown: Does the name mean what it sounds like? It’s not a dress shoe, or a dress boot, but it’s…semi?

Eric: Yeah, it’s kind of a this-and-that, y’know? You could probably wear it to work if you did something a little more rugged than just your everyday businessman sitting in an office. And that name has stuck since Otto came out with it.

Stitchdown: And was it pretty much the same back then? Has anything changed?

Eric: No. The patterns are the same. The only difference is we don’t run too many leather soles.

Stitchdown: So as you mentioned, you were actually making the boots yourself for 26 years. How did you get into that? And what was it like?

Eric: I met my stepdad Gary when I was 13 or 14, and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, honestly. So I graduated high school and started at White’s two days later. My first job was lasting Hathorns for a couple of years. Then Gary and Skip acquired Buffalo Boots out of Seattle, and I was actually Buffalo’s first employee.

They did a lot of nail-bottom construction, heavy-duty logging boots. And I started lasting and bottoming those, they weren’t hand-welted. Did that for a couple of years and then finally had the opportunity to jump onto White’s. I ran some numbers at one point, and I’ve built between 50,000 and 60,000 pair of White’s in my day.

Stitchdown: Oh damn.

Eric: I probably had my hands on well over 100,000 pair—when you’re lasting you can last 25 pair a day. It’s a good job, but it’s very, very hard on your body. Because we do produce them by hand. There are a lot of companies that make a good boot, but they’re technically using machines to last and bottom them. Whereas my boot makers, they are hand-lasting it, hand-welting it, and hand-bottoming it. We still use machines of course to stitch the soles on.

White's Boots Factory

Stitchdown: So at White’s it sounds like it’s par for the course—but in general, to have someone who’s actually made the boots for as long as you have running the company is definitely unique. What kind of perspective would you say that that gives you?

Eric: I just worry about someone coming in here that hasn’t done it, and doesn’t know why White’s is special. Because the easy thing to do would be say, ok, I could pay everyone half the wage. Start running them on machines. No one would probably know the difference. But there’s something about having one guy make your pair of boots.

And you can’t…well, I guess I shouldn’t say that, because you CAN use a machine to welt a boot through the insole, and it would end up being really close. But there’s just something about having a shoemaker actually hand-sew it. And that’s why a bootmaker perspective really preserve the same legacy.

Stitchdown: So this is a good segue into construction in general. At this point there’s still nail-bottom or naildown stuff, but it’s mainly hand-welted stitchdown, machine-stitched stitchdown, and Goodyear welt construction, correct?

Eric: So we have our Hathorn Centennial line. That is a stitchdown construction, still done by hand, but the hand-welting process isn’t in it. That’s our middle of the road boot, still a great boot. We do a work boot and our dress line, our White’s Reserves, that is Goodyear welted. And then we have our hands-sewn stitchdown, which is our White’s. So basically we have three construction styles, plus the nail bottom.

White's Boots Sewing

Stitchdown: And what do you see as the use cases for, and the benefits of all three?

Eric: With Goodyear welt, it’s less expensive. We’re using machines to do the toe and heel lasting. And then we have bootmakers who hand-bottom. We’ve been doing a Goodyear welted work boot for at least twelve years—a government bid boot. So we had those machines, and over the last three or four years, I introduced the Goodyear welted Reserve line of dress boots and shoes.

But what we’ve done differently than everybody else in the Goodyear welted space is we’ve still stayed with our all-leather construction. A lot of dress shoes use a steel shank or no shank. We still use a leather shank, a true leather counter, a pretty heavy duty leather midsole. So it is a Goodyear welted shoe, but there are some differences from everybody else. At a great price too.

Stitchdown: And the two forms of stitchdown. How would you describe and qualify them?

Eric: So the Hathorn Centennial stitchdown, that’s a mid-price boot for us. Still hand-lasted, hand-bottomed. We do a lot of NFPA-rated wildland fire boots in that line, that’s about a $400 boot. It’s one of those products that if someone just can’t afford that top-tier, $540 Smokejumper, they have this next best boot. It’s still a fantastic boot, it’s just a little less expensive to build.

We use the best parts of the hide, the thickest leather, for the White’s boots. And then we’ll cut six to six-and-a-half ounce leather of what’s left over for the Hathorn boots. It’s still thicker than most people’s boots, but it’s not that seven, seven-and-a-half, eight ounce leather we use on White’s.

