True craftsmanship is an increasingly rare commodity. So when Birkenstock collaborated with leather makers Horween, the results were always going to be something special.

There is a hunger out there for products deeply infused in the levels of craftsmanship exemplified by our two companies. We make things for people who value heritage, quality, and functionality; things that are more likely to wear in than wear out.  Birkenstock’s values are mirrored perfectly in Horween, the Chicago family owned business whose name for over a century has been a watch-word for high quality leather.

The first fruits of the relationship between Birkenstock and Horween is the classic Birkenstock Boston and Arizona featuring ‘Basketball’ and ‘Football’ leather. These are beautiful products, which bring together the shared heritage of two family companies passionate about their craft.

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“We’re not trying to please everybody,” says Skip Horween, the third generation of his family to head up operations in the Chicago Tannery, “...we’re just trying to make the best leather we can possibly make.“ It’s a sentiment that echoes exactly the Birkenstock ethos. “We take the best of everything,” he explains. “We take the best hides, the best oils, the best dyes and finishes – then we do whatever it takes to make that leather the best. The price goes on last, and if we cannot sell it for what it is worth, we should not make that leather.”


Arizona Embossed Natural Horween Leather - Roast

R 3,899.00


Arizona Embossed Natural Horween Leather - Ginger Brown

R 3,899.00



“Horween produces leather that is deeply rooted in the same values as our company,” says Adrian Carney, Birkenstock’s Product Creation Director. “We wanted to produce footwear where these two traditions were intertwined. The product is fundamentally characterised by its quality and its heritage. And the functionality of our products is of course optimised when we use the best materials available,” he explains. Birkenstock sandals are made in Germany. There is no compromise on quality. There is no pandering to market trends. There is no manufacturing toward a price point. But if Birkenstock’s roots lie deeply in the earth of German craftsmanship, those of Horween’s lie in the great tradition of the American tannery. It’s a part of the ever unfolding American story, in which cattle drives from points South and West warrived in Chicago to create a culture of high quality leather with raw material harvested from the wide expanse of the new world.

This is a product with a story embedded deeply in its fabric.

Young Nick Horween (L) and Skip (R)
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The Horween leathers that feature in this season’s Birkenstock products are Chromexcel®, and the embossed ‘Football Leather’ and ‘Basketball Leather’. Chromexcel® is the original ‘pull-up’ leather, which uses time-honoured techniques and features in the Birkenstock Bend. These processes create a fabric in which marks, scratches, and signs of wear will show, developing a rich patina that deepens over time.

The beautifully textured, richly embossed Football Leather features the material Horween supplies to America’s National Football League (NFL) with for its official match balls. The equally lovely ‘Basketball Leather’ features in National Basketball League (NBA) products - and still another features in the official mitts supplied by Major League Baseball (MLB). This deep heritage within the institutions of American sports dates from the early part of the 20th century, when Skip Horween’s Grandfather Arnold and his Great Uncle Ralph played Football for Harvard, the storied Massachusetts ‘Ivy League’ College. The brothers both played at the famous Rose Bowl game of 1920 in Pasadena - before going on to play professional football together.

The ‘Granddaddy’ of American leathers, then, featured in the Granddaddy of Them All’ - the oldest and most revered American sports event. There’s a symmetry there - and it comes together in Birkenstock footwear with real transatlantic heritage, unmatched quality and true functionality.

tannery detail