Why a third-generation “shoe dog” loves Steel Blue
- Patrick Duffy is a third-generation “shoe dog” and Steel Blue’s US Field Manager
- He says comfort, quality and durability are the three most important aspects of any work boot
- Even the most brand loyal Americans switch to Steel Blue once they’ve tried on our boots, Patrick says
When you’ve built a career in the US footwear industry, you get called “a shoe dog”. It’s a bit like calling an Electrician a sparky or a Carpenter a chippy.
Patrick Duffy, Steel Blue’s US Field Manager, is a third-generation shoe dog. His grandfather worked fifty years at the iconic footwear company Florsheim, starting his career on the factory floor and working his way up to retire as vice president of industrial relations.
Patrick’s father went on to join Florsheim, too, starting out learning the craft of making shoes before stepping up to run whole factories. He moved to Wolverine, another well-known US footwear brand, where he built a reputation as a leader and a troubleshooter and retired as executive vice president and president of operations.
Following in the family’s footsteps
With such a pedigree, perhaps it’s no surprise Patrick followed in their footsteps.
“I grew up in the tannery, in the factory,” Patrick said. “Whenever I would go to work with my dad, I was just mesmerized by how many hands touch a shoe before it’s ready for a foot. Each person had their particular skill. One person was the best at this stitch, another person was the best at that part of the process.”
But Patrick’s career in footwear was nearly over before it had truly begun. Although he’d worked in shoe shops as a young man, his time in college coincided with a marked decline in US-based footwear manufacturing. Some of Patrick’s dad’s factories were located in the Dominican Republic, so Patrick packed his bags and headed south. He then worked in the shoe factory, getting hands-on experience, and he built relationships with other footwear manufacturing facilities around the world.
When Patrick’s father passed away in 2010, the president of the shoe company they both worked for called Patrick into a meeting.
“I was young, in my twenties, unsure about my future, but he sat me down and said, ‘you know what; you know more about footwear than most people in this building; I’m going to bring you in to work for me’,” Patrick said. “So, I started working in the office, in a sales position. I’d always had the manufacturing side and some of the retail side, but I hadn’t really done the office or sales side.”
Discovering Steel Blue
Over time, he worked several positions in the footwear chain. From the factory floor, hand delivered boots to military top brass in Washington and went on to manage a territory selling to national retailers.
The footwear industry continued to change, and Patrick felt some of the big-name companies were getting away from the craftsmanship that, as a third-generation shoe dog, he had been raised to value and respect. Leading him to leave the industry all together.
Then he discovered Steel Blue.
“There was a shoe market in Detroit, Michigan, and I had some buddies working a booth at the show, so I went out to meet them,” Patrick said. “I was looking around to see what new brands had emerged since I had left the industry, and Steel Blue just happened to be next to one of my buddy’s booths.
“I was impressed with the quality of the leather because you just wouldn’t find it on any American footwear these days.”
“I was impressed with the quality of the leather because you just wouldn’t find it on any American footwear these days. The craftsmanship, the focus on the true heart of a work boot—the comfort, the quality, the durability—these guys were doing it right.”
Comfort, quality and durability
Impressed with the quality of the boots, Patrick reached out to the company. He was working with Steel Blue soon after. Now he’s focused on spreading the good word about these Australian work boots to the American market.
“Once we get Steel Blue boots on a consumer’s foot, we have a customer for life,” he said. “People can be so brand loyal, but they can feel how the boots they’ve always worn are beginning to change. If we can get them to put a Steel Blue boot on their foot and walk around and feel the quality, comfort and durability we’ve crafted into these boots, then they’re walking out of the store with Steel Blue.”
Does it get any better for “the shoe with the dog logo” than to get a ringing endorsement from a third-generation shoe dog? That’s a mark of true skill, right there.
Head to your local Steel Blue distributor to discover work boots that are a mark of true skill or shop online.
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