Boot it Up
Blundstone boots are made for walking
By Deb Cummings. Photographed by Jared Sych
Blundstones (or “Blunnies” as they are called Down Under) evolve at roughly the same rate as the shark that has been rocking the same look for about 20 million years. Sure, there may be 100 variations of these leather boots in Australia, and about 25 in Canada, but it’s the classic No.500 in stout brown that continues to reign top shelf-as it has since the boot was crafted in 1870 in Tasmania.
“We think of Blunnies as the Birkenstocks or Levis 501 of boots,” chuckles Ian Heaps, CEO of Blundstone Canada, from his home office in Collingwood, Ont. With street cred based on comfort and durability, they’re fashion-proof. Name another piece of footwear that can be hoofed around in by three to 80-year olds.
“The power of the word of foot is remarkable,” says Heaps. “Blundstones have been around for 145 years and are still owned by the same family-the Cuthbertsons-that started the company in Tasmania.”
Blunnies are a great boot for travellers. Need to remove your shoes at airport security? There’s no hassle with laces or buckles. Want something that’s rugged enough to ride horses in the Outback (Blunnies are the cowboy boots of Oz), but comfy enough to tromp across Europe’s cobblestoned alleyways? These are it. No wonder war correspondents have endorsed this brand for decades.
“We even got a letter from travellers in Thailand who said they worked well on a beach,” adds Heaps. “When they filled up with sand, they just dumped it out.”
Blundstones are available in 500 stores across Canada, often wedged between Dr.Martens and Clarks. Canada is second to Australia in terms of sales volume, reporting $15 million last year. Reticent to reveal profits, Blundstone HQ does however report producing 10,000 pairs a day.
The boots used to be made only in Tasmania and then later Australia, but now Blunnies are manufactured internationally with the leather sourced from around the planet. But the design and craftsmanship hasn’t changed. Often a boot’s Achilles heel is where the upper section meets the sole-precisely where the leather marries a synthetic. Blundstones are designed differently; dubbed as “vulcanization,” an inch and half of leather wraps around the entire boot and is fused to the side. It’s not what Spock wore but it’s similar to how tires are made.
Not a squirt of glue is used on these boots. Rather, a heat mould with polyurethane and rubber is welded right to the sole. It’s virtually a seamless boot-therefore no leaks, no rubs, nothing to fall apart.
Just like other unsexy Australian footwear-think UGGs-Hollywood has given Blunnies the nod. Sam Worthington wears them, as does Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. “I still remember when Dan Ackroyd bought a pair from us when we opened our first shop in Toronto in 1994,” grins Heaps.
What item of clothing is your go-to travel accessory?
NORMAN HOWE - Blundstone boots. They slip on and off like a dream when going through security, and they are so well cushioned and light that your feet never get fatigued. And they are versatile enough to be worn while lounging in the lobby of the George V in Paris or wandering through the foothills of the Himalayas.