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”)

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]

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]

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    

Wesco Tall Boss Engineer BootsWhite's Boots Mens 10.5ee Smoke Jumper St 10.5 Ee Pre-owned Work Boots BlackDanner Women's Mountain Light Cascade Hiking Boot Sz 8 Wesco Boss Engineer Boots 10.5 D Custom MadeDanner Mens Acadia Insulated Black Duty Boots 69210 - 8.5dWesco Men's Engineer Boots Size 10 1/2Lightly Used Red Wing Blacksmith Boot 2962, Mens Size 13 Brown LeatherRed Wing Work Boot Style 4414 Size 10dDanner Mens Quarry Usa At Brown Work Boots 17317 - 10.5dRed Wing Heritage 2793 Mens Iron Ranger 6" Brown Work Boots 8 Medium (d) BhfoVtg Wesco Soft Toe Logger Smoke Jumper Work Boots Brown Men's 10.5 DRed Wing Heritage 8115 Iron Ranger 6-inch Copper Rough & Tough Size 11.5 BootsRed Wing Heritage 8115 Iron Ranger 6-inch Copper Rough & Tough Size 11 BootsRed Wing Iron Ranger (style 8111) Excellent Condition Men's 11.5d BootsMen's Redwing Work Boots Size 9d Style 4417Red Wing Men's 8138 6" Moc Toe Boot - Brown Size 9Danner Mens Bull Run Brown Cristy Work Boots 15556 - 10dRed Wing Lineman Boots 2996 Cigar Retan Lace To Toe Monkey BootsRed Wing Shoes Amber Mens Size 10 Dark Brown Fashion Boots Shoes Zh-1736Red Wing Heritage Beckman Leather Boot Black 9.5ee 9 1/2 2e Pre-ownedRed Wing Iron Ranger Leather Boots Model #8111 Amber Harness Brown, Size 10Danner Men's Pronghorn Snake Boot 17" Size 10.5 Brown 45033Thorogood 814-4200 Men's Brown 6in Moc Non Safety Toe Wedge Work Boots 10dRed Wing Boot Style 4208 Size 9 1/2dRed Wing Moc Toe Boots. Leather Mens 8.5Red Wing Boots Style 8111 Size U.s.10 Nice!Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot Men's Size 8.5usDanner 17601 Mens Corvallis Brown Work Boots - 12dDanner Mens Tanicus Mojave Duty Boots 55316 - 8.5dDanner Mens Tanicus Mojave Duty Boots 55316 - 8.5eeRed Wing Boots Style 405 Size 12dR.m Williams Craftman // Men's All Leather Austalia Made Riding/work Shoes BootsRed Wing Iron Ranger BootRed Wing Shoes 9105 9111 Copper Worksmith Round Toe Six Inch Boots 10 6 VibramMens Ariat Catalyst Vx H2o Composite Toe Leather Work Boots Sz 8.5 DVtg Mens Danner Hiking Leather Brown Boots Size 13Red Wing Iron Ranger Heritage 8114 6-inch Cap Toe Black Men's Boots Size 11 DRed Wing 650 56100 Logger Lineman Tall Black Leather Lace-up Work Boots Mens 8 EJansport X Benny Gold X Red Wing Shoes BackpackDanner Gritstone 8" Waterproof Eh Rated Non-slip Oil Resistant Boots - Red Wing Heritage Beckman 11ee Wide 9014 Black Men's Boots Red Wing Merchant 8062 Tan Mens Boots Size 9dRed Wing Shoes Men's Size 11.5d Heritage 6" Moc Toe Boots- Copper*rare* Danner Cabela's Cab Lassen Crp 59451x Gore-tex Flat Sole Work Boots 11ee Red Wing 1907 Classic Moc Copper Brown Leather Boots Size 10dRed Wing Heritage Brown Chukka Men's Size 9 Leather Ankle Work Boots X-109Nwt - Georgia Men's 'giant' G8274 Work Boots Brown - Size 8Vintage Red Wing Pecos Irish Setter Leather Slip On Work Riding Boots 11e, UsaRed Wing 8875 Classic Moc Toe 6" Boots Sz 9dMens Ariat Workhog Square Toe Mesteno Ct Tan Leather Work Boots Sz 8.5 DRed Wing 4183 Moc Toe Brown Leather Ankle Work Boots Size 8.5 D Heritage ClassicConverse Thinsulate Ultra 600g Insulated Safety Toe Work Boot Size 10w C6995Timberland Pro Pit Boss 6" Nubuck Steel Toe Slip Resistant Men Work Boots Sz.12Mens Danner 8" Tactical Boots Size 9Danner Law Enforcement / Tactical 8" Striker 2 Gtx Boots Black Side Zip 10 DMen's Blundstone 500 Black Leather Slip On Ankle Boots Us 10 Causal WorkVtg Mens Red Wing Steel Toe Work Leather Brown Boots Size 9 DTony Lama Men's Brown Bullhide Tlx Work Boots 6.5bGeorgia Boot Logger 9.5 M Men's Work Boots - Worn OnceRed Wing Usa Steel Toe Leather Riding Biker Motorcycle Work Boots Mens Sz 8