My old high school friend Patty, now a long time resident of Maine, sent me a photo of her vintage Vasque hiking boots circa 1977. They still have plenty of wear in them and so she’s offering them free to a good home. It’s brought back a flood of memories from Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska back in the late 70’s.
Memories of the “what were we thinking?” type.
I owned a pair of these. Well, I sort of owned a pair of these. Mine were the cheaper knock off versions offered by stores such as JC Penney. The really cool kids had the more expensive prototypes; Vasque or Dexter. Here’s a few examples found on the internet:They were hiking boots and not meant for snow at all. They weren’t waterproof and they weren’t insulated. Kids would spray them with some kind of sealant to protect the suede but it did very little to keep out the snow and the wet. And we got plenty of snow in Nebraska. That lugged sole had traction though, I’ll give it credit for that.
And they were heavy. It felt like dragging around two bricks strapped to your feet. Who needs that when you’re racing off to chemistry lab at one end of the building, then orchestra practice at the other?
We pretended like they were snow boots but we suffered because of it. No wonder we did our best to avoid the outdoors in Omaha from December through early March.
It was a look. You’d wear these with your faded Levi jeans and a fair isle sweater in order to blend in with the hip crowd. I bought into the trend as did most of my friends. It must have been an image borrowed from our next door neighbors in Colorado where the fad was more legit. They had mountains to climb after all.
Fast forward several years and I find myself in Northern New England in 1985 at my first teaching job in Orford, NH. That was the year I was introduced to some serious winter outerwear for some serious winter. Warm and dry feet were a top priority and folks dressed for the weather not in spite of it. And, because of this, I started to embrace the elements instead of avoiding them. The winter boot choices were simple; Sorel or L.L. Bean. My first pair were L.L. Bean Maine Winter Boots with dark brown uppers and charcoal grey felt liners.
- Waterproof? Check.
- Warm and cozy? Check.
- Good traction on ice and snow? Check.
- Attractive? That’s not the point.
These were outdoor wear. You’d bring your indoor shoes with you in a bag to school or to work and switch them out. People certainly owned hiking boots but they weren’t confusing them with fashion boots. Hiking boots were, and still are, mostly for hiking. Thankfully they’ve become more lightweight and ergonomic. Here’s some modern day Vasque hikers:Not sure that this is a look teens are going for nowadays except when on a trail.
I wore those first L.L. Bean winter boots for many years. The felt liner was detachable and could be replaced inexpensively. As I recall, the company would also replace a worn out sole for free, no questions asked. I might have done that once (thanks L.L. Bean).
I would still be sporting the L.L. Bean look had it not been for the new kid on the block…Bogs.
The colorful floral patterns were all the rage around here when the brand was first introduced.
These boots have it all. Not only are they waterproof, insulated, capable of excellent traction on snow and ice, easy to slip on and off but they are cute and sassy. They’re just a little rebellious don’t you think? You know, in a floral pattern on a winter boot kind of way?
My first pair
My latest pair.
Style and color options keep on coming. Even though I don’t need replacements, I’m very tempted by these green and blue versions:
And look… they have red!
Now we can wear sensible winter boots and have fun! What will they think of next?
And just so I don’t leave you with the idea that Nebraska teens are the only ones susceptible to dysfunctional winter boot trends, let me remind you of the ubiquitous Ugg Boot as worn by many a brainwashed middle school girl around these parts.My daughter and her friends wore these every winter from sixth through eighth grade. There is absolutely nothing that recommends them for the outdoors. They are very expensive and become completely trashed by the end of a New Hampshire winter. Further more, for some strange reason, girls refuse to wear them with socks. The foot odor caused by this is completely unbearable. They have absolutely no structural support and, until recently, no traction on the bottom of the sole. Weren’t these first invented for Apres skiing meant to be worn at the lodge around the fireplace?
This is how they end up at the end of the winter.
No wonder they call them “Uggs.”