And then the White’s boots. That’s just the top of the line, heavy duty, hand-welted stitchdown.


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White's Boots Factory

Stitchdown: What differences will a wearer feel between the hand-sewn stitchdown boots and the machine-stitched boots?

Eric: You know, not much. It’s probably more about how long the boot will last. If you’re doing a lot of side-hilling you could get some blowouts with a Goodyear welted or a stitchdown boot, whereas a White’s, when you have that vamp that’s actually hand-stitched to the insole, it’s not going to give away. It’s a tighter fitting boot up in the vamp.

The stitchdown and the hand-sewn stitchdown, though, both of those boots are fully rebuildable. That’s the biggest thing I think people really need to be educated on. If you buy a throwaway boot, let’s say you spend $250, you’re gonna wear that boot for a couple of years. Whereas one of our boots, you’ll probably initially get more use out of it, and then you can send that boot back in and you can get a full rebuild, where the only thing they keep is the quarter leather. Everything else is tossed.

We sew on new vamps, counters, backstays. That boot is sent right back through the same bootmakers, and that re-last price is half the price of a new boot. We’ve actually heard stories of foresters and other people who’ve had one pair of White’s for 35 years, and had them rebuilt twice. Plus the comfort, once you get used to the high arch, there’s nothing else like it.

Stitchdown: We’ll get to that in a second! But before we do, I think I’ve got the terminology right here, but I’m hoping you can explain the rolled welt construction stitchdown products.

Eric: In the past we didn’t use a piece of welt. You used to be able to see the hand-sewing on the outside of the boot. It was probably 40 or 50 years ago when they actually cut a piece of leather to where, when you’re hand-sewing through a channel in the insole, out through the middle of the insole, through the vamp, and that’s what’s holding that insole to the vamp—that hand-sewing process.

And when you hand-sew after you poke it through the vamp, it’s going through that piece of welt. During the bottoming process, that piece of welt is folded down to cover the hand-sewing. So a Norwegian welt, as they call it, or a rolled welt construction. And you can actually see where the hand-sewing is under the welt.

Stitchdown: Got it. Back to the Arch-Ease. It’s obviously one of the more notable things about White’s. Can you take me through your outlook on it, why it’s different, and what it provides for a wearer?

White's Boots Arch-Ease

Eric: That’s another area where Otto was a genius—to develop a last that creates enough arch. We use a heavy duty, 11 or 12 ounce, or iron in thickness, leather shank. And it has to be that thick because that arch in the last is so pronounced. I’ve been wearing my Goodyear welted dress shoes, and when I put my regular White’s back on, I’m like, dang, that is a lot of arch. And I’m used to it. But it is quite pronounced, it does feel like you’re standing on the rung of the ladder. And Otto’s idea was to add that arch, to make your posture better. It makes you stand up straighter, tilting you forward a bit. Which in turn helps with lower back pain.

White's Boots Leather Shank

We did a collaboration with a motorcycle builder in California, Max Schaaf. He was a pro skateboarder, and he has always had back pain. His first pair was a Semi-Dress. And he’s like, man, this arch. He didn’t like it. And we told him, just wear it, get a week out of it, get two weeks out of it. And he said after a month, his back pain was gone. There are a lot of those stories.

With all this new stuff we’ve been building, I have a pair of Aldens in my office. And we use very close to the same last that they use, the Barrie last. Ours is different than theirs, but it’s the same arch. They have a steel shank in theirs. And I built a very similar boot called the Main Street, but we put a leather shank in ours. And you can still feel the arch support, just from that leather shank.


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White's Boots Main Street

Stitchdown: Why is that?

Eric: The leather shank is thick enough to add more support. Our dress shoes, it’s not as much support as our 55 last on our Semi-Dress or our logger boots. But there’s definitely more support with a leather shank than you get with a steel shank.

Stitchdown: How did using the Barrie last come about? And it’s not the same as the Alden last, correct? There seems to be some confusion around that. But how did you end up with it?

Eric: We work with Jones & Vining, the lastmaker. In the research you buy everyone’s products, and we wanted to do a last that we could build a bunch of different styles off of. And the Barrie fit. It was one that people like because of all of the attention that Alden gets. So we figured we’d make something close to that as far as the toe shape. It’s just a very good shape for a dress shoe.

