Shoes and boots are often worn to make a big fashion statement, as the chunky platforms and stiletto pumps of Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, and Jimmy Choo so amply show. But shoes have another purpose—to help their wearer get a job done, comfortably and safely.

In particular, boots have long been put to work. Some of the first work boots were 19th-century cowboy boots, which were modeled after boots worn by the Hessian soldiers who fought with the British during the Revolutionary War. These boots were distinctive for their V cut in the front and pull-straps on the side.

By the 1880s, more than 100 companies in Kansas were making boots for Texas cowboys. In Texas, Justin Boots was probably the best-known name. Long before it gobbled up Nocona Boot Company, Chippewa, and Tony Lama, Justin was making boots for ranchers, as well as six- to eight-inch lace ups for workers in other fields.

Wolverine got started around the same time. Established in Rockford, Michigan in 1883, Wolverine made a name for itself in 1914 with its six-inch lace-up 1000 Mile boot. During World War I, Wolverine made boots based on this model for the military—they're now sold in the company’s Garrison line. But Wolverine boots are not all work and no play—at the 2010 Winter Olympics, U.S. snowboarder Shaun White was seen stomping around in a pair of 1000 Mile boots following his gold-medal halfpipe win.

Red Wing came next in 1905, when Charles Beckman sold his first pair of boots for $1.75. Based in Red Wing, Minnesota, also home to Red Wing Stoneware Co., by 1907 the company was producing 100 pairs of shoes per day, and by World War I it was making countless No. 16 boots for U.S. soldiers. In fact, Red Wing has a long history of supplying work boots and shoes to the military—in World War II, it produced boots in 239 sizes and widths just for the U.S. Army.

Wesco came next in 1918. Based in Scappoose, Oregon, the West Coast Shoe Company was founded by John Henry Shoemaker (yes, that’s his real last name), and is still run by members of the Shoemaker family. Naturally, logging boots with spiked soles were the company’s first focus. In the 1930s, shipworkers favored Wesco’s boots, and by the end of that decade, Wesco favorites such as the Highliner, Jobmaster, and Boss had been introduced. More recently, Wesco has concentrated on non-conductive safety boots, including the Voltfoe.

One other bookmaker of note is Danner, which appeared on the scene in 1932, moving from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin to Portland, Oregon. Its Shipyard Boot was a mainstay for blue-collar workers in the 1950s and ’60s, when Danner began making boots for policemen and military personnel, as well as hunters and hikers.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Shoes

All About Shoes

From Canada's Bata Shoe Museum comes a visually impressive exhibit focusing on the history of the shoe from traditi… [read review or visit site]

The Black Tie Guide

The Black Tie Guide

Peter Marshall became an authority on formalwear out of necessity — he needed a tux to wear on the maiden transat… [read review or visit site]

