Since 1941, the “Berry Amendment” has required that Department of Defense only supply soldiers with funds to purchase goods “reprocessed, reused, or produced in the United States,” but loopholes have long allowed soldiers to use foreign-manufactured athletic shoes. Those loopholes were cinched closed on Friday as Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox issued a directive that will result in each recruit being offered a few athletic shoe choices based on their foot type. But there may not be that much choice. The only major athletic shoe manufacturing with large factories in the United States is New Balance.
“We are excited about the potential path forward for New Balance with the Department of Defense policy change that requires American-made athletic shoes for our country’s soldiers,” Matt LeBretton, the company’s vice president of public affairs, told Men’s Journal. “This decision will create more American jobs at manufacturers and suppliers in Maine and Massachusetts and across the country.”
LeBretton added that New Balance is preparing to move through an implementation process and looking forward to competing for soldiers’ feet. Just don’t expect to see too many soldiers running around with that trademark “N” on the outstep. The company makes a wide variety of military-style boots that compete with foreign-manufactured boots and the combat style models from Wolverine, which manufacturers high-quality shoes in Minnesota. Still, New Balance is the big kid on the block. The company already manufactures a military clothing line for soldiers.
Though only one in four pairs of New Balance sneakers is made in America, the company has long been vocal about its desire to hire more workers on top of the 1,300 Americans it already employs. That could be good news for the Maine towns of Skowhegan, Norridgewock, and Norway, which boast large factories LeBretton has promised to decorate with “Help Wanted” signs. And it could be good news for the military as well. Those Mainers know what they’re doing.