Stitchdown: In terms of in terms of the differences, a question I get all the time is: I’m this in Barrie, am I the exact same in White’s MP? How would you describe it?

Eric: Well, it would be a standard heel, whereas Alden’s is a B in the heel. There’s really not too much more. You know, it’s pretty easy to get a last developed to be pretty close to somebody else’s. Everyone’s doing it, even if they don’t know they’re doing it. Everyone’s trying to get something to have the same look. There’s a hair more in the arch, but other than that, it’s real close.

Stitchdown: Is sizing the same?

Eric: Our sizing is about a half size bigger. If you are a 9 in an Alden Barrie, you would be a 9.5 in a White’s Barrie or MP last. All White’s or Hathorn models made with that last, even if they’re different constructions, will fit the same.

Stitchdown: And I believe the 4811 is the most used last, the Smokejumper last?

White's Boots Smokejumper

Eric: Yes, it’s our number one seller, which is due to our high volume of NFPA-rated fire boots.

Stitchdown: How would you describe that one? And then I’d love to hit the 55 Semi-Dress last.

Eric: The Smokejumper has a hair more arch support compared to the 55, although it’s really close. It’s a little more square in the toe compared to the 55, a little narrower in the ball. The 55 is just a little dressier compared to the 4811. I wish I knew when those lasts were developed. I know they’ve been around since we started building the Smokejumper in the 1940s? But I’m not exactly sure if Otto actually developed them.

Stitchdown: But they’re unchanged since whenever that might be?

Eric: Exactly. We have some lasts in the factory that are wooden, and they have “1940” stamped on them.

Stitchdown: And as far as who can fit in these lasts…most people are going to find it a good fit in a 55 last?

White's Boots 55 Semi-Dress Last

Eric: We do have a last, the 9338, and that’s used when people have a really wide foot. But most people can fit in one of our standard lasts, and then if they can’t, then that’s when we start doing our customizing.

Stitchdown: So let’s do that. One way to think about customization is in terms of sizing, and fit, and last customization, and the other one is “I want my boot to look like this.” But in terms of last customization: how does that work, and how does somebody even recognize they need that? And is that separate from sending in the tracings and the measurements?

Eric: Rarely is any person going to have two feet that are exactly the same. But 95% of those, they’re off just a bit to where a 10D is going to fit both feet. The tracings, that gives us a good idea of length and width, and we can pretty much nail it down over the phone. I think most people who need a true measure, they know that nothing else in their whole life has fit right. So those people actually need to come into White’s and get fit up by our specialists. But 99% of people can send in a tracing, and we can nail it.


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Stitchdown: And then that’s essentially a recommendation on the exact right size? You’re not doing any sort of last modifications in those instances?

Eric: Correct.

Stitchdown: Will you do two different sizes for one pair if people’s feet are different sizes?

Eric: We do those quite a bit. The shoemaker doesn’t have to do anything different. It’s just when the boots are set up, this one will get a 9.5D and this one will get a 10D. I’ve actually made boots before that where the left boot is a 7D and the right is a 13D. “Standard,” but they’re that far off.

Stitchdown: Oh wow. And then in terms of the other side of customization, I want this leather, this outsole, whatever it might be. How does that work with White’s? How does somebody engage in that process?

Eric: That’s all a call-in thing. We are going to build a build-a boot on our website, where customers can click options, see the pricing. We’ll probably have that in 2021. But for the most part, even if you build a customized boot, and it doesn’t fit right, we stand behind it. We’ll take those boots back, get it fit right, send out another pair.

Stitchdown: And then you have retailers—Baker’s Boots in Eugene is certainly one that a lot of people go through. How does that relationship work? And would you recommend that people give you a call? Call Baker’s? Doesn’t matter?

Eric: It really doesn’t matter to us. Kyle at Baker’s does such a great job. He really built his whole White’s business on being able to fit someone over the phone. He probably spends three hours a day just fitting up White’s guys. A lot of people will call Kyle to see what he’s thinking, and then they double check with us to see what we’re thinking. And every time they’re very close, if not the same.

Stitchdown: Can customers customize the construction on a pair of custom White’s?

Eric: We are kind of cleaning that up, because there was a time when a lot Hathorns, just the stitchdown versions were being customized a little bit. And we’re trying to push the Hathorn line into stock models, and then allow people just to customize the White’s. But we do get questions, even on our Goodyear welted line, people calling in saying, can I do this or that? And we’re trying to keep that stuff as stock models, especially with new customers coming into the market, to make it easier. Instead of thinking, it’s a White’s, you have to have your tracings, you have to get measured.

