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    

Vintage Red Wing Redwing 875 Classic 6" Moc Toe Work Boots Oro Legacy Tan UsaWesco Jobmaster Custom Boots 11dRed Wing Boots 877 Size 10Wesco Boss Boots 12 Inch Size 10d (us)Keen $210 Men's Mt. Vernon Work Boots Size 9.5 Cascade Brown St Wp 1013257dRed Wing Boots, Size 13d, Men's Work Boot, 4417Red Wing Boots Size 10.5 B? Made In Usa 15401Vintage 60s-70s Red Wing Cork Sole Insulated Work Boots 8.5ee In Original Box!Red Wing Goodyear Boots 10Red Wing 218 Logger Fire Boots 10.5 D $325 Msrp Nice & Free ShipJustin Boots, Size 11d, Men's Stampede Square Toe Work Boot, Wk4560Vintage Red Wing Chukka Boots Size 9.5 D 9-1/2 A Pair Of Red Wing Mens Boots 1907 6-inch Moc Toe Heritage Work Red Size 10Red Wing Heritage Beckman Moc-toe Men's 6" Work Boots Leather Size 11Keen Mens Braddock Mid Al Wp Work Boots Sz 11.5 Wide (ee) St Brown Blue 101277eeRed Wing Men Size 7 D Heritage Classic Wedge Sole Made In Usa Chukka Boots 3141Wesco Leather Engineer/motorcycle Boots Mens Size 10 D Satisfaction GuaranteedWesco Harness Boots Men's 9 Very Good Used ConditionVintage 70's Red Wing Irish Setter Sz 11 B Boots Crepe Sole Moc Toe 877 Usa-madeRed Wing 875 Boots, Size 10.5Red Wing Classic Moc Toe 6 Inch Boots 8130 Black Size 9.5 DRed Wing 218 Logger Boots Size 11Red Wing Style #1105 Pecos Men's 11" Pull On Leather Boots Size 10 D Super SoleKeen $175 Men's Louisville Met Work Boots Sz 11.5 Steel Toe Waterproof 1007969dMens Justin Work Boots J-max Crazyhorse Ct Western 10.5 Ee Tan Bay 491Carolina Work Boots Size 12 Vtg Mens Timberland Work Leather Brown Boots Size 13 MRed Wing Heritage Brown Beckman 4579 Leather Mens Boots Size 11.5 D Mens Ariat Workhog Met Guard Square Toe H2o Ct Brown Leather Work Boots 9 EeReal Nice Tall Black Leather Lace Up Red Wing Boots, Sz 10 1/2Red Wing Pecos 866 Work Boots Red Wing Pecos 866 Wellington Pull On Boots 9Wesco Boots Size 10.5 Logger BootsRed Wing Heritage Men's Beckham Round Boot Shoes Brown 9023 Us11 Eu44.5Mens Ariat Workhog Wide Square Toe H2o St Leather Work Boots Sz 13 DTimberland 9546 Mens Helix 8'' Brown Leather Work Boots Shoes 11 Medium (d) BhfoRed Wing Heritage Beckman 9016 BootsMens Ariat Workhog Square Toe Soft Toe Leather Work Boots Sz 10 DRed Wing Men's Foreman Chukka Boots (10.5 D)Mens Ariat Ats Max Overdrive Pull On H2o Ct Tan Leather Work Boots 10.5 DCarolina Mens 10e Brown 8in Insulated Waterproof Composite Toe Work Boots 9528Mens Ariat Ats Max Workhog Pull On Tan Leather Work Boots Sz 10.5 DRed Wing Iron Ranger Heritage Boot Style 8085 Size 9 Rrl Beckman Kapital BootsRed Wing Heritage Blacksmith Men's Boots 6" Inch 2955 Spitfire Black Leather 8.5Red Wing BootsTimberland 4663 Mens Pit Boss 6" Brown Work Boots Shoes 11.5 Medium (d) BhfoFrye Work Boots Made In U.s.a. Brown Leather Mens Size 11 Us$260.00 Red Wing 8880 Round Toe Boot Copper Rough- 9111 Shoes 13 Men's Double H Gel Ice Cowboy Western Work Boots Size 14 EeRed Wing Shoes 3144 Light Green Taupe Chukka Boots Size 9d MediumRed Wing Shoes Men's Nude Suede Classic Boots Us 9.5 Eu 42.5 K1442cLevi's 3207 Mens Compass Brown Leather Work Boots Shoes 9 Medium (d) BhfoKeen Bison Men's Soft Toe Work Boots Sz 11Cabelas Mens Work Boots Size 11d A Nice Clean Boot Gore-tex LinedTimberland Brown Leather Lace Up High Cut Work Boots Size 11Custom Wesco Harness Boots Double Midsole Mahogany Brown Leather 11aWesco Damn Tough Boots Highliner Jobmaster Motorcycle Size 8 Lace To ToeRed Wing Heritage Classic Round Toe 8822 Men's BootsRed Wing Shoes Men's 12 D Work Boots Logger Lineman Goretex Euc Leather 9" 629Dr. Martens Mens Ironbridge St Brown Safety Toe Work Boots Shoes Dm351 Size 10 MRed Wing 2400 Hunting Boots Size 9 D, Very Nice