Brands You Should Know

Walk-Over

The US-made footwear brand that balances a 250-year shoemaking tradition with just enough lighthearted modernity to keep things interesting.

You know that moment in the movies when the protagonist—searching desperately for a name for his band, bar, hot dog stand, what have you—just grabs a couple of words randomly from the paper, only to have them actually work? Yeah, we always thought it was pretty unlikely, too. But in 1899, looking at a headline that read “America’s Cup Defender ‘Columbia’ Wins in a Walk Over Sir Thomas Lipton’s  ‘Shamrock,’” George E. Keith did just that.

The fifth generation of a line of shoemakers that started in Bridgewater, MA, 1758, Keith was searching for a moniker for the thriving footwear business he officially founded in 1874. “Walk-Over” conveyed strength and simplicity—exactly the kind of qualities he wanted to telegraph about his shoes—and thus became the first brand name in men’s footwear in America. Over the course of the following decades, the company, drawing on an already-century-long tradition of crafting straightforward shoes of exacting quality, became one of the premier names in American footwear. By the 1950’s, Walk-Over was known worldwide, and by the ‘80s, Walk-Over’s wares—notably its revered bucks and saddle shoes—were part of the upper echelon of US-made shoes and boots. But in the ‘90s, things took a less favorable turn. Feeling the crunch from an industry-wide trend favoring quantity over quality, Walk-Over was forced to cease production. A sad day, no doubt, but there were better times ahead.

In the midst of the recent heritage boom, Walk-Over was given new life. With a slew of styles that paid homage to the brand’s archives but balanced things with a healthy dose of modern irreverence—think classic dirty bucks finished with neon green soles—the brand launched again for Spring 2011. Still made in the US to the standards that made it a force in years past, Walk-Over has quickly reestablished itself as the go-to shoe for semi-traditional types looking for footwear with the requisite levels class, craftsmanship, and humor.

Walk-Over, on sale Thursday, 1/19 at noon ET, on Gilt MAN.

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