White's Boots Factory

Probably three years ago, we had 15 stock models and today we’re up to over 100. Now a stock model could be a colorway. Semi-Dress, or an MP, or a 350, we’re five colors deep in those. Instant gratification. People want them in two days. We’re hoping the new customer buys a stock model, loves it, and then delves into customizing.

Stitchdown: This one’s pretty specific. But one of one of my readers was wondering, “for example, omitting the rolled welt and going straight stitchdown. Is that something I can do?”

Eric: I know people have been asking, especially on the MPs. With the rolled welt, our toughest thing to do is stitching the soles on. That’s where we have the most issues, because of the rolled welt. It’s a very hard construction to stitch. That’s the biggest complaint we get: why doesn’t your sole stitching look as clean as a Viberg? So people have asked: can I get an MP not handsewn? And I’ve said no for now. I mean we can do it. Actually I have a sample black waxed flesh in my office that’s a Hathorn construction on an MP. It looks great! But I don’t know if I want to open that box yet.

Stitchdown: Any reason?

Eric: Not really. It’s going to be the same price, I’m not going to change that. I’m not sure. Just just not there yet. And confusion in the factory.

Stitchdown: So that’s another question I have. I imagine that some of these changes that you’re making and just having a lot more stock models available affects this, but making a lot of custom boots…

Eric: It can be a headache.

Stitchdown: Yeah! So how do you stay efficient? Especially with it as a big part of your business?

Eric: Well that’s kind of why we’re trying to push the stock models. Once it gets to the bootmaker, that’s not a big deal. The bootmaker is going to last it the same, he’s going to trim the insoles, hand-sew it the same. It’s the upper department. The customer wants five eyelets and three hooks, or two-tones, or three-tones. That’s where it can get messed up. It does get confusing.

But not only has a bootmaker run the company—a boot maker has always run the factory. My nephew, he made boots for 10 years. He runs the factory. The assistant foreman, he made boots for six years. And then my warehouse manager and purchaser, he made boots for 23 years. So there’s a ton of knowledge down in that factory.

White's Boots Lasting

Stitchdown: How many people are in the factory?

Eric: We’re at 90 employees, about 65 in the factory. So I’m running about 10 White’s guys on new boots, two full-time on re-last boots or full rebuilds, a couple of guys doing Hathorns, all the clamp-down models. And then we have about six guys that run our Explorer line. And then the rest is upper department—I have four full-time clickers right now—and finishing, sanding, heeling.

Stitchdown: And how much is everybody producing?

Eric: Ten boot makers, they average seven pair a day, I would say, on the White’s. And then Explorers, and our Goodyear welted government bid boot going into California for the NFPA, we’re hitting usually 70, 80 pair a day on that. So it’s a pretty big business as far as total boots out the door with rebuilds, re-lasts, re-soles, plus the three lines. We’re looking 40,000-50,000 pair a year. That’s a pretty big number. That’s everything through the company, not just White’s. That would be a huge number.

Stitchdown: And it seems like you’re still doing a lot of true hardcore work boots as part of that total, as opposed to lifestyle boots.

Eric: Work boots are probably 75% of our business. We’re still a true work boot company. And the number one would be that NFPA-rated fired wildland fire boot. Probably in 2013 and 2014, when the Japanese market was going crazy, it might have been 60% work and 40% lifestyle. It actually might be 60/40 still, with the introduction of the MP series about three years ago. We sell more of that style than the 350s and the Semi-Dress put together right now.

White's Boots MP

Stitchdown: What has that transition been like? In terms of manufacturing but also from an outward facing perspective—the site, the Instagram, the way you’re talking to customers—I imagine it’s very different from five or certainly 10 years ago, with the addition of this lifestyle category.

Eric: It’s totally changed. We’re finding there are a bunch of people that love White’s, and see the potential for White’s, that are actually coming and knocking on our door saying, I would love to help build your brand. One of the biggest was our Instagram guy, Brent Whaley. I just started chatting with him and sent him a couple of pair. And he absolutely loved White’s. He actually moved from Ohio to Spokane. He does a fantastic job. It’s nice to have people that can see the upside to White’s and know where we can take this company.

