Made in the USA: Oak Street Bootmakers

If you're not aware, there's been a recent surge in the appreciation and acquisition of made-in-USA goods. Though I cannot say everything I own is made in the USA, it certainly feels good to directly contribute to the slowly-recovering economy. It also feels good when the product is of great quality.

So without further ado, I will start my "Made in the USA" series off with Oak Street Bootmakers.

George Vlagos of Oak Street Bootmakers

Nouveau Vintage: How did you first get into the shoe business?
George Vlagos: From a young age my father, who is a cobbler, had me working at his shop.  In fact, some of my earliest memories are at the shop – I learned how to tie shoe laces by practicing on shoes that my father was working on.  However, when I was in middle school that’s when I first got my start – shining shoes.  On any given Saturday my dad would have a huge pile of shoes on the shining machine, and I would give myself the entire day to work at them.  Then, in high school I started to truly learn the craft – how to Goodyear welt, build stacked heels, etc.  After graduating college, I came back to my dad with a desire to continue my apprenticeship.  It was soon after that, that I started to lay down the roots that would become Oak Street Bootmakers.  Working with shoes has certainly been a dream of mine – and I couldn’t enjoy anything else more.
NV: There are only a few truly American moccasin makers left (that is, company located and product built here) and yet you manage to get a decent amount of press as opposed to, say, Russell Moccasin. Do you think the recent rediscovery of American "heritage" clothing has something to do with it?

GV: The press we receive is truly incredible - especially since we have no 'ad' agency, and actually do not advertise!  I think that the reason for all of the positive press is because we truly craft an exceptional product, and our customer service is second to none.  I think customers really love that when they call Oak Street, they get me on the other end of the line.  Or when they send an email, it's one of two of us who will respond.  It's funny, we've just taken a step back and made things simple - answering phone calls and emails with a smile on our fast, and delivering an honest product.  
NV: What are your plans for the future? Any collaborations with Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, or another clothing company like a lot of footwear makers are doing now?

GV: We've done some collaborations already - most notably, our women's penny loafer that is available in the Levi's neighborhood stores.  We also have some big name collaborations coming out in the next 12 months - but, i'm sworn to secrecy!  It's really an honor to work with so many of these brands that I not only have admired since I was a kid, but have also been a consumer of for countless years.  It's all humbling, and we can't thank our customers enough for embracing a brand manufacturing in the USA.
Thanks to Mr. Vlagos for answering my questions!


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