NORRIDGEWOCK — Employees at the last remaining athletic shoe manufacturer in the United States are used to celebrities buying their sneakers.
New Balance workers have cut and stitched material to grace the feet of pop singer Lady Gaga, and football quarterback Tom Brady got 12 pairs for his family during the Superbowl.
Now, another well-known figure will tie up the laces of a size 12D, gray New Balance pair of sneakers. If President Barack Obama could go anywhere inconspicuously, the blue stitching on the side of the sneakers declaring his name would give him away.
U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-2nd District, will present the sneakers to the president this evening at a fundraiser at the Portland Museum of Art. They are made with natural pig skin, mesh and labels manufactured in the U.S.
At a tour of the shoe factory in Norridgewock on this morning, Michaud said he will give the sneakers to Obama to remind him that people in the U.S. still produce footwear. He will also urge Obama to require the military to buy American-made athletic footwear.
Michaud has introduced the “American Shoes for American Servicemembers Act” to clarify that the so-called Berry Amendment applies to footwear.
The law already requires that the military buy food, clothing, fabrics, specialty metal and stainless steel that is produced in the U.S. While the law does not specifically mention shoes, footwear should fall under the category of clothing, Michaud said.
New Balance employee Amber Meunier, of Madison, was sewing parts of a sneaker heel today and was one of the 32 people it took to make Obama’s shoes.
It was exciting to make the sneakers, she said, but at the same time they weren’t much different from the many shoes she helps produce every day.
She said she knows the value of purchasing products made in the U.S., because her job depends on it.
“I personally try to buy local, American-made,” she said. “I would hope he would do the same.”