We at Pureman salute the Aussie classics. Let us introduce you to our collection of the best Australian chelsea boot brands
(Read Time: 2.5 Minutes)
Before we begin, I’m going to clarify. I’m not going to be talking about steel toe work boots and I’m also going to be leaving out RM Williams, because as awesome and Aussie as they have been, this proud list isn’t about $450 handmade boots owned by Chanel...no offence, Hugh. We love ya, mate. This is about the classic Australian boot that you can wear to work and then throw on a pair of jeans and head to the pub while sporting the same pair of kicks. The kind of boots your lady can wear and a uni student can rock just as perfectly. This is Pureman’s list of the best Australian chelsea boot brands.
Once upon a time, if you were travelling overseas and spotted anyone in brown boots with round toes and elastic sides you could walk up to them with a ‘G’day’ and know you’d be enjoying a beer with a new friend before the day was done. For better or worse, these boots are worn all over the world from Israel to the Hollywood red carpet.
The big question is, what are you looking for in a pair of boots? Probably not the qualities you find in a type of shoe that you’re going to wear to a wedding or to the boardroom. Those kinds of shoes may get you a few odd glances if you decide to wear them to the local footy match. Generally speaking, we’re talking about a pair of low key, comfortable chelsea boots that leave you sure footed in the scalding Australian sun or when you’re drenched with rain. If you live in Victoria, that’s most likely on the same day. So let’s get to it. We’ll start with the boot brand that has been synonymous with the Australian style for about a million years or so…
The Blundstone Classic 500 Boot
Blundstone is one of Australia’s oldest continually operating shoe companies. Established in 1870 in Tasmania, they “know a thing or two about comfort, quality and safety”. My dad’s been wearing these boots for the past 40 years. My first pair of boots was a pair of Blundstones. It’s a fair dinkum Aussie right of passage to own a pair. You’d almost say up until recently it was the population’s go-to pair because they were the only option! Everyone knows them as hardwearing, long lasting and above all else, comfortable boots.
But no great story comes without its dramas. The first cracks started to appear, so to speak, when they moved the manufacturing overseas in 2007, with 300 factory jobs lost in Hobart. When some of the first boots made overseas hit Australian shores, the first controversies exploded. Just like the soles of the boots themselves. Reports came in from everywhere that 3 months after purchase, soles were falling apart and ‘exploding’. Most memorable was a complaint made by Russell Crowe at the height of his fame, that he had become very disappointed in the manufacturer and company after a lifetime of wearing Blundstones. This Hollywood influence tarnished the brand name, for some irreparably. However, in good form Blundstone apologised for a particular batch of their boots that had not been made with their time tested sole bonding technique. The majority of Blundstones made were exactly the same as they’d ever been, despite not being made on Australian soil. A mate of mine currently owns a pair of Blundstone work boots and a pair of their dress boots. My father still refuses to wear any other kind. He says, “they just don’t feel right”. And damned if they don’t look good.
While all of the Blundstone hoopla was taking place, if you were from South Australia you may not have even noticed. Rossi is a family owned company that has been in production since 1908. For many years, if you were part of the Australian Defense Force you were likely issued a pair of these bad boys. Their Endura boots don’t look dissimilar to Blundstones in their profile, their price point is comparable and to this day, they’re made at the same factory in Adelaide. Talk about national pride. Love it or hate it, the rear pull tab on Rossi boots is a piece of leather while the front tab sports the brand name. If you are looking for a comparison to the Blundstone 500, you’d be looking at the Rossi Endura series. If you want to stay loyal to the Aussie made boot on Aussie land, these ones are for you. Their nitrile soles are beautifully bonded and they shine up well for a night out. However, it’s all about give and take.
After 6 years of wearing my own Endura boots, I can see the soles starting to give up the ghost, the heel cups have completely disintegrated and, well, my toes just don’t have as much room as they’d like. Maybe 6 years is just the life expectancy of a Rossi on my foot. That being said, these feet in my Rossi's have been all around the world and to the casual observer, they still look pretty flash.
The newest player on the list has to be Redback out of New South Wales. I first encountered these chelseas when looking for a pair of Australian boots whilst overseas. I thought they looked pretty sharp, albeit different than what I was used to in a pair of Aussie kicks. But they were also about $40 less expensive...that’s a win in my books. The online reviews for the Redbacks were amazing, then I met an American mechanic rocking a pair who said he’d bought them from his tool supplier and he was never wearing another kind of boot again. I was sold. 2 weeks later and overseas shipping rates applied, I was wearing a pair.
These boots are definitely on the chunkier side compared to their aforementioned counterparts, the lower part of the sole is practically a clear rubber and they’re made with 3 pieces of leather instead of 2. This gives them a mean strip down the front of the boot, but also makes them instantly comfortable. No awkward break in time needed. It’s honestly tough to fault these boots except that when trying to dress them up a bit they don’t quite make the club scene. Their sizing uses half sizes as width, the same as Blundstone. Usually, though, they fit a bit wider even in the whole sizes. If I’m on my feet all day, these are my go-tos, but if I know I’m heading out after the work day is done, I sacrifice some comfort for a simpler style.
To wrap things up, Blundstones have the greatest selection of styles and colours with a boot made for almost any occasion. You just have to get over the fact that they aren’t made in Australia anymore, though the company is still Aussie. Rossi’s give you the same look and that good old National pride, but I’m not sure they have the longevity of their rivals. But my mate, a suburban land surveyor who spends all day on his feet kicking dirt, swears by his Redbacks. The good news is, all of these boots are comfortable, they’re all Australian and you can easily see the same pair of boots being worn by a hipster sharing a pint with a tradie at the local. Bottom line, try them all on and the right pair will speak to you. Your response? Ahhh…
*Special shout out to Aussie boot aficionado Jeremiah Tickell!
Photo Credit: @blundstoneca