Knapp Shoes – RIP Old Friend

UPDATE: 5 December, 2012
This post is one on which I receive the most commentary and questions (or helpful updates).  That said, you should take a look at my more recent update.  While this post was pretty accurate at the time, things change and so did the disposition of this fine footwear.  I am no longer shoeless.

Dear Knapp,

I tried.  I gave it my best Pete's Last Pair of 2359sto keep the relationship alive.

Look…my grandfathers wore your shoes to the factory floor and the avionics shops before, during and after WWII.  My uncles wore their Knapps to school, then to the engineering lab, then to work.  My first pairs of Knapp style 2359 Plain-Toe Rocker Bottom Oxford saw me get married, built Legoland California and ushered in the birth of my children.  We have history, you and I.  I won’t forget that.

There are lots of good reasons to want to stay together.  You’re handmade in America, right there in New England, always have been.  You’re built to fit my feet like a glove, widths and all.  The shine on those oxfords is as luxurious and as deep as the leather is thick.  You’re heavy, on purpose.  I always knew I was wearing a pair of shoes with some protection, whether or not I bought the steel-toe option.  Twice I’ve dropped things on my toes that should have sent me to the hospital.  Twice you’ve kept me away from the doctor’s ministrations.  I still wear a pair that I have known longer than my children.  They wear like slippers on the inside, abused leather tanks on the outside.

But you just don’t want me anymore.  You went out of business officially in 2007 but you were gone long before that, probably around the time Iron Age bought your name.  Well-meaning folks have tried to keep your legacy alive, but they have challenges.  They advertise an entire product catalog in your name but can’t make the product.  3 times in the last 4 years I have offered to pay for them to make multiple pairs of your gorgeous and armor plated oxfords but the script is the same each time.  Your website tells me the shoes are available.  I place an order.  They say production is delayed and push me off for 3 months with the option of “something else” if I can’t wait (and of course they understand if I can’t wait).  I insist and offer to buy more than one pair to up the ante.  After 3 months they finally admit that they cannot make the shoes for (spins wheel) financial reasons.  I walk away sad.

I told myself this was going to be the last time I tried in vain to satisfy my 10.5EEEs.  My feet are at peace, I just wanted you to know why I just can’t do it any longer.  I’m pretty sure your current agents have been lying to me, at least a little.  I’m pretty sure they can only make a handful of the shoes on offer from the catalog.  None of those shoes that they can make bear the Knapp name.  I think they’re charging too little for a high quality product; that makes the product not worth producing.  So they don’t.  But most of all, I don’t like the charade your agents are passing off as your good name being “back in business”.  You’re not, old friend.  I have tried and failed three times to purchase your fine leather lines.  That defines “out of business”.  I’m just finally admitting after 10 years what your current owners have refused to acknowledge in that time.

The Knapp company died at the turn of the century and with it possibly the very best shoes ever manufactured.  RIP, Knapp.

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About Peter

Peter is a Geocacher, competitive cribbage player, surfer, amateur magician, golfer and star watcher (the astronomical kind). In his day job for Datalink, Peter is a Senior Manager with their Cloud Service Management Practice helping customers build, manage and improve their legacy IT and Private Cloud infrastructures through Automation, Orchestration and clean living. We’re not so sure on the clean living.

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38 Responses to Knapp Shoes – RIP Old Friend

  1. TheRealityTsar says:

    Great work shoes.

    I wore the black 6 inch work boot from 1973 to 1979 when I got my first office job and switched to dress shoes.

    Too bad that they are gone.

    • Joe says:

      You know growing up my Dad used to sell Knapp Shoes out of his Truck(Ever the Hustler) to all his Bread and Pastry customers. I grew up wearing Knapp Shoes, In fact at one point they were the only shoe I could wear comfortably (Not too mention that my Dad got a discount) and last almost forever. I was also toying with the notion that I would become a Knapp “Counselor” (Their name for a roaming sales rep) but for some reason never acted upon it.

      At any rate they were a great shoe and it saddens me greatly to see them pass into history. The specials at Walmart just don’t cut the mustard these days, maybe someone will bring them back!

  2. Peter says:

    Oddly enough, I just got an e-mail from them asking if I was still interested. Stay tuned. If I get my shoes, there will be pics and a retraction.

    • Jason Carrasquillo says:

      Hi. Not sure if anyone will see this but, I think I found an old pair of Knapp shoes. A foreman at a job I was had swore by them and I really liked the way they looked. I’d been looking for a while but didn’t know they had gone out of business. Anyway, if u can see this, I’d like to try and verify if what I found are a legit pair of old, dead stock Knapps. Cheers.

