Whenever we see that iconic swoosh, our minds always go to one of the largest shoe producers in the world – Nike. This brand has always been around ever since we were born, and right now, they are still creating awesome shoes to fit the standards of the current generation. Whether you are an experienced collector or a newbie enthusiast, these are some of the best kicks you will ever see.
As time passes by and you start to collect their limited edition items, have you ever stopped and thought, “where are Nike shoes made”? Most of us just focus on the buying and collecting process, but there are still people who are interested in the full history of this company. If you are one of those individuals who are curious about the inner details of Nike’s journey, you are definitely in the right place. Prepare your brain tank for some serious knowledge, because you are about to receive a partial education about Nike’s origin.
When Did Nike Start?
Nike officially started in 1964, with its first headquarters located in Beaverton, Oregon (which is probably one of the first places where Nike shoes are made). Back then, when they still haven’t come up with the name we know today, they were popularly known as Blue Ribbon Sports. The company was founded by Bill Bowerman (University of Oregon’s track-and-field coach then) and Phil Knight (his former student). Knight ran for the university’s track-and-field team, and Bowerman saw an opportunity that would soon change their lives.
Since Knight was one of Bowerman’s best runners, he decided to take a look at his shoes and add some optimizations that will improve his performance. After a lot of constant tinkering and innovations, Knight was then able to try his coach’s customized shoes, making him the first wearer of Bowerman’s designs. After a few dealings and strategic planning sessions, the two then opened the first Nike retail outlet in 1966, continuing to the brand’s official shoe launching in 1972.
A Brief History of the Nike Brand
Around 1965, Bowerman created another design that he soon pitched into the Tiger, a Japanese shoe company (some reports claim that this is actually the answer to “where is Nike made”). This design is the ideal structure that they sought after during the time, mostly because of its amazing support to runners. With the innersole being cushioned, the forefoot and heel top fortified with soft rubber sponge, a hard rubber sponge in the heel’s middle part, and an extremely firm outsole made of rubber, the idea seemed like the perfect choice. Tiger then agreed to work with Blue Ribbon Sports after that pitch, eventually naming the shoe “Tiger Cortez”.
However, since the shoe became popular in 1967 because of its stylish, comfortable, and sturdy design, a conflict arose between Blue Ribbon Sports and Tiger. Apparently, Knight found out that Tiger was planning to squeeze themselves out of their deal with them, which would result in an immediate downfall for Blue Ribbon Sports. On the other hand, Tiger said that they found out about Blue Ribbon Sports attempting to sell their own version of the shoe (Tiger Cortez), along with other designs that they placed under a new shoe line called “Nike”.
Around 1971, the two companies formally split, with Tiger following a lawsuit against Blue Ribbon Sports. After a series of trials, both companies finally agreed to a settlement that would let them sell their personalized models of the shoe. Nike then went to market the shoe as the Nike Cortez, while Tiger went for the name of Tiger Corsair.
After separating from their former business partner, Blue Ribbon Sports officially rebranded themselves as Nike. For the “swoosh” logo, Knight hired a design student from Portland State University named Carolyn Davis so that they could come up with amazing ideas. He then decided to go with the swoosh design, even though he did not like it to begin with.
Since then, Nike has grown to become one of the most iconic shoe brands up to this day. What really helped them the most is their celebrity endorsements, signing famous athletes such as Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, and Lebron James, during their earlier years. Of course, the most was when they endorsed Michael Jordan, helping him out during his career and providing what turned out to be a win-win deal between him and the company. Jordan quickly rose into stardom as one of the legendary basketball players of all time, eventually releasing his own line of shoes popularly known as Air Jordans.
Where are Nike Shoes Produced?
Now, let us dig deeper into the main topic of this article – where are Nike shoes made? Most of us would probably think that these shoes are made in the United States. This is quite understandable, especially because their quality is remarkable and guaranteed authentic every single time. However, for you to accurately answer every time someone asks you “where are Nikes made”, you can confidently say that almost all of them are manufactured in China and Vietnam. Yup, that’s right – China and Vietnam are the leading countries that are able to produce almost all of the Nike shoes you collect.
Of course, this does not mean that the US is not capable of producing these kicks. Some of them are still produced within the country, but since Knight pointed out during his thesis that outsourcing the labor force to Japan would be much more efficient compared with Germany (the center of shoe production back then), Nike has brought most of their factories on the international scale. Eventually, researchers found out about certain happenings within these factories, sparking a few controversies for Nike over the years.
