Private Label Boots Are Like Cans of Corn

I was contacted recently by someone who suggested that I add a brand of boots to my listing of various boot brands with reviews on my boot wiki. She wanted to know more about the boot brand and who made them.

The brand was…

J. B. Dillon. Until I received this email, this was yet another brand of boots about which I had no experience or knowledge.

As I have been slowly building my list of boot brands, I have been learning that dozens, if not hundreds, of brands of boots are made with labels with the names of famous past rodeo stars (such as Larry Mahan), names of towns in the U.S. West (such as Laredo), or names that appeal to red-neck patriotism (such as American Rebel).

As I was doing research on J.B. Dillon boots, I was not that surprised that there was not much information about the boots or the name. It was unusual, but the “all-knowing google” could not identify for me who J. B. Dillon is or was. He is not on the list of inductees of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. That name does not come up independent of links to a western wear company based in Youngstown, Ohio.

In fact, that western wear company registered the J. B. Dillon Boots logo as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). By the way, it is fascinating to use the Trademark Search database when searching for information on boots. There are literally thousands of boot-related trademarks, but that is for a future post on this blog.

Back to the subject of this post — I wrote back to the person who asked me to add J. B. Dillon Boots to my boot wiki to ask her to check the COOL in her boots (that is “Country Of Origin Label”). She confirmed my thinking — J. B. Dillon Boots are made in Mexico.

Also in doing research, I found this interesting video that shows the processes of mass-production of J. B. Dillon cowboy boots in the unnamed factory in Mexico: J. B. Dillon boots (YouTube video link). It is highly likely this factory is located in Leon, the cowboy bootmaking capital of the world. Literally hundreds of boot brands are made there.

Some may ask, “what does ‘private label’ mean?” Good question. Think of it this way: when you go to the grocery store for a can of corn, you will see cans of corn with the labels such as “Green Giant,” “Del Monte,” “Libbys”, “Heinz,” and so forth. And you will also see the store brand, too. So if you went to Kroger, for example, you would find Kroger canned corn.

Does Kroger, or for that matter, any other grocery chain, actually operate a facility that produces store-brand corn or similar products? Well, if you ask my spouse, you’ll get the history that some major old-line grocery companies actually did that, but the last major private-label food production facility in New York was shut down in 2010. Nowadays, these “main label” companies also use their production capacity to produce products for private labels. So that can of Kroger corn you bought may have been manufactured by Libbys (or Del Monte, or another.) Point is that most store brand (private label) products are actually made by the Big Boys as a side business.

How does this relate to boots? Some boot brands sold in the United States are made by generic bootmaking facilities in Mexico. These bootmakers have a lot of capacity, so some days they will produce boots for Boot Brand A, and other days they will produce boots for Boot Brand B, and so forth. It is highly variable as to which bootmakers make which boots and how many, and a lot of that information is proprietary and a closely held secret.

But the secret is out: if you run across a boot brand you have not heard of, and especially if the name on the label uses a U.S. western town name or appeals to American Patriotism, it is highly likely that the boots are made by one of those excess-production facilities in Leon, Mexico. Just like J. B. Dillon boots, Tecovas Boots, and many, many others.

Life is short: know your COOL (even if you don’t know the brand.)