Fashions 817

Published on January 12th, 2010 | by Greg


OSPOP Steppe: From China, and Proud

Labeling one’s products as “Made in China” isn’t your typical marketing strategy, but OSPOP (or “ospop” — the capitalization standard has been mixed) has defiantly branded their footwear just that. With the Chinese character for “labor” or “work”, gong, they are proudly trumpeting the origins of these humble shoes, which are worn by millions of “miners, farmers, and construction workers,” as they say. Now, we’ve spent a fair bit of time throughout multiple provinces of China (including Henan, where the Tian Lang factory is based), and can safely say that these shoes certainly have the look so often seen in the past. Though the feel, well that’s slightly better than the originals (which are not so easily found on the streets anymore).

We’ve been trying out the Steppe series for this review — the newest model in a line that has included the Skywolf and the Departure — and they come in a few color options ranging from slate to “caution” orange to gobi army camouflage and are available for men, women, and children. Every pair comes with two sets of laces. In our case we tried out the slate shoes and so received both red and black laces. Our pair appeared to have come straight from the factory in a sealed box, complete with a release of noxious fumes upon opening. For quite some time, the shoes and the area around them smelled precisely like an industrial rubber facility (we’re familiar with them as well, unfortunately).

The company also rebrands the Chinese style in several other new ways, starting with their site that includes photographs of typical Chinese construction workers and ending with deeper socially progressive ideas. A donation is made to the community surrounding the factory for each pair of shoes made, and they have some pretty neat documentary footage on their site (which you’ll have to find yourself as Flash forbids direct linking to it).

While the indirect donations are great, you probably don’t typically buy your shoes for their revolutionary credentials. You probably want to feel comfortable, not to mention protected from the elements and secure in your durable shoes. And we’re happy to report that the shoes perform fairly well on that front. They were reasonably rugged and, thanks to the sheep’s wool lining, decently warm in cold temperatures. They handled as well as could be expected in uneven and rocky terrain. The sole was surprisingly cozy, but the shoe is fairly heavy and a bit awkward when trying to jog or quickly change pace, so it’s a great city shoe, but obviously won’t be replacing your running shoes anytime soon.

For canvas and rubber mid-tops, they feel a bit overpriced at $93, but they pose an interesting alternative to the typical Chinese-made shoe. And their courageously fresh take is a trend I hope to see more of in the future.

About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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