Clothing Stories: The Boots that Lived Beyond One Set of Feet

The whole concept of holding onto a piece of clothing is very endearing, and idealistic. You are recycling! Preserving history! You are a visual embodiment of anti mass consumerism!

the Boot.

My mom: “My dear child, I am now passing down to you this most precious family heirloom. Worn by your grandmother as she tilled the soil, as she worked and sweat poured off her brow, as she forged an enriched life beyond mere survival for her children, and for you. I hope you continue to pass them down for future generations. They carry the story of the roots of our family, its foundation, *SNIFF* cherish them!”

Me: “Um… thanks mom.”

The most horrible shoes known to man.

Story isn’t everything.There needs to be a reason for that piece to be kept around in order for it to be used in various circumstances and for a story to develop. One of the main reasons to keep something around is usefulness. Fits the old adage: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” A prime example of this type of clothing is the work boot, which has made its appearance in popular culture in many different genres, from the Timberland boot to the Doc Marten.

The Doc Martens design has been around since the ’50s and the Timberland design being around since the early 1900s (starting as the Abington Shoe Co.).  They have changed and morphed over the years but the enduring functionality is what gets this shoe through the waves of fashion trends.

Does it surprise anyone that J-lo was the first to show off these monstrosities by Manolo Blahnik… WHY?!
But in the same year you spot variations that continue with the brands ideas of functionality and utility.

Beautiful, and functional styles released by Timberland... much better.

 Story Time: The boots that lived beyond one set of feet

The boots

My family is resourceful, self sustaining, and full of people who love beautiful things. That being said, we are also full of people who scrutinize, look for quality, and a deal! My parents always had the unique ability to create a great quality of life on a very limited budget. We come from a lineage of World War II survivors. Frugality! Thrift! These are things to be proud of, but when you’re a kid and you wear your brothers hand me down jeans sometimes it can get a bit frustrating.

What does make it a bit easier is when you wear something a bit unconventional and it has a cool story behind it. That makes it weird and a badge of honour.

When the three siblings were still kids we were in Ukrainian scouts (called PLAST). This is a bit more rigorous that your everyday run of the mill Girl Scouts. It’s more survival based. It’s tough and of course the main thing you need when trudging on a hike is a good set of footwear. That of course is a pretty big expense for parents — three pairs of hiking boots at roughly 100$ a pair?

So of course when I hit the older group of Scouts I was faced with the fact that I needed some serious foot wear. Enter… the “family boots.” They were dug out, dusted off and given to me. These were a worn pair of yellow leather boots with black ankle padding and trim. They may have been worn but the stitching was intact, the sole was attached.

I really wasn’t excited to wear them.

When you continually get hand me down clothes from your brothers you start getting a bit fed up. Not aware (and not caring) about the social statement that androgyny could be cool, I wanted “girl”, I wanted current, I wanted what the other girls had. NOT some rough looking work boots. And what made things worse was I KNEW that my older brother had worn them in Scouts. But knowing that this was what we had and that there weren’t really other options, I added them to my gear.

My rough and crusty yellow leather boy boots.

“Hey I bought those to use when we were building our houses!” was my mom’s first observation when seeing them again. “Glad they fit! They’re a great pair of boots. I had to get a pair specially made for women so I could work on the house and be around the construction site.”

So they weren’t just some gross pair of boots that my big brother wore? They were actually worn by my mom when they were building the house? That fact sat with me for a while. I remember us having to clear an acre of forest to build our second house. These weren’t just some kid’s hiking boots, these were a grown woman’s work boots. Used to climb over logs! Not just some dumb K-Mart kids pair. Those other kids at Scouts suddenly started to look more and more like suckers.

I suddenly had visions of me scaling mountains with the other Scouts falling behind. Ending with me standing triumphantly at the top of a mountain! Suddenly I could handle any rough trekking in these bad boys. They were rough, for a reason. These were the kind of day dreams fueled by those boots (and by our recent acquisition of the first Tomb Raider game for PC). YES. Adventure here I come.

An artist's rendition of me at camp.

I brought them to camp. Turns out that the leather was so tough from the years of wear that it had a hard time conforming to my foot. I got the most heinous blisters. But I didn’t really care.

The next year, at 14, I took my first trip completely on my own. I flew toWinnipeg by myself to attend a camp there. At 14 you can be as strong willed as you like, but the fact is, if you have great folks, your teen attitude will soon crumble and you will miss them. That time around when I took my boots with me I made sure to bring a couple of pairs of wool socks so that there was a better fit. And when I got there my Lara Croft Tomb Raider day dreams faded and I was left with just a sincere heartfelt bond to those boots. Like a more discrete safety blanket they reminded me of my mom. A comfort I needed when coming face to face with a bear (ok so it was 50 meters away).

To your left you have the round faced 14-year-old me heading off to Winnipeg (saying bye to my Mama). At middle you have the three siblings in Scout uniforms, my middle brother (left) is wearing the boots. Notice his striking resemblance to the kid Russell in the movie "Up."

Without the functional aspect of those boots they never would have survived past my mom’s use of them. The sentimental value attached to them adds to the feeling of wanting to hold on to them. But when holding onto a piece of clothing make sure you have a reason for doing so. Nobody holds onto their three faded black t-shirts they got on sale at Wal-Mart.


About olexpruchnicky

The biggest problem in my life is trying to decide on one particular area, one particular part of life to focus on, to totally immerse myself in. So I've decided not to fight it, and like a whole lot of everything. I become interested when there is creativity, innovation, a bit of controversy, and a deep passion. A little bit of the random crazy and more than anything something that will raise or furrow my brow. Lines on my forehead... worth it. I work in politics, visual arts, music, and photography.


  1. Pingback: I love boots. And Zappos knows it! | nobluehair

  2. This essay is exquisite, lyrical, and interesting. I love it! (Your fellow Ironing Board Collective writer Cheryl Klein sent me the link to this piece.)

  3. Pingback: Our Sunday Best: Family Edition « Bluebird Blvd.

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