The history of Viking Footwear
Vikings history starts January 17th, 1920 when our founding father Peter Mathias Røwde founded a rubber factory in Askim. The brand name was Viking and the factory started to produce galoshes to prevent shoes from getting muddy and wet. Ever since then we have worked after our mission “To enable an active outdoor lifestyle”.
Early on Viking brought in rubber chemists that contributed to making our products superior to our competitors. Because of changes in fashion, the production of galoshes was reduced towards the end of the 1920s while the production of snow socks and gymnastic shoes increased. Gradually Viking expanded the production and started making rubber boots, work boots, leather shoes, hunting shoes and soccer cleats.
In the 1930s, Viking produced rubber tires for vehicles, rubber floors, staircase coatings (this was, among other places used at the Norwegian Royal Castle), hot water bottles, school bags, rubber clothing, gloves, camping mattresses and rubber bands in addition to rubber boots, work boots and galoshes. With time, we figured we would focus on shoes. In 1934, the factory burned to the ground. A new and more efficient factory was built and not long after the production numbers rose to 10.000 pairs of galoshes, 1.200 pairs of shoes, 100 tires for vehicles and 500 tires for bicycles per day. With its 1.100 employees, Viking was one of Norway’s larges workplaces at that time.
In the 1940s, production took place in what’s known in the professional language as conveyers and chains. A conveyor consisted of 15-20 operators, while a chain consisted of four operators. All production that took place at that time were built by hand.
Viking's ski shoes sold as never before. “Warm, comfortable, non-slippery sole and excellent fit. Stays soft and comfortable even in the harshest cold without lubrication” were the sales points highlighted in the advertising text of the popular ski boot.
At the beginning of the 1950s, we purchased various press machines that made it possible to press soles on finished uppers. The first shoes produced this way were so-called weekend shoes, i.e. lightweight shoes with pressed rubber soles. At this time, Norway experienced tremendous growth. The abundance of low-cost power from newly built dams and unlimited access to water led to new industrial companies establishing themselves in several locations in the country. Viking grew and founded several departments around Norway. At this time, Viking began to produce new products such as textile boots and slippers. The Viking soccer shoes produced at this time were to be used for age-specific classes according to directives from the Norwegian Soccer Association.
In the mid-1960s, a plastic molding facility was purchased and in 1969, the Cherrox boots was introduced. Otto Schneider was the man with the idea behind the Viking Cherrox made of rubber. At this time, the Cherrox actually looked like a real leather boot! New design and new plastic blends made great success and the capacity in the factory in Askim became too small. Because of this, a separate factory was established in Otta in 1971, seven years later this production moved to England. At this time modern teenage girls were dressed in “Viking Lakk-lets” (boots with laces), while the mothers in turn, often wore “Pavlova” or “Tuscany” (high women’s boots).
The hiking boots called Rocky was launched in 1966 as part of the summer collection. Gunnar Raabe – a well-known mountain hiker, board member and route inspector in The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) truly liked these shoes and stated, “I have not yet dared to try boots made out of rubber, even though they were affordable and waterproof – two major advantages. The new Rocky hiking boot is therefore a pleasant surprise”. Hiking boots and boots from Viking then became a faithful companion when going on a hike, weather in the mountains or in the close-by forest. This contributed to lay the foundation for a long collaboration between Viking and The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT).
Several classics was born in the 60s. Vikings sailing boots quickly became popular, they still are and can be purchased under the names Kadett and Seilas.
In 1971 Viking was re-organized under the name Viking-Askim with factories in Askim, Mjøndalen, Stavanger, Oslo (The National Rubber Factory), Langevåg (foam rubber), Hokksund and Rjukan – The Hokksund factory (Balder shoe factory) produced leather shoes for recreational use. In Rjukan, textile shoes also for recreational use was produced. In the beginning, seams (tops) were sewn and then sent to Askim where they pressed soles on the shoes / boots. Later, the presses also where moved to Rjukan. In the mid-1970s, Viking launched the sneaker Retro Trim, which quickly became a huge success. For Viking's 100 years anniversary in 2020, the sneaker will be relaunched as part of the pre-fall collection, and will be available in a limited volume from June 2020.
The soccer shoe Viking Proff were to be seen on most soccer fields and the Norwegian band Di Derre leaded by Jo Nesbø later came out with a song dedicated to the shoe, called “Viking Proff” (1966).
In 1972-1973, the rubber boot production was moved to a newly built factory in Malaysia (this production was later moved to China, among other places).
The Norwegian soccer player Drillo, was constantly observed wearing Viking boots. English journalists had to look twice when he entered Wembley wearing our rubber boots. Drillo, in turn got his face on a rubber boot campaign for Viking with the slogan “You don’t get all the way to the soccer world cup with lacquer shoes and cigars”.
In 1984, the production of tires was separated from the rest of the company. This part was taken over by the Swedish company called Gislaved and called Viking Tires. In the year of 1988 there was arranged summer Olympics in Seoul. For each pair of Kadett boots sold, Viking gave a fixed amount to Norway’s Olympic participant to provide them with better training opportunities. The sale of Kadett went so well that Viking automatically committed to supporting Norway’s Olympic hopes with at least 1.5 million NOK.
Viking takes children seriously; at this time, we developed even more shoes to tackle active play in a Nordic climate.
New production methods and raw materials allowed us to become even more innovative. In 1992, Viking was one of the first shoe manufacturers to use the GORE-TEX membrane in shoes and in the mid-90s; Viking launched the hunting boots called Crosser with GORE-TEX.
Viking continued to “challenge the laws of nature”. Our adult hiking shoes, among other things, were extensively used in the 71-degree north TV show in the Norwegian TV channel called “TV Norge” as Viking was the official supplier of footwear for the show.
During this time, Viking continued to be innovative. The hunting boots with GORE-TEX was improving even more and kindergartens and schoolyards were filled with kids wearing our shoes. Viking was, and still is a trusted brand when parents bought durable shoes for the different seasons for their kids.
Viking Outdoor Footwear is a trademark with long traditions. Our love for nature will never change despite our shoes doing so. We always strive for innovation at every stage as we work to provide the best footwear technology to our customers. We are humble and proud to be a pioneer in the shoe industry. Regardless of whether it is shoes for kindergarten or hiking boots, we will fight weather and terrain by offering our durable and innovative shoes in the years to some. In 2020, Viking celebrates 100 year, Viking is actually one of Norway’s oldest brands and has contributed in shaping Norwegian industrial history.