  3. John says:

    My Dad sold Knapp Shoes in the 60-early 70s. He wore a pair of wingtips for years (the same pair) Wore out the sole several times and the upper was always like new. His biggest selling point was those shoes. Though he was a small town door to door salesman, he put in a bid for safety boots at a steel mill. Knapp sent him a cutaway boot to show the company the quality and safety features + features the steel mill didn’t specify. The steel mill pres. told my Dad that the Knapp boots were the best quality of the bids submitted. But their board decided on the lowest bid, $1 less than the Knapp boots. And people pick on Government Intelligence. http://www.kbfootwear.com says they “together with several former Knapp Shoe employes and sales councelors purchased the tooling that was once used to make footwear since 1921 and are now proudly producing footwear “Made in America AGAIN” as “KB Footwear.” Availability is still ??

    • Jack says:

      Where did your dad sell them?… The old Rental Shp where I used to work in Livonia, Michigan used to buy nothing but Knapp shoes from a friendly old man. Can’t remember his name. The shop was at 29470 Joy Rd., near Middlebelt Road. Slim chance it was your Dad, but still…

  4. Peter says:

    I have had a recent turn of events that will require me to update this post, just in the last 24 hours, in fact. Stay tuned. There will be an update to the RIP for Knapp Shoes.

  5. Pingback: The reports of (their) death were greatly exaggerated. | The Practical Polymath

  6. Pingback: If the Shoe Fits... | The Practical Polymath

  7. Yeakelmeister says:

    I talked with an employee, named Sherry, of Knapp Shoes today. Her number is (304) 797-0627. Her company is now KBF (Knapp Brothers Footwear). She told me that they have all the original tooling and equipment dating back to 1921. I feel your pain brother, but I think this is your best, and maybe last, shot to get some good “Made in USA” shoes.

    http://www.kbfootwear.com/media/KBFShortFormCatalog.pdf

    Good luck,
    Craig

  8. BigCountry says:

    I used to work at Knapp HQ, loved their shoes. It is really a shame what happened to that brand. They made shoes and boots for all walks of life, but mergers, buyouts, and cutting corners were the final nail in the coffin.

    The funny thing is, you look at the shoes on KB Footwear and those are the same shoes that both my grandfathers wore. And I would wear them myself, the styles are both classic and timeless.

    I really enjoyed reading your posts.

  9. I enjoyed reading through the “threads” as you progress from RIP to We’re Alive and Kicking Once again. Indeed! And we’re asking for your help and participation by “investing” in Knapp Brothers Footwear – KBF. We are launching a social medial fundraising event on Kickstarter.com. Visit our website at http://www.kbfootwear.com for details, or search for us on Kickstarter.com. We’re making them in America, Again!

    • Kayleigh says:

      From what I hear and have experienced with fr#e8ds&in217; newborns, you’ll probably use every last one of those washcloths and wish you had more, so you don’t find yourself doing laundry every day!I so enjoy reading the chronicle of your pregnancy, too. I really hope we get to meet in person one day!

  10. Peter says:

    I’d love a pair of #2457 Moc Toe Service Oxfords renamed “Mac Toe…” in honor of the grandpa MacDonald who wore them daily for 40 years and turned us all on to them. 😉 Since that’s unlikely, I’ll just keep polishing my Oxfords and check out the kickstarter.

  11. Sherry says:

    Peter,
    You are in luck we do have the original 2547, give me an email and I will tell you more about them and check the inventory to see if we have stock. Thank you for all of your kind words.
    Sherry (KBFootwear)
    sherry@kbfootwear.com

  12. Frank Quintiliani says:

    Sherry: I am looking for the owners of the FBFootwear. I have a story about the former Knapp Shoe Co. and their walking shoes and would like to mail a copy of my stry to them.
    If you could e-mail me this address, I would really appreciate it. Also, I would like to know if they still make this particular shoe.
    Thank you for your help.
    Frank
    sweethill1@comcast.net

  13. marian beierle says:

    I have been going round and round trying to find Knapp also, since upon starting with USPS I have worn them on my route. Now my salesman says they are not on his list of approved shoes. I emailed the company. On the above quotes, tho, Im confused about #”s. Is the moc toe 2457 or @2547, as was the reply from Sherry? I dont even see that number listed in their current offerings. I was going to order the @2561, moc toe , guessing its the padded collar that separates it from the @2457?

    • Peter says:

      I wish I knew the catalog that well. Sherry is usually pretty helpful on these things and they occasionally pop in on the blog. The catalog online has had some quirks the last couple of times I visited it, which may be your problem locating the part number. A call/memo to Sherry to clarify will sort it out.

  14. marian beierle says:

    I did get in touch with sherry, and she did say it was #2547 . I sent another email to her about more info on the different styles, but I think I will be paying out of pocket no matter which one I get. The one I want to order is the moc toe #2561, and it looks like it is postal approved, (the little tag on the side) but does not come up when searching this catagory of approved shoes. Anyway, now my uniform rep says since it is not in his catelog, even if its approved he can’t order it! Guess I’m out $139 if I really want these, and my allowance is set to come in Nov 15 🙁

  15. Judi Markert says:

    I just got off the phone with Sherry. What a joy to speak with a knowledgeable, helpful, friendly human being! As always, all I had to do was give my husband’s name and she knew exactly what I needed to order, size and all. I think this is his fifth or sixth pair of the same work boots. I hope that KBF will be in business for many years to come.

