It’s the early 2000s. You are getting ready for work and it’s raining outside. Other people are worried that their shoes might get dirty, or that the soles will give away.
You’re not – you are wearing your trustee Knapp Oxford shoes. They would sooner drain the whole city than let you walk uncomfortably even in the most adverse situations.
This is just how good Knapp Shoes were, back when they were still in regular circulation. But what happened since, is the Knapp Shoe Company still in business?
A million nostalgic Americans are asking the same question. And fortunately, we have a clear answer.
What Happened to Knapp Shoe Company?
For those of you who don’t have a lot of time, The Knapp Shoe Company no longer exists on the market. The Iron Age Corporation acquired it back in the early 2000s, and the shared business between the two is abysmal ever since.
After years of struggling, Iron Age Corporation, along with its newly purchased Knapp Shoe Company filed for bankruptcy in January 2007.
It was a sad day for the whole of the United States. On one hand, you had the Iron Age Corporation – an industry giant running strong for over 190 years.
On the other, we had the Knapp Shoe Company – producers of the most reliable brand of footwear in the US.
Many people took the loss personally. Some mourned but took the blow after grieving. However, some even volunteered to help the company in the manufacturing process.
Nobody, it seemed, wanted to give up the comfort and memories attached to the age-old shoe company. Even before filing for bankruptcy, The Knapp Shoe Company was only a shadow of what it once was. The quality of the footwear didn’t downgrade.
But the manufacturing and production were abysmal. People had to wait for months to get their orders. Ultimately, it made sense that Iron Age just gave up on their venture.
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Can I Still Purchase Knapp Boots?
Unfortunately, the company shut down circulation officially in 2007. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot find any Knapp shoes on the market.
There are tons of websites where you can get the original stuff. So if you are a huge fan of the company and want to tap into that nostalgic feeling, there’s nothing to worry about – if you look hard enough, you’ll get your perfect pairs.
However, one thing is for sure – it won’t be as easy and simple as strutting around till you find a Knapp store and simply purchasing a pair from them.
Now, you’ll have to work on your shoes.
You can find certain Knapp shoes and boots on websites like Amazon, but they are sold under different labels including that of the Iron Age Corporation.
If you are a Knapp shoe loyalist, you’re more than welcome to scroll through these platforms to get your favorite model. If you’re a young gun wanting to figure out what all the noise is about, do let us know what you think – are Knapp boots good? Or is it just the nostalgic factor that’s working for them?
Either way, you won’t be able to get your boots directly from the Knapp Shoes website – as it’s currently shut down/inactive.
KB Footwear – Another Twist in the Story?
As we mentioned, many people did not come to terms with the fact that the Knapp Shoe Company disappeared in 2007. Everyone wanted to pitch in and help revive their favorite, most reliable shoe brand.
However, there wasn’t a lot that they could do, especially in terms of manufacturing and production.
One person did something though, and he nearly succeeded.
Avram Gossman, one of the former Sales Counsellors from Knapp, had a decent plan of action. He was also in charge of running the Knapp Shoe website and had a little bit of experience with how the company operated.
But that’s not all, Avram’s father was the one who was running the company after the original owners died.
For him, the Knapp Shoe brand was not just a means to get regular paychecks, but something of a legacy that he had to carry on by himself.
So when Iron Age filed for bankruptcy, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He wanted to become the primary reseller of the highly popular shoe brand. But he didn’t want to replicate the products and sell cheap knockoffs.
He wanted to be the real deal.
To achieve that, he purchased all the original tooling, patterns, and lasts that Knapp used in the production of their brand of shoes. After acquiring all the legal permits to start the process, Avram started his brand – The KB Footwear.
KB stood for Knapp Brothers and served as a tribute to the original founders of the iconic brand.
The KBF started as a noble cause. People admired Avram’s commitment to keeping the brand name alive.
However, he couldn’t sustain steady profits for a long time. People just didn’t want to purchase their shoes from a differently-named company.
Ultimately, KB Footwear had to shut down its website and close its business.
The Knapp Shoe Company – Origins
The Knapp Shoe Company has its origins in the early 1900s. To be more exact, the company established itself in 1921 in the United States of America. Elwin Knapp and Clarence Knapp together founded and built the brand.
Kind of explains the name of the company.
It was a time when reliable footwear was hard to find. People had to change their shoes and slippers as often as they had to change their clothes.
The market, therefore, needed a revolution.
With the arrival of the Knapp shoes, the industry witnessed a huge change. It was the first time a footwear brand paid more emphasis on reliability than anything else.
Pretty soon, the company was a huge hit among local customers. But Knapp didn’t stop there – they acquired a decent customer base from every part of the United States.
The quality, pricing, and comfort of their footwear were all perfect.
A 1985 Knapp Shoes catalog reads – “Because of our outstanding reputation for superior craftsmanship, quality, comfort, and durability, Knapp continues to be the largest direct selling company in the world.”