Virtual Shoe Museum

Virtual Shoe Museum

This virtual museum from Shoe Icons Publishing showcases over 800 pairs of shoes and related reference information.… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Keen "pittsburgh Soft-toe" Waterproof Eh Work Boots Men's Us 10 (euro 43)Vintage Red Wing Boots Style 877 Classic Sz 10d Made In Usa Leather Men'sWhite's Smoke Jumper Boots 10 1/2 Ee Vibram Work MotorcycleKeen Mens Utility Mt. Vernon Brown Work Steel Toe 1013257ee Boots Shoes Sz 12 WRed Wing 595 Crepe Sole Lace Up Chukka Ankle Boots Brown Men's 9.5 D A 2 FerRed Wing 8196 Non Steel Toe Work Boots Made In Usa Mens 9.5 DRed Wing Boots Size 11 M Limited Ed. Black***red Wing Boots Vintage 404s*** 8.5d Hard To Find In This Condition!!! Euc!!! Used Wesco Boots Firefighting Logging Boots Mens Size 10 Vibram SolesMens Ariat Rigtek Wide Square Toe Brown Leather Work Boots Sz 12 DWesco BootsSchnee's Mens Winter Leather Rubber Pac Boots Sz 11 Snow Hunting Sportsman Work $595 Rrl Ralph Lauren Brown Leather Steel Toe Logger Work Boots 10 D Made In UsaRed Wing 988 10" Engineer Harness Biker Pull On Steel Toe Motorcycle 10.5 BootsTimberland Earthkeeper 15551 Brown Leather 6" Lace-up Work Winter Boots Sz 11mVtg 21" Tall Wesco Motorcycle Police Boots Black Leather Authentic 11-11 1/2 UsaMens Ariat Ats Max Workhog Pull On Tan Leather Work Boots Sz 10.5 D ~ ExcellentRed Wing Roughneck 8146 Boots Size 9Men's Red Wing Steel Toe (st) Waterproof Insulated Brown Leather Boots Size 11.5Justin Work Boots Mens Double Comfort Lace Up Western Aged Bark 760 Size 9dMens Justin Western Work/riding Boots Square Toe Sz 9.5d Brown & Green Ariat Boots Work Mens Leather Workhog Mesteno Size 9.5 D Brown 10010891Timberland Men's Work Boots 9.5 BrownWhite's Soft Toe Leather Logger Work Boots Brown Men's 10.5 EeMens 11 D Anderson Bean Purple Uppers Square Toe Western Cowboy Work Ride BootsRed Wing Model 9011 Heritage Men's Boots 6" Black Cherry. Size 8.5 D (medium)Red Wing Rough Neck BootsGreat Condition Timberland Pink Women's Work Hiking Boots Size 8Instock Rocky Men's Rkk0120 Brown Wp Retraction Work Boots -9.5 WDansko Black Patent Professional Work Wear Shoes Size 39 GucMens Timberland Waterproof Work Leather Brown Boots Size 8.5 MRed Wing 877 Moc 8" Mens 8 1/2 E Wide Used Vintage Boots. Great ConditionRed Wing Mens 4400 Brown Steel Toe Eh Waterproof Insulated Work Boots 13 D LncRed Wing Usa 9179 Wabasha Suede Rough Vibram Lug Chukka Boots Moccasins 9.5 EWhite's Handmade Packer Leather Work Boots Mens 10 D Smoke Jumper Usa SpokaneJustin Wedge Work Cowboy Western Crepe Sole Boots Mens 9 WRed Wing Heritage - Iron Ranger 6" Boots (amber Harness Leather - Style# 8111)Red Wing Leather Boots 10875 875 6" Classic Moc Toe Size 8Vintage Red Wing Boots Estate Find 1940/50's Keen 0664 Mens Dallas Brown Leather Steel Toe Work Wellington Boots 14 BhfoMens Ariat Maverick Wide Square Toe Tan Leather Work Boots Sz 13 Ee ~ ExcellentAriat Boots Mens Work Terrain Waterproof Size 13 D Distressed Brown 10011829Instock Rocky Men's Rkk0120 Brown Wp Retraction Work Boots -11 WMen's Cabela Brand Leather Work Boots Slip On Cowboy 11 DInstock Rocky Rkk0121 Men's Brown Wp St Retraction Work Boots -11 WTimberland 2538 Mens Pit Boss Black Work, Industrial Boots 11.5 Medium (d) BhfoMen's Timberland Pro Series Steel Toe Work Boots Waterproof Size 10 1/2mVtg Red Wing Usa Oiled Leather Work Logger Biker Ankle Boots Mens Sz 13 VibramGeorgia Boots 6" Diamond Trax Work Boot Mens 8.5 Timberland Brown Cream Trim Work Hiking Boots Sz. 13m 27059 88 34 668349Mens Ariat Groundbreaker Wide Square Toe Soft Toe Leather Work Boots Sz 10 DRed Wing Iron Ranger Cap Toe Copper Boots 8115 Sz 11 DRed Wing Mens Boots Style 1907, Size 12, Hardly WornRed Wing 4448 Leather Steel Toe Work Boots Sz 8dCarolina Boots Men's Sz 7.5 Women's 9.5 10 Black Leather 16" Lineman Boots WorkRed Wing Safety Steel Toe Work Boots 8 Inch Size 8 Eee 37024-made In Usa-Tony Lama Western Cowboy Riding Biker 2-tone Leather Work Rodeo Boots Mens Sz 12Red Wing Shoes Boots, 9 D, Model 3141, Used Great Condition, Made In The UsaTimberland Men's 11m Dark Brown Pull On Work BootsJustin Wk4681 Mens 11" Tan Leather Stampede Eh Work Boots Square Toe Us 10.5 D