Are Blundstones quietly treading into western Canadian farming?
That’s what I wondered this summer after attending a couple of field days and found a number of farmers and agronomists were wearing the fashionable, expensive and tough Australian boots.
“I was a hiker-shoe kind of person, but I was tired of getting soil in my socks and laces,” said Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers’ agronomist Kristin Podolsky.
“I have work boots but they have laces. I have western boots but they are too high.”
That’s part of why I got some as well, a year or two ago. I have three young kids and I’m sick to death of tying my shoes 10 times a day as we go places. Plus, they’re tough and you can abuse them.
Also, I like big, clunky British-style footwear, but can’t bring myself to buy a pair of Doc Martens, because that would be like bringing back my outfit of the 1980s.
The boots are common in cities across Canada, generally worn by hip urbanites, but they are still rare out in farm country. That’s odd, because they were originally designed to be farm and work boots for Australian settlers.
At the field days I attended, most of the Blundstones I saw were worn by professional agronomists and farm advisers, who provided a touch of Ag Chic, rather than on farmers. Farmers were wearing that mix of rugged work boots, hiking boots, dirty sneakers and cowboy boots that has been common at such events for years.
But are prairie farmers wearing Blundstones?
I took to Facebook and Twitter to see if I could scare up any one.
Sure enough, a healthy smattering of Blundstone-wearers popped up almost immediately, usually proclaiming feelings of love and loyalty.
“I have 3 pairs. Best work boots ever. 2 years going strong,” tweeted Randolph, Man., farmer Kevin Peters.
Hodgeville, Sask., farmer and custom harvester Lee Peterson tweeted: “They make the best boots I have ever worn.”
On Facebook, Lisa Kellar Young said: “They are the most comfortable boots I have ever owned and LOVE them. Wear them on the farm or give them a good polish and dress them up!”
A friend and horseperson in southern Alberta noted a unique Canadian risk from Blundstones: some of the soles get rigid and slip in frigid prairie conditions, so watch out in days of deep cold.
A number of farmers noted wearing or having the boots for both work duties and fancier times, which is something I heard as well from my Australian neighbour Liz.
Farmers Down Under often have a rough pair for work and a fancy pair to take to town.
There also appears to be a class system of Blundstone-style boots in Australia. There are cheaper styles than “Blunnies,” made by competitors and ones more expensive. A number of people noted that R. M. Williams boots are what a person buys if they want to display their appreciation for the highest craftsmanship, or to prove that they can afford to spend more on boots than you can imagine.
I found farmers from across the Prairies who picked up Blundstones in Australia, often on agricultural exchanges, and others who have found them in farm and industrial supply stores here.
I live in Winnipeg. They’re not hard to find here. Just a mile from my house is one of the city’s biggest malls and Blundstones are the big display item in front of one shoe store, probably aimed at the back-to-school crowd.
Will they remain an urban Canadian phenomenon, worn mainly by soft city folks who don’t challenge their toughness, or will they creep out further into farm country, to challenge the regular work boots, sneakers and cowboy boots that now rule the realm of farm footwear?
I don’t know, but I’ll be walking around farm shows from now on looking down at people’s feet as much as I will be looking up at big machinery or out at bushy crops.
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