Such was the acclaim of Knapp throughout the 20th century, that it became the largest global direct-to-consumer company.
After the passing of Elwin and Clarence Knapp, Louis Grossman took over the company and furthered the legacy of the demised owners.
It was Louis’ son Avram who attempted to rekindle Knapp Shoes’ national acclaim through his brand – KB Footwear.
All through the 1900s, the Knapp Shoe Company dominated the market. It wasn’t just a shoe brand, it was a monument to many families, the original regular customers of the popular company.
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Knapp Shoes Inc. V. Sylvania Shoe Manufacturing Corporation
The Knapp Shoes history, as we know it, is not all glittery and bright. There are some dark tinges on the whole storyline.
And let us tell you – the most interesting blip was the disputed case between the two companies – Knapp Shoes on one hand, and the Sylvania Shoe Manufacturing Corporation on the other.
To offer a little bit of backdrop – Knapp used to sell a lot of shoes that they never manufactured. Instead, they used to source these shoe models from different manufacturers and sold them under their banner.
The company had such relationships with a lot of manufacturers, and both parties enjoyed a hefty profit from these dealings.
One such relationship was between Knapp and Sylvania. The partnership started in 1988 when Sylvania delivered around 10,000 pairs of their shoes to Knapp.
After a successful first round, Knapp and Sylvania decided to continue their dealings.
However, multiple issues started to arise shortly thereafter. Many customers were complaining about the quality and strength of the shoes’ soles.
There was a prominent shoe separation issue that left consumers unhappy and agitated.
When Knapp discovered the issue, they tried their best to solve the problem along with Sylvania. They proposed several design changes and improvements. However, they couldn’t find a feasible solution.
Ultimately, the relationship between the two companies deteriorated.
Knapp v. Sylvania – The Court Trials
In 1989, Knapp tried to return around one thousand pairs of shoes that they had purchased from Sylvania. The latter, however, didn’t accept the returns.
They brought the matter before the court where the magistrate judge ruled that the 1,000 pairs that Knapp attempted to return did not belong to Sylvania, but some other third-party company from Taiwan.
Other evidence also came to light which suggested that many of the shoes that reportedly had sole issues did not belong to Sylvania.
To ease things out, Knapp and Sylvania hosted a meeting together in the same year. In that meeting, Knapp tried to demonstrate the problems that customers were facing with Sylvania shoes. However, the representatives from Sylvania didn’t budge.
Ultimately, they reached an accord – Knapp would pay around $40,000 for every $35,000 worth of products they purchased from Sylvania.
The extra cash was Knapp’s repayment for earlier installments that they owed to Sylvania.
Round Two of the Trials
Even after reaching an accord, Knapp wasn’t done. Not entirely, anyway.
They filed a second lawsuit against Sylvania in 1990 under the Massachusetts Law for Breach of Contract (Count 1), and multiple other counts.
On the other end of the spectrum, Sylvania launched a countersuit, claiming $277,000 worth of unpaid bills and other damages fees.
The nail-biting proceedings lasted for 5 whole years. Many things happened in between – suing and counter-suing, shreds of evidence surfacing and resurfacing, and so on. The court proceedings could very well be a Netflix documentary someday.
Oh, also – Sylvania Manufacturing Company was almost filing bankruptcy during the ongoing lawsuit. They had started liquidating their assets and were selling off their most valuable shares one by one.
Noticing this, the representatives and attorneys from Knapp intervened. They were fearful that after liquidation, Sylvania would be immune to the charges pressed against them.
They, therefore appealed that the court does not allow the Sylvania Manufacturing Company to liquidate all their assets, but rather preclude the company from dissipating shares and assets worth $3,775,657 – the exact total of the amount that Knapp was seeking in damages from the manufacturing company.
The court agreed and granted a temporary restraining order for the same. The juicy case, therefore, resumed without interruptions.
The final verdict came in the year 1995. The judge ruled that Sylvania had breached only Count 1 and that there was no evidence against the company for breaching Counts 3 or 4.
In the end, the court ruled that Knapp will receive damages of $160,062 while Sylvania would receive damages totaling around $223,626.
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Our Verdict – Are Knapp Boots Good?
Honestly, if you can run a company for just under a century without having good products, then you deserve respect nonetheless.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, Knapp didn’t fall into that category.
They, indeed, ran their business well for multiple decades, starting from the early 1900s. However, they did so because their products were scary good.
They successfully manufactured the first line of reliable footwear.
It was so reliable that several World War 2 veterans wore Knapp’s shoes in the war. Maybe that’s why America wants the company back so bad – because it isn’t just a shoe brand, it’s a piece of the country’s rich history.
Purchasing Knapp shoes should be on your list if you are looking for some vintage, authentic footwear.
But finding an original one on the internet could be tricky. To get the right one, you must really know your kicks.