History Meets High-Tech
Wesco and White take their
boots into the 21st century
By Kurt Glaeseman
a couple of loggers what their favorite boots are and you’re liable to start an
argument — it’s like asking a guy to defend his politics or religion or choice
of pickup trucks. No one is neutral, and there’s a good reason: Logging boots
have evolved to serve a particular industry, where rugged performance is
expected to coincide with long-day comfort. Only the best survive.
Today tight safety and insurance requirements, changing job strategies, the
availability of new materials, and some breakthroughs in design and comfort are
torquing a new look for the twenty-first century logger boot. Wesco celebrated
their 85th anniversary in 2003…and reported heavy sales of their “Firestormer” —
available for firefighters and forest workers in a standard 10” height with
either a lace-to-toe or plain toe model. A good Wesco seller but slightly more
traditional for the logger is the popular Jobmaster, standard at 10-inch height
but available on special order from four to 32”. The oil-tanned uppers are
available in black, redwood or brown; the sole is a Vibram 100 with the block
heel; and both plain toe and lace-to-toe models are available. And Wesco still
offers a complete line of the calked timber boots, available in heights up to
granddaughter of the original West Coast Shoe Company founder. She is the
present President/ CEO of the company.
Another old-timer in the logging boot industry is White’s Boot Company. Started
in 1902, when Otto White moved his boot business from Virginia to Idaho, Whites
have made a name for themselves with calked boots, Smokejumpers and the very
popular packers. According to Gary March, one of the owners, the sale of “corks”
is down. One of the hottest selling boots is the traditional 10-inch Smokejumper
with the lace-to-toe. This 7.5 to 8 ounce leather boot with block heel has
always been popular with loggers, firefighters and Forest Service workers, but
the addition of lace-to-toe means a boot that is easier to get into and, because
it flexes more readily, is easier to break in. This seemingly minor change is
redefining the old Smokejumper look.
The very popular White’s
10-inch Smokejumper with the lace-to-toe. These show the rough side
(leather) on the outside, the deep lug Vibram sole, and the arch-ease heel
set well forward for maximum walking comfort. These are very popular with
firefighters, Forest Service workers, hunters, heavy equipment operators,
truck drivers and hikers.
Saving those favorites
But nothing says you have to part with your old favorites. Many boots can be
rebuilt time and again, and visitors to both factories are often most impressed
with the transformation of an old, beat-up pair of boots. One Oregon logger
summed it up: “By golly, they convinced me they could save the old dogs. I sent
‘em in, waited about a month, and got ‘em back as good as new. My old boots on
my old feet again, ready for another ten thousand miles. They just might outlast
|Boot Talk 101 Think you
know your boot?
• “Corks” may be riveted or driven into the leather of the sole, or they
may be screwed in and are replaceable and come in four size.
•A steel “toe plate” may be installed to
protect the front of the sole; a row of “shot head” (hobnails) may line
the bottom perimeter of the sole and heel; a steel “side plate” may give
extra sole protection for climbers; and “tricounis” (metal grippers from
Swiss mountain climbing boots) may be installed around the edge of the
sole to give solid footing on very steep or rocky ground.
•If “corks” are not used, the sole of the
boot may be Vibram, a brand name for a deep-tread lug sole. The
traditional logger heel, often called a block or a woodman’s heel, is a
high, heavy heel built wider than the heel on a cowboy boot. An
alternative to the block heel is the “spring heel,” the bottom of which is
a one-piece, taping sole.
•Early logging boots were almost always
made with the smooth or hair-side of the leather on the outside, but the
newer “rough out” is now very popular. The coarser side of the leather
gives the boot a suede look, but it also provides very practical benefits:
the rough-out doesn’t nick or scratch as easily as smooth leather; the
stitching sinks deeper into the leather and protects the seams; and some
people simply prefer the smooth side of the leather against their legs.
•Finally, the “false tongues,” often
called “dust-guards” or “brush-catchers,” are six- to eight-inch strips of
leather laced into the bottom eyelets of the boots. They’re designed to
protect the laces and deflect brush from the lace area, and also give an
added layer of protection to the top of the foot. Loggers with an artistic
bent (or maybe just too much time on their hands!) often customize these
brushguards with distinctive notches and cuts.
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