Vintage Boots for the Outdoors: the Inspirations Behind Sierra

Have you checked out our Beloved Boots collection yet? It features a brand-new style, the Sierra Vintage Boots. Named for the wondrous and mighty mountain range that stretches from Nevada down into California, Sierra is a rubber-soled leather beauty based on outdoors boots from the 1930s and 1940s. Let’s take a look at some of the original references, shall we?

If you are a regular blog reader, you likely saw our recent post about the types of carriage boots, overshoes, galoshes, and bootie styles that were the inspiration behind our Alpen Booties. These sorts of overshoes were a popular option for ladies in the first decades of the 20th century because they protected one’s gorgeous pretty shoe collection from getting damaged by snow, rain, etc. (plus, they were cute to boot). But, overshoes were for getting from point A to point B, not for trekking, hiking, walks in the snow, trudging through marshes, camping…you get the point. For those sort of outdoor activities, a more solid outdoors boot was needed.

Dina sur la route (Dina on the road), 1937, by photographer Pierre Jamet. From The Eye of Photography archives.

The outdoors boots of the 1930s took a lot of inspiration from menswear, and from the outdoors boots of decades past. Really, if you take a look at your modern snowboots, the silhouette is still pretty similar to the snowboots of 90 years ago. These boots were about function over fashion (though a touch of fashion can’t hurt, right?). Sturdy, lace-up leather boots were the name of the game.

Some men’s options from fall of 1940.

M’lady!! Outdoors boots and shoes from the fall 1935 Sears catalogue.

One could acquire their outdoors boots in a variety of heights- bootie height, mid-calf (often called “high shoes” in catalogues), and tall. Vintage tall boots for the outdoors share a lot of similar characteristics with our Bessie Aviator Boots! Tall boots for winter were often lined in fur, or came with felt inserts for warmth. Our new Sierra boots are mid-calf, which was a popular height for boots. Tall enough to protect you from getting snow in your shoes, but easily paired with different types of trousers and togs.

Winter clothes from the late 1940s. Such lovely sweaters!

Unlike popular shoe styles at the time, outdoors boots were relatively limited in terms of color choice. Black, brown, and tan were the most popular colors, followed closely by white, which we think adds a bit of fashion into the mix. Two-tone options became an option in the 1940s, which is also when decorative and functional buckles started to come into the mix. Laces remained the mainstream choice for winter boots (but if you’re interested in a workboot with buckles, check out Rosie and our post on double-buckle combat boots).

Fall 1939 boot options- note the square toes on some of the boots, which were the preferred shape for skiing.

1930s outdoors boots usually had leather uppers, a sort of rubber sole and heel, and a warm textile or shearling lining. Some styles were designed with a roll cuff, so that one could fold the top of their boot down, tastefully showing off the shearling or textile lining. This look could be replicated with a fur cuff sock, if you so desired it. Does anyone else remember when people were doing this with their Ugg boots? Has that trend circled back around again?

Some women’s outdoor boot options from Abercrombie & Fitch, 1939.

Winter footwear from fall 1938. Not only where boots available, but lined shoes- check out those lined oxfords, and the step-in shoe with elastic inserts.

Rubber was the material of choice for soles and heel caps. Leather and fabric soles were no match for ice, snow, and salt. Rubber was waterproof, durable, and gripped nicely.

During our design process, we often referred to the boot that would come to be named Sierra as the ‘1930s ski boot’, because, well, they bare a resemblance to vintage ski boots. Skiiers out there, can you imagine shredding down the mountain in a pair of leather lace-up boots, attached to your skiis with leather straps? These ski boots evolved to have thick soles that could sometimes snap into a binding with a metal apparatus. Still, I imagine they weren’t very warm or sturdy. But you have to admit, they do complete that quintessential vintage-ski-outfit look! Sierra boots would look delightful donned for sipping some hot chocolate by an outdoor fire bit at the base of a mountain…just don’t try to actually ski in them, please!

If you’re in the market for some actual vintage leather ski boots circa the 1930s-1940s, the folks at Vintage Winter have you covered!

No helmets, no sunglasses or goggles, no waterproof ski pants…but dang did they look good!

A break from hiking in 1937.

If you are now so inspired to put together a 1930s outdoors ensemble, might we suggest grabbing your own pair of Sierra Boots on sale during our pre-order. You get $20/€20 off per pair through December 22!

Pre-Order is Open
December 8-22, 2023
$20/€20 Discount Per Pair

One Comment

  • Sharon Redgrave

    December 12, 2023 at 8:23 PM

    I had ski boots in the 1960’s exactly as you describe! They were just past ankle height (broken ankle, anyone?), thick, thick, sole that the toe hooked under a clamp on my skis, then there was a rachet attached to a coiled wire harness that when you pushed the racket on the ski down, the wire harness clamps around the heel of your boot. I’m amazed I never broke a leg !

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