The company is founded by Charles Danner. He sets out on a mission to make high-quality boots that are budget-friendly and robust. Danner's original target market is loggers, who rely on a durable, comfortable shoe for their demanding work outdoors. The company is based on the philosophy of using the best materials available to create the highest quality boots on the market. After designing sturdy boots that could withstand the elements, Danner begins hand crafting them, and with the cost of materials low following the great depression, is able to start selling his boots for $4 a pair.
Danner had originally set the company up in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin - a logging town at the time. But after hearing about the expanding timber market in the Pacific Northwest, he shifts operations to Portland, Oregan in 1936. There, his logging boots with spiked soles (known as calked boots) soared in popularity and fetched a price of $20 a pair. It is the beautiful landscapes and tree-covered backdrops of this region which is said to inspire Danner design to this day. As the company says: "From the gleaming alpine lakes and the plummeting river gorges, to the thick forests and the sweeping coastlines, Danner boots are of this place."
Charles brings his two sons into the company, which has already become a well-known footwear brand revered for its toughness and reliability. John and Bill assist their father in growing the company, and see higher production demands when World War II starts that year, winning a US government contract to supply work boots later in the conflict. This led to the company moving to a bigger factory in North Portland, as it scaled up production to meet the extra requirements.
The war - which John and Bill both fought in - had come and gone. While Bill resumed helping out Dad in the family business, John went to law school, but later returned to the Danner firm to use his new expertise in business. In 1957, the business officially changed hands from father to children, as John and Bill took the reigns.
By now, Danner had opened its first branded retail store, as it saw a growing demand for work and hiking boots create an even larger market.
This was the year in which one of Danner's most iconic boots was released. The Danner 6490 Mountain Trail, which was intended specifically for hiking, quickly picked up a reputation as a must-have among walkers and adventurers; praised in outdoor magazines for its comfort, durability, and notably, its lightness compared to the boots made by competitors of the era.
The design featured a one-piece leather upper with D-ring eyelets. This took down the break-in time, meaning that hikers could get more comfortable quicker. Many hiking boots of the future would draw their inspiration from the 6490. Danner would soon increase their production to 480 pairs a day, all hand made in Portland.
The late 1970s saw the development of the world’s first completely waterproof hiking boot, in collaboration with W.L. Gore & Associates, now commonly known as Gore-Tex. The result was the Danner Light boot, which takes some cues from the 6490 but is very much a trailblazer for outdoor wear at the time.
The project is led by designer Willie Sacre who had previously worked alongside a young Yvon Chouinard, future founder of Patagonia, as well designing the first pair of boots launched by The North Face in 1975. The new model is an evolution of the 6490 but it uses more synthetic materials, including a waterproof lining from Gore-Tex, paving the way for thousands of other products in later years and cementing the start of Danner’s long lasting relationship with Gore-Tex, the world leader in breathable waterproof fabrics.
The popular 6490 boot is renamed as the Mountain Light, and updated to include a Gore-Tex membrane to offer enhanced water resistance. The pioneering move to lightweight, breathable yet waterproof boots changes the course of the whole hiking boot industry as other brands such as Vasque and Viberg take notice of Danner’s success and move to introduce similar models.
No matter how well a business is going, there is nothing like a PR stunt to garner some more attention in the public domain. But when Danner made some size 150 boots for an elephant at Oregon Zoo, it wasn't just extra sales that Bill and John had in mind. The waterproof leather boots actually helped to heal the hind feet of Tuy Hoa the elephant, which had suffered from cracking.
This is also a pivotal year for the brand as far as the ownership structure was concerned. Danner was sold to businessman Eric Merk, who in later years would go on to head Nike’s running division, but only on the condition that he would continue the very same dedication to quality workmanship that had set apart the brand for over half a century. Honouring his agreement, Merk introduced steps to improve the quality of Danner boots even further than their already high standards.
The Danner Airthotic is awarded the American Podiatric Medical Association's (APMA) Seal of Acceptance. This is a mark which is granted only to shoes which have been found to encourage good foot health. The APMA's podiatrists reviewed Danner boots against a strict criteria before granting the award.
Danner merges with LaCrosse Footwear, a company which shares its Portland heritage where both are headquartered. Founded in 1897 as the La Crosse Rubber Mills Company, the brand is known for its rubber footwear and garments developed for use in extreme conditions and changed its name to LaCrosse Footwear Inc. in 1985. With this additional business clout behind the Danner brand, which retains full control over its range and development, it is able to continue to expand into global markets and expand its product lines.
Danner achieves the first ISO 9002 certification (a model for quality assurance in production, installation and servicing) of any shoe manufacturer in the United States. This provides customers with even more reassurance that their Danner boots will be made to meet with the highest levels of comfort, support, and durability.
An updated version of the Mountain Light boot is released. The Mountain Light II swaps out the leather upper for a hard wearing nylon material, offering increased weight reduction to the range.
Danner launches an innovative breathable material in its new Formation Light hiking boot and EXO Edge shoe called DXTVent, which offers unrivalled levels of ventilation and breathability in the hiking footwear market. Combined with Gore-Tex XCR fabric, the products offer footwear that is both highly breathable and waterproof for increased comfort outdoors, while retaining Danner’s famous reliability.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of its classic Danner Light boot, the brand drops a special edition of the model featuring textured leather and Cordura uppers, waterproof Gore-Tex membrane and Tough Vibram outsole.
Danner works with the US Marines to develop the Army Combat Hiker, a boot designed to provide all day comfort and stand up to the rigours of use in deployment. This follows Danner’s ongoing relationship with the military in which it continues to offer a range of boots approved for military and law enforcement use, including models suitable for training as well as special operations.