These controversies, however, did not stop Nike from producing its innovative shoe lines. Despite the noticeable drop in their sales after people started searching for “where are Nike shoes manufactured”, their new designs are still sought after by numerous collectors around the world. Designers are still producing limited edition designs, and of course, the bestselling versions are the ones imitating the classic looks (such as Air Jordans).
Here is a list of the most prevalent countries in the world where Nike products are made:
United States Production
Since they were founded in the U.S, Nike managed to keep a line of their production there too. Technically, the first shoe they ever created as Nike was made in Japan, but as Blue Ribbon Sports, Bowerman’s first ever customization was with Knight’s track-and-field shoes. Today, you can see a few of Nike’s production facilities around the U.S, especially since they are the official suppliers of the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Despite all these, we cannot ignore the fact that almost all of Nike’s shoes are made outside of the country. Although we can still see various centers and facilities around where Nike products are made, most of them are more prevalent in other countries such as China (which we will tackle on the next point).
Nike has ventured into China to outsource its production labor (much like any other country in the world). Because of the high population rate within the country, labor costs are much cheaper there. This proved to be an ideal investment on Nike’s behalf, and to this day, 36% of the manufactured shoes worldwide are made in China. This makes the country one of the leading producers of the iconic shoe brand ever since they started.
Vietnam is the second country to hold the highest record of where Nike is made. They tied up with China in this aspect, manufacturing another 36% of the shoes being distributed worldwide within their facilities. Combined together, these two countries add up to 72% of the entire labor force.
The third country to provide the largest production rates for Nike shoes are Indonesia, manufacturing at least 22% of the products worldwide. Much like the other two countries, they have cheaper labor costs than the rest of the world.
Finally, Thailand closes up the statistics by providing help for 6% of Nike’s productions. They are one of the countries to work for a small percentage of Nike’s business, most of which are already mentioned above and another one being the Philippines.
Nike’s Sweatshop Controversy
After finding out about this information, researchers have also found out that Nike took part in bad labor practices in some of these countries by producing sweatshops. These are the kinds of facilities that practice unfair employee treatment, such as making them overwork and then underpaying them (these are only a few of their alleged actions). However, Nike claims that they have already stopped this kind of practice long ago. They also created a part of their website that promotes transparency with their production dealings.
Materials Used for Creating Nike Shoes
Because of the underlying issues with our environment, Nike decided to take part in a green initiative, doing their best to preserve nature in everything they do. Most of their shoes are made out of rubber (naturally), polyester, cotton, Eva foam, leather, and synthetic leather. The company recycles its materials whenever they have the chance, making sure that they are not providing negative impacts on the environment.
Research indicates that 19% of Nike’s polyester is sure to be recycled, using approximately 82 million plastic water bottles for the shoes’ material alone. Aside from that, 70% of their rubber is environmentally produced, most of which come from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Nike is also using organic cotton (without pesticides and other harmful chemicals) from India, Turkey, the USA, and China. Finally, their leather choice went from grain to fly leather because it has less carbon footprint, plus it would benefit them well since it is more durable and lightweight.
Nike’s Design and Ideas
Although the labor force is outsourced to other countries, Nike’s designers, engineers, and developers come from the company’s headquarters. After their initial designs, the developers start to select the right materials for each shoe. All of the data is then sent to the factories or facilities worldwide, making them ready for production. If you are curious about the mental and creative aspects of “where are Nike shoes made”, they are from the amazing minds of these people within the company.
Spotting Genuine Nike Shoes from Fake Ones
Since well-known brands are making strides around the world, we cannot prevent the imitation or duplication of their products. No matter where you go, you can see Nike shoes being sold at a lower price because of their less authentic features. When you are buying one of these, make sure that you are actually spending your money’s worth.
To double-check the authenticity of a Nike product, all you have to do is to simply check their build. All Nike shoes have amazing cushion quality, a unique and sporty design, and excellent grip support when you wear them. Aside from that, the majority of their shoes are stitched with the soles. If you see one that is manufactured with binding materials alone, you can guarantee that that is not an original Nike item.
Aside from all of these, just make sure to avoid unauthorized stores. They will most probably sell you replicas anyway, so just stay away from them.
Most newbie sneakerheads do not have a single idea about Nike’s history. If you are one of them, then you should be proud because you have just read the summarized history of where are Nike shoes made. Now, whenever you are looking for a product, you will be able to appreciate its production more. This could also give you a boost of inspiration to collect more and more shoes in the long run.
You don’t have to know everything about their records and history. In fact, most of the iconic brands in the industry have their own dealings with unfortunate events. If you are an enthusiast and you are curious about the brand you are loyal to, then this article could prove to be a helpful tool for you, especially when you are talking to other collectors and enthusiasts.