Stitchdown: I can feel it for sure. But that does that create tension, I guess, with what is still the bulk of the business? Maybe a smaller overall group, but a far more dedicated one, would say White’s is my Smokejumper boot. I’m a smokejumper.

White's Boots Smokejumper

Eric: We get some of that, sure. When we do post a Smokejumper, it’s like, it’s about time you posted a Smokejumper, you know? But a lot of different companies have come into that business. And in some of the jurisdictions you don’t have to have an NFPA-rated boot, so a lot of the firefighters have gone to more of an Italian hiking-style boot, which has taken a lot of the business away from us. And that’s why we’re pushing this lifestyle stuff. Smokejumpers are still a great business, but there are 10 to 15 different products out there now, when 10 to 15 year ago, we totally owned that. So we’re always trying to find different ways to keep this place running.

Stitchdown: I’d love to talk leathers for a minute. Which do you use most and what do you like about them?

Eric: It’s the Horweens and the Seidels. Probably 85, 90% of our leather comes from those two and it’s just good stuff. Seidel is heavy duty. Most tanneries can’t build a seven ounce, 7.5 ounce leather consistently. And Horween, it looks good, looks clean, easy to work with. We do get some leathers from India, some real thin water buffaloes and calf and stuff like that, but we keep as much of it in the States as we can.

Whites Boots 350 Cruiser

Stitchdown: Is there anything outside of your known sweet spot that people should consider, whether it’s a stock model or custom?

Eric: We do a fair amount of bull hide. You know, there are actually a lot of leathers that we don’t have on our site yet, that the true White’s guy knows about. We do a fair amount of Horween cordovan. We’ll probably post some more cordovan stuff, maybe a small stock model online here coming up. And then Baker’s has the exclusive on the horsebutt.

Stitchdown: So you mentioned some of the ownership changes over the decades, but we haven’t hit that much on the recent LaCrosse/Danner sale, and obviously ABC Mart being a part of that. Have things changed?

Eric: Absolutely nothing. ABC Mart absolutely loves White’s boots. And they’ve proven it by allowing me to become president. That would have been a perfect opportunity for them to say, no, we want someone from Japan to run the company. They don’t know how to make White’s boots. They just want White’s boots to have the same heritage. I have a great relationship with ABC Mart. Really, all they ask for is a few different styles they want to push. They’ve done a great job in letting us be White’s.

ABC Mart, they have a very big pocketbook. White’s is going nowhere. No matter what the business does. I might not be in my chair if I don’t grow the business. But White’s is going nowhere. I’m honestly really glad that LFI purchased us. It’s just such a strong company.

Stitchdown: Well that’s all wonderfully positive. Does the ABC Mart connection provide any strategic advantages in Asian markets?

Eric: Not really. Right now, there are two stores in Tokyo that carry White’s, called Stumptown stores. ABC Mart stores, there’s 800 worldwide, most in Japan. But their plan, I guess, is to broaden the horizon on the White’s and not just keep them in the specialized stores. Japan has been a dead market. It’s not because ABC Mart acquired us, it’s because right now Japan is in more of a tennis shoe craze. 2012, 2013, we couldn’t build enough boots for the Asian market. It was crazy. We were doing well over 100 per day. All the bootmakers work on overtime, me included. It was a crazy time.

Stitchdown: And then and then it just got zapped? When?

Eric: Oh yeah. We all thought that it was because we were acquired by ABC Mart, but you hear everybody talking about how it’s dead over there. 2016, 2017 is when it started fizzling out. And who knows when the next boom is gonna be?

Stitchdown: Last one: what boots or shoes do you wear every day?

Eric: I get in different phases. But honestly, it’s the Goodyear welted line, the stuff we came out with a couple of years ago. Chukkas and Main Streets, I would say those are probably my two favorites. Which is totally the opposite of what you would think a White’s president, a heritage guy would wear. I just like that look.

I do wear MPs a ton, but I’m not the 350, logger heel kind of guy. What’s nice is I’m a 10D, so every boot I design is in my size. I have boots all over the place. And my kids—three of my four boys, they’re 10D, too. So they’re wearing White’s prototypes all over the place too.

Stitchdown: Sounds like they got the right dad.

Eric: You’d have to ask them that.

Stitchdown: Thanks for the time, Eric. These interviews are rarely short!

Eric: No problem at all, thank you.

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