Danner collaborates with Japanese denim experts Edwin to create the Edwin x Danner Denim River Walker II boots. Based on Danner’s classic River Walker model, the boots feature uppers created from Edwin’s selvedge denim which has been specially redeveloped to include Zylon fabric for enhanced weather resistance and durability.
Danner’s parent company Lacrosse Footwear is acquired by Japanese footwear specialist ABC-Mart. While Danner’s operations continue uninterrupted by the merger, with production remaining in Portland, the move helps the brand expand further into Japanese and other Asian markets where Danner’s lifestyle range is becoming increasingly popular, particularly on the fashion conscious streets of Tokyo where ABC-Mart has its headquarters.
As Danner’s popularity in the outdoor casual crossover market grows, it opens up a concept store in its home town of Portland. Designed around an outdoor adventure theme, the store aims to appeal to new customers who value Danner’s combination of heritage, quality and style.
Danner also collaborates with a number of brands such as Woolrich, Comme des Garcons, Tanner Goods and SOPHNET to release special editions of its products, including reworked versions of the iconic Light Boot.
Reese Weatherspoon brings further notoriety to the brand when she wears Danner boots in the hit movie, Wild. The actress dons the boots in the biographical adventure drama which is set on the Pacific Crest Trail, earning an Oscar nomination and generating a surge in popularity for Danner’s women’s range.
Danner relaunches its popular Jag boot, originally released in the 1980s. Featuring a classic silhouette, the boots include Danner’s 100% waterproof Danner Dry lining and use suede and textile uppers with a cushioned Ortholite sole for a boot that combines classic retro looks with modern comfort and protection technologies.
Danner launches the Mountain 600 boots - a performance heritage model that combines the classic looks of traditional leather hiking boots with modern features such as a Danner Dry waterproof membrane.
This year sees Danner team up with sportswear brand New Balance to release a special two model collection in honour of the history of New England, and specifically the legend of the Portland Penny. As the legend goes, the naming of the town of Portland was decided on the flip of a penny coin in 1845. The collection features the New Balance 995 and the Danner Mountain Light Pioneer created in a premium brown nubuck, inspired by the copper tone of the penny. Danner also collaborates with another brand with a rich heritage, Filson, to release a limited edition of the Grouse Hunting Boot. The partnership has since seen a range of Filson x Danner special edition products launch.
Danner joins forces with Patagonia, in what is the outdoor clothing brand’s first ever collaboration. The two companies come together to create the Patagonia Built By Danner collection of two models of wading boots, the Foot Tractor and the River Salt, which they believe are the best ever created. Made by hand at Danner’s Portland factory, the boots combine Patagonia’s expertise in fly fishing and love of the environment with Danner’s uncompromising levels of quality craftsmanship.
Danner also continues its release of Japan exclusive products that put a unique twist on the brand’s models with a reworking of the Mountain Light boot. The boots include a new strap system in place of the standard laces and D-rings for a distinctive look.
Danner releases the Feather Light Revival model, bringing back a classic early 80s design from the archives. The boot features a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane and uppers that combine high quality leather with strong nylon material, and is a great example of heritage inspired footwear revamped for the modern era.
The Bull Run Lux model also launches. Inspired by the classic Bull Run workboot, the Lux heritage model features premium materials to bring additional style to Danner’s famous build quality for an authentic, reliable and great looking boot.
Celebrity fans including Kate Hudson and Megan Fox are seen wearing Danners, helping to cement the boots' increasingly cool credentials amongst the style conscious.
Danner also launches a limited edition of it’s Mountain Light boot to celebrate the model’s 40 year anniversary. As with all Danner’s boots, the special edition is handmade in Portland and features a durable nylon and leather upper, waterproof Gore-Tex membrane and Vibram Kletterlift outsole for enhanced durability and grip in all conditions.
Danner looks set to continue manufacturing and marketing its broad range of footwear for hiking, military, hunting and work, keeping its production based at its plant in Portland, Oregan, US. With its commitment to quality, it’s perhaps no surprise that Danner has caught the eye of the style conscious who appreciate authentically crafted goods, as well as adventurers who simply need a superb pair of boots that can perform under all conditions.
One of the quintessential American footwear brands and built on an ethos of uncompromising quality, Danner has been creating outstanding boots since the first pair made by Charles Danner in 1932. Using the best quality leathers and other materials, each pair of boots that Danner produces is stitched by hand and carefully examined to ensure they meet the highest quality standards before leaving the Portland factory. After all, it is hard to develop a legacy lasting over 80 years as one of the world’s most trusted footwear brands without exhibiting an exceptional level of craftsmanship.
While it is a brand with a rich heritage, which is evident by the classic and timeless designs of its boots, Danner is also a company that isn’t afraid to innovate. It’s pioneering use of Gore-Tex and Vibram, and work to produce ever lighter yet more capable boots has been a major driving force behind the outdoor footwear market we know today, and means Danners can be seen on the feet of everyone from military personnel to lumberjacks to weekend hikers and style conscious city dwellers.
With their high quality craftsmanship and timeless design, Danner offers products that are the opposite of fast fashion. A pair of Danner boots is an investment, with fans all over the world hailing their Danners as the best boots they have ever owned. And thanks to the company’s recrafting service, in which boots can be returned to the factory for repair or even a complete rebuild and refurbishment, a pair of Danner boots really can last a lifetime; helping to keep them out of landfills and on the feet of owners, wherever they may choose to roam.