The Good Jeans Project

Here at KEEN, we’re constantly working toward cleaning up our supply chain and reducing waste wherever possible. That’s why we’re so excited to announce the launch of our Good Jeans Project, which takes denim headed for the landfill and repurposes it into sustainable textiles for our shoes. We caught up with Josh McDonald, aka “the most stylish fella in the office,” to learn more about the project.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how the Good Jeans Project was born?
My name is Josh McDonald and I’m a Senior Developer on the product team here at KEEN Footwear. We started the Good Jeans Project because we wanted to do something with stuff that people couldn’t use or didn’t want anymore.

Can you walk us through the process of these shoes?
Working with our design team, we created multiple iterations of what the shoe could look like and came up with different ways to play with raw edges because denim looks so interesting when it’s distressed or frayed. It has a lot of visual interest, so we experimented with different edges and folds to lend an assortment of looks and textures to the shoe.

We ended up choosing three or four different styles that we wanted to explore and then had people from the office bring in their old jeans so we could get going on creating prototypes. We wanted to see what looked good, what didn’t, what was efficient and what didn’t make sense. Eventually, we landed on our final Mary Jane style.

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Is there a reason why you chose denim in the first place?
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Japanese dyed indigo is a huge trend right now. But from a conceptual standpoint, denim appealed to us because just about everyone in the world wears jeans and denim is easily accessible. From artisanal raw selvedge in Japan to vintage styles that are making a big comeback, denim is a timeless material that acts as a common thread.

Once we started working on the prototypes, we found that it was significantly easier to make good looking shoes with denim than we could with surplus army canvas and other vintage materials. Denim provides a pretty striking look when you begin to layer different colors because of the various shades of blue and differences in washes and textures.

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Can you tell us why you shaved your signature Josh McDonald Mohawk™?
(At this point in the interview, two people from the peanut gallery yelled out, “It’s because you’re going to be a dad!” and, “Too high maintenance!”)

I don’t know why. It was getting hard for me to manage. I hated putting my head back on a couch and ruining it, and I just thought it was time for a change. My wife will be giving birth to our son this spring, so he can rock the mohawk now.