November December, 2004




History Meets High-Tech

Wesco and White take their boots into the 21st century

By Kurt Glaeseman

Ask 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 16”.

Roberta Shoemaker, 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 me.”

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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This page was last updated on Wednesday, December 29, 2004