Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Archival Shocker: Heritage Footwear for Women

Work and safety footwear from 1949

Wolverine 1000 Mile boot for women

Full disclosure: Wolverine sent me women's shoes and boots from the Wolverine 1000 Mile Collection for review. Since I primarily shop from defunct companies or out of print catalogs, this was a happy turn of events. Even without testing, I can highly endorse the Wolverine 1000 Mile collection as a rare example of heritage footwear offered for women without compromise in design or build quality. Like the original version for gents, the Wolverine Collection for women is made in the USA and is based on the same original 1000 Mile boot pattern. Both shoe and boot styles are made from Horween Chromexcel leather (an A.C. favorite) and are constructed on a women’s last with a stitched Goodyear welt.

Catalogs in the 30s and 40s sold this style of boot for farm and heavy duty outdoor wear. Sizes were offered for both men and women. Price point was determined by quality of leather and method of construction. In 2010, the traditional work boot is a rarified, special edition style selling at a premium price point in menswear specialty shops (or in Japan). We'd love to see more of these classic, stylish, well built, American boots made available to the general public.

Some use notes and photos:




Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots for women on test

When I first received them, I immediately had Cat's Paw protective rubber half soles affixed to the bottoms of my new shoes by a local Eugene cobbler, Baker's. The climate here in Oregon is wet and it's treacherous to walk tiled hallways or to bicycle w/full leather soles.

In my field testing, I've found that I prefer the boots since their look is more classic and they work better w/my stove pipe trouser legs. I would say that the sizing is generous. I normally wear a women's 8.5 wide and both boots and shoes fit a little on the loose side - in the width. However, with midweight wool socks, the boots fit well and are extremely comfortable.

I've been wearing both the boots and the shoes in rotation. After sporting loafers and camp mocs for so many months, I had forgotten how much support and structure a traditional work boot provides. Steel shanks, solid arch support and leather heel counters have virtually disappeared from modern footwear. Though the Wolverine boots were originally designed for heavy outdoor use, they break in and become comfortable for urban applications like office work or even shopping.

My main critique of the boots is the choice of an antiqued brass finish for the hardware (eyelets and speed laces). Wolverine may have chosen antique brass as a way to signal that the boot design is vintage--something from the past. I'd prefer a normal (shiny) brass finish that would show my own history of wear and aging.

Solid brass hardware. I'd prefer a non "antiqued" finish.

Star rivets. Stitching detail. Gusseted tongue.

The Addie wingtips are sleek, modern, classic without being gratuitously feminized. I love the contrast stitching along the welt. For my own purposes, I'd prefer the oxford in dark brown. I challenge you to show me one other US company producing a classic, US made, low top oxford for women in top quality materials. These used to be standard issue.

Leather stacked sole (great for keeping your foot on a pedal)

Leather sole (pre-Cat's Paw installation)

Handstitching on sole of shoe. I do wish the stitching were recessed into a channel to prevent wear.

Example of recessed stitching on a pair of Tim Little brogues


Favorite detail: hard rubber sole. You never see these on modern shoes for women.


For interested parties, Wolverine 1000 Mile boots and shoes for women are currently available at Leffot (http://www.leffot.com/) in NYC. Leffot will do phone orders and ship anywhere in the world. We'd love to see these shoes and boots become available in brick and mortar stores on the West Coast.


A now a word from our sponsors:

15 comments:

Fern said...

Consider me shocked!! Hope this is just the beginning of making heritage footwear more widely available to the previously ignored popular of women who like this classic stuff. Also, Lesli, your attention to detail is unrivaled. Solid review. Glad to see that you did not tuck these fine boots into pedal cages on your test ride.

Are they currently available for online purchase? I'm worried the price will be $300+, like the mens version. If that is the case, I might just snag a pair of (previously recommended) Blunnies or Rossi boots and cross off winter boots from my checklist.

You're an inspiration!

http://boytoms.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Are Frye's still made in the USA? They have three styles of very classic women's oxfords in their current line: Erin, James, and the somewhat cowboy-boot-ish Carson.

andrea.at.the.blue.door said...

The 1000 mile boots look just wonderful - and it sounds like the sizing would work for my foot. Any idea when they'll hit PDX?

Anonymous said...

Very surprised they didn't go with the commando sole on these.

tomtom said...

I like your Boots a lot Lesli, I am currently obsessed with a pair of these: http://www.williamlennon.co.uk/footwear/world-war-1-replica-boot.html

Not sure about hobnails though, have you ever tried them?

Anonymous said...

I'm confused when you say "a hand stitched Goodyear welt."

Quoddy has hand stitched crepe soles. These Goodyear welts are sewn on with a machine. I've seen shoes that are Goodyear welted by hand and they cost thousands of dollars.

Maybe you could clarify.

Betsey said...

Again, you made my day but now I am totally confused as to what shoe to buy. Regardless, I'm inspired!

Lesli Larson said...

Thanks for the comments.

250-300+ seems to be the going price point for Horween leather, goodyear constructed, US made footwear produced to this quality level. Price comparable to Alden and Red Wing Heritage collection. And of course--add $100 for a version for women.

Leffot in NYC carries the boots. Not sure when we'll see these offered in Portland or Seattle shops:

http://blog.leffot.com/2010/10/04/womens-1000-mile-boots/

Anon I: Frye shoes in question are all made in Mexico. I do have several friends who love those styles. Leather and build quality not close to the Wolverines. I like the Frye oxfords but they feel more like modern updates rather than heritage replicas (harder for me to connect them back to a specific catalog page or company add from the 30s, etc).

Tomtom--

I definitely endorse the WWI hobnail boots. I forgot about that site! Order some and write up a review for Archival Clothing

Anon II

You're right. The welts on the Wolverines are machine and not handstitched. I'll correct the post.

For anyone curious about the Wolverines, I'd start with the boots. They're closest to being archival originals.

christina said...

I am more then a bit envious. quality, function and style. I love it. They are going to the top of my list for boots.

Anonymous said...

The half sole looks thin for genuine Cat's Paw. Did your cobbler just glue the thin grippy material to the bottom?

Sylvia Easley said...

These boots looks awesome,anyone wearing it will give a classy look.

Kai said...

Have you been able to compare the men and womens' versions side by side? The shops in my area only carry mens, and I'm wondering whether there's really any difference.

Lesli Larson said...

Kai--

Here's what I heard back from Wolverine:

You are correct. The difference is that the women’s 1000 Mile boot is built on a women’s last and has one less eyelet than the men’s. If she’s interest in purchasing a pair of women’s boots, feel free to give her my contact information and I can connect her with a retailer that can ship her the women’s boots.


Thanks!

Lauren



Lauren Mack

Wolverine Marketing

P: 616.863.4751

lauren.mack@wwwinc.com

Anonymous said...

What socks are they lesli.

Lesli Larson said...

Darn Tough!

http://www.darntough.com/