What Are Heritage Boots?
A number of companies are now producing and selling what are known as "heritage boots", often as a rugged boot design for casual wear.
What gives? What are heritage boots anyhow?
A "heritage" product is simply a reproduction or continuation of a classic product that remains in production in the modern-day due to its inherent virtues. It can be almost anything; it's just that the idea has caught on in footwear as it has elsewhere.
Are they good choices for casual wear or for other purposes? Actually, if you invest in a good pair, it's about a solid purchase that you can make.
Heritage Boots: Old School Designs That Proved Themselves
A number of different bootmakers have some sort of heritage boots in their catalog. Typically, it's a seemingly older design of boot or shoe - we like to think of them as established - that still has some cachet in the market.
It's like a lot of different kinds of products where an item that was standard in the industry many years ago remains in production because people still want them. Usually, it's because the item in question was so good that demand never completely died out, or increased again with the vagaries of fashion.
You could name all kinds of examples. Gibson, the guitar company, still sells a lot of Les Paul guitars that are basically identical to the ones they made in the 1950s. Morris chairs, a type of chair with a reclined back, wood frame and plush leather cushions, have been in production since the 1860s. And so on and so forth.
Heritage boots are typically classic footwear designs - typically an old design of work boots - that may be perfectly suited for light-duty work and worn as a daily casual boot.
Wolverine's 1000-Mile boot and Redwing Iron Ranger boots are good examples. The Iron Ranger is literally the shoe that started that company; Redwing got their start making work boots for miners in Minnesota's Mesabi Iron Range (in...shocker...Redwing, Minnesota) of the exact same design. Those are their heritage models because that's what those companies were making when they started.
So they must have some virtues...right?
Good Heritage Boots Are Good, Poor Copies Are Still Lousy
There's a big degree of difference between footwear made in a huge factory for mass export and heritage boots made by a bootmaker that actually cares about making a quality boot.
If you invest in a quality pair of boots from a serious bootmaker of practical footwear, you're making an investment that could last you the rest of your life. If you buy a pair of fashionable retro boots from JCPenney...chances are you're going to buy a new pair next year. If not sooner.
Classic work boots are typically a 6-inch leather boot, which is compact enough to be worn indoors without discomfort but rugged enough to do a lot more. Colors of leather are usually classic colors like tan, brown, typically a more red-brown shade with its own name, and of course, black. Therefore, they can be polished to a high shine while being rugged enough to tackle any activity.
Unlike a typical work boot, they'll have a more casual sole such as a Vibram half-lug or V-bar sole, and a shorter heel profile as well.
Classic work shoes are often far more sturdy than your typical Oxfords, though they will be similar in appearance. Leather soles are replaced with a similar casual lug sole, making such shoes formal enough for all but formal wear....though our Comstock leather shoes definitely look great with a suit.
Like investing in quality work boots, you're paying for craft, as quality heritage boots are usually handmade by craftspeople, who know their trade and care about what they do. You're also getting better quality materials, and quality leather goods - with care - will last you a very long time. Quality heritage boots and shoes are also resoleable and rebuildable, which means they can be kept in working order for life without issue.
A custom-fit, quality made "heritage" boot may not necessarily be as rugged as a work boot made in the same fashion...but it's the same investment in quality footwear that you can depend on for decades.