  16. Chris says:

    Hi. I have been wearing the 2539 for may years and find they are the most comfortable workshoe around. They also last a long time. I just found out the Knapp is out of business again when I went to order a new pair. I was able to contact Mr. Gordon who said he had a few pairs in my size left over. I just e-mailed him to place my order. Better Hurry!! I am a Police Officer with about 8 more years before retirement. I might get 2 pairs.

  17. Philip Kazanjian says:

    My first pair were brought for me at age 15 by my boss when I was pumping gas. He said if your gonna be your feet all day you better have good shoes.
    Tried other brands throughout my 43 years in the business but always came back to what was the best shoe I ever wore. Was a sad day when I found out Knapp shoes were gone.
    Once came across 3 new pair, sadly not my size, at a flea market. Bought them anyway and gave them to some guys they fit in work. All they could do was thank me and kept asking where to get another pair.
    Still hoping that Knapp returns. Until then I’ll have to keep on looking for a comfortable shoe that wears like iron and won’t bother my legs or knees.

  18. William N. says:

    In the late 80s my brother in law gave me a job as a gopher in his muffler shop and everyone wore black Oxfords. I couldn’t wait to finally go to the knapp store to get a pair. As it turned out, a salesman came around and fitted me for my first pair, he had to be at least 70 years old. We bought shoes from him until he stopped showing up. Two shot sole lasted forever and I never wore them out to get my free pair.

    • david says:

      I can’t find a knapp store in pgh pa can’t buy any online looking for2561

      • Tessie says:

        Beautifully done, Ellie! Cogsratulationn! It seems rather like the same way I do a crepe but I think much more delicate.Doubt I have the skill to pull this off, but you give me courage to try!

      • John says:

        If you can find out any thing about that 2561 with the padded collar please let me know thanks

    • Tori says:

      If I visit Chennai in the future, the list is surely going to get me th0&hguo#823r; WordPress is playing some tricks.. I am not getting mails from a number of blogs including yours when they post something new…

  19. Faye says:

    My 82 year old uncle has been wearing the 2561 padded collar and 2565 moc toe boot for over 40 years. I had searched and searched for him some more and finally got in touch with Sherry who worked for Knapp and was able to order him both. He got them and loved them – they are better than ever! Sherry 304-797-0627

  20. Sally says:

    We received 5 pairs of the #2575 Natural Shaped Oxford from the Known Quality Shoe Company in December 2014. They are every bit as good quality as the original Knapp shoes! The fit and quality was perfection!! Sherry is a delight and extremely helpful! Anyone wanting to replace their worn out Knapps should definitely look them up at
    https://kqshoes.com/index.php/shopping

  21. Mitch says:

    I worked for knapp shoes industrial division 1974 till they were purchased by iron-age shoe company …
    Some of the best years of my life was a great company till the later years…
    Sold thousands of safety shoes..thank you knapp miss !

  22. Tim says:

    I am looking for a pair or two of the short, padded, EEE, size 9.5 or 10, ANGLED work shoes. I have had them, great and very comfortable work shoes.

  23. PETER CALARCO says:

    I am a 3rd generation Knapp wearer. When I was a kid (1960s)My dad used to buy my Knapp shoes from a salesman that came to his place of business. In the 70s I bought them from their store in Yonkers, NY. Thereafter I purchased them by mail or on line. I just opened a box of brand new 2547s (10 EEE) – same size I wore for decades – same outstanding quality – same perfect fit – purchased God knows when maybe 10 years ago. I guess they will never come back- like burying my grandpa and dad. Part of me is gone forever – and Knapp will be pat of me just as long.

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  25. Robert Booth says:

    I started with Knapp farm boots back in 68 when the salesman came to the body shop.
    The 2 shot sole. Guaranteed to out wear the uppers or a new pair free. Wore them for years. After the body shop, I just ordered them direct from Brockton, Mass. and a perfect fit every time. Didn’t buy too many, they wore for years and years. Price started at $64 in 68 and progressed to $100+. Then several years ago, I ordered a new pair from Brockton, Mass. and was thrilled to get them. Then to my surprise, they didn’t have that fit I was accustomed to. Just didn’t feel right. Then I noticed the stitching was different.
    I looked at the box, and the boots and to my surprise, they were no longer made here, but outsourced to a foreign country. Don’t remember what country. Not China though. Maybe Dominican Republic. Anyway, they were returned and a credit was issued. I was no longer a Knapp customer. Great shoes then. I just can’t wear foreign made footwear. American size 11.5 D. Chinese size 13, and poor fits.

  26. Billie Loconte says:

    You sound like an intelligent person so tell me please where I can find the old Knapp shoe like you talk about in your column. My husband wears a 71/2 EEE which is very hard to find at a reasonable price. He, like you started wearing them about the time you describe around 1952 and has been unablr to find a comprable shoe in the last number of years…HELP !!!!
    B. Loconte

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