At some point in your life, you’ve probably stumbled on a parental stash of outdoorsy polaroids or Super 8 footage from their youth. Forgotten in the attic behind the holiday decorations, these dusty albums are often filled with grainy images of rad dads in cozy flea market flannels and mountain mommas living it up in their camp shorts. Odds are they’re both sporting wool socks and brown leather hiking boots with red laces. Unknowingly outfitted in some of the most iconic gear ever produced, our parents were inherently #blessed with the right amount of know-how and classic cool needed to navigate the great outdoors with ease and attitude.
We sat down with Joe Peters, Head of Marketing at Vasque, to discuss what it means to balance heritage with innovation and why he’s super proud to be part of a brand still making the boots your parents were likely wearing in those archival family photos.
What is your role at Vasque and how did you end up in the outdoor industry?
I’m the Head of Marketing at Vasque. I ended up in outdoor via luck, really. I was absolutely a corporate robot at a large major retailer before I discovered the industry. I knew after just a few days with Vasque I’d found something special, working with a brand that supports personal discovery of places out there that require curiosity, which I’ve always gravitated to. I took the idea of working for a brand that deals specifically in the trail seriously in how I’ve envisioned where we’ll hike, you know?
How would you describe Vasque to someone who isn’t familiar with the brand?
Vasque—no, not “Basque” or “Vasque’eh”—Vasque rhymes with “cask.” We’re a brand that has built trail footwear for 54 years and played a major part in how people discover the outdoors since we began in 1964. We refer to the footwear we make as “gear,” just like you’d refer to your pack, poles or beacon because we believe footwear worn on the trail plays a vital role in giving our passionate users a confidence they can trust while pushing their own personal boundaries and exploring incredible places all over the world.
Vasque has been “Trusted on the Trail since 1964,” but specifically when and where was the company founded?
The company was founded in 1964 in Red Wing, Minnesota and the concept of “Trust on the Trail” came to life from countless stories provided to us by users throughout the years. Combing through 58 years worth of testimonials, the theme woven into each and every story was the unwavering trust people have in Vasque. Trust can’t be gained overnight, so with a nod to the fact that we’ve been doing this for decades, trust is an earned title we take very seriously. “Trust on the Trail since 1964.”
How does Vasque balance innovation and heritage when making footwear relevant for the modern outdoors?
Innovation has always been paramount to Vasque. I like to talk people through the development of something like the Glacier, which was launched in 1975. It was packed with innovation and while we look at it today and consider it a classic, this shoe was the definition of innovation and technology in 1975. Back in those days, a leather insole, three-layered fiberglass midsole and a full-grain leather upper was the epitome of technology, made of the most durable materials available. We’ve gone back into the archives within the last few years because, quite simply, people asked us to. While innovation has stayed central to our focus, there is something nostalgic about lacing up a pair of boots your parents wore hiking for their honeymoon 30-plus years ago. I think we all like to pay homage to those who came before us, and while people absolutely come to Vasque for the latest on-trail innovations, they also look to us and our archives to find the boots your mom and dad likely saved up for in college. We’re endlessly proud of that.
Vasque has some pretty cool friends. Can you tell us more about the organizations you work closely with that promote getting people on the trail?
We believe while our main function is providing gear you can trust on the trail, we also do whatever we can to ensure trails are continuously forged and existing trails are maintained. We’ve been long-standing partners of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition to ensure that. In addition to maintaining trails, we’re committed to helping everyone gain access to the outdoors, so we’re proud of our partnership with Big City Mountaineers as it gets kids, who may not otherwise have the chance, out of the city and into the outdoors. We’re also the official footwear partner of the Trail Mavens, a California-based company offering guided overnight trips that empower women to try everything from camping in Big Sur and Yosemite to kayaking in California’s Tomales Bay.
Who are some of the Vasque brand ambassadors?
Our ambassadors are the life of this brand and are a diverse group of people who genuinely love the trail. From adventure-orientated people like Kelly Dona and Mason Boring to Zac Barbiasz, a former Vasque-backed Thru-Hike-Syndicate member who hiked the PCT, we’re honored to partner with some incredible individuals. Recently, we joined forces with San Juan Mountain Guides based in Ouray, Colorado as their footwear partner to outfit trusted guides year-round while they educate clients and experience the magic that is the San Juan Mountains.
How does Vasque maintain relationships with its core consumers while building lasting relationships with new customers?
This is the question that is being discussed by every brand within the industry, right? We maintain our relationships with core consumers by staying on the trail. We remain true to the qualities that have always driven this brand: honesty, originality, truth in fit, durability and the service we provide to those who wear Vasque. When we talk about introducing new customers to Vasque, we also stay true to those qualities as they’re the essence of the brand. Since we’re based in Minnesota, talking about ourselves is not in our DNA, and I believe that’s part of the magic of Vasque. We can be found on the trail, so to truly find Vasque and understand us, you’ll need to get out to the trailhead.
Why was it important to reissue some of the iconic Vasque silhouettes like the Sundowner and the Skywalk?
These boots defined the way we go outside, and such thoughtful and timeless design should always be hiking those same trails our parents did.
Images courtesy of Vasque Footwear.
This article was originally posted in RANGE Magazine Issue Eight.