I want you to take a minute and imagine a shoe, but let’s get more specific than that, visualise a boot.
A boot that became a brand, and a brand that has seen its products rise to global success over the last 150 years. Imagine a brand whose boots have reached the heights of Mount Everest and the catwalks of the world’s fashion capitals. Imagine boots that have endured both World Wars and the Great Depression, surviving trends as widespread as ’60s swing to ’80s grunge. If you’re still with me, visualise that this same brand and its global success was established in 1870 in Hobart, Tasmania. If you haven’t joined the dots just yet, we are talking about the Australian family- owned company, Blundstone. A company who as well as achieving all of the above produce one of, if not the world’s best work boots – a company who in 2020 celebrate its 150-year anniversary.
It does strike me as a little surprising that a single family-owned Australian business has been able to not only reach this level of success, but also maintain it over such a substantial and impressive length of time. One and a half centuries is more than impressive, it’s downright amazing.
When founder John Blundstone started producing fit-for-purpose footwear that could withstand the cobbled city streets, rugged farmland, dance and factory floors of Hobart in the late 1800s, his vision and delivery set in motion a legacy and reputation for style and quality that would see his products highly sought-after on a global scale. This very same vision and values of its founders continues today to be embraced by the 100 per cent family-owned business. One hundred and fifty years on, the commitment to durability, quality and innovation has not wavered, making the Blundstone range of work boots the first choice for a massive amount of tradies globally.
If you are wondering how Blundstone is celebrating this huge anniversary of 150 years, we caught up with Adam Blake, Global Head of Brand, Design and Consumer Engagement, who shared, “We know that when you pull on a pair of Blundstones, you set out to do something. So whilst our boots won’t change the world by themselves, the people that wear them just might. Over the years we have created millions and millions of boots for an incredibly diverse set of consumers from all walks of life.
“Our story is also their story. We will mark the occasion of our 150th anniversary by celebrating those who have worn Blundstones in the past and those who wear them today – and to ultimately inspire the next generation who pull on a pair of Blundstones in the future.”
Adam continued, “It would be impossible for us to celebrate our anniversary without our partners. Our success today is built on partnerships in both supply and distribution that are grounded in trust and collaboration. We’re incredibly open to celebrating our success with our partners– we know we didn’t get here on our own. “As a brand that’s truly consumer- centric, our Blundstone community is intrinsic to how we’ll be celebrating our 150th anniversary. Our passionate Blundstone fans are the reason we are still here and, we hope, will continue to be well into the future.”
Australian worksites and tradies, in particular, are notoriously hard on tools and equipment. Conditions that see many other boot brands tear, rip and fall apart over the varied conditions boots face, from puddles, mud and extreme heat to the snow and frost of the Southern states.
The Blundstone range of work boots covers: Zip Up Series, Elastic Sided Series, Women’s Safety Series, Boa Series, Lace Up Series, Extreme Series and Gumboot Series. Regardless of the style and type of boot you prefer, Blundstone has your back… and your feet covered.
The humble origins of Blundstone read much like the script of a classic Australian film, starting with a 93-day boat journey from England in the 1850s. Within a decade, boots were being imported from England and then produced from locally sourced Australian leathers. Before long Blundstone Boots were winning awards and going onto the feet of Australian soldiers in WW1. By this stage production had reached 2000 pairs of boots per week, the word Tasmania had been amended into the Trademark.
Post-war times with the Great Depression saw the company sell to the Cuthbertson’s Family who still owns the company to this very day and at the time had their very own quality name in the footwear industry.
By the time the1940s rolled around Blundstone had supplied half a million pairs of boots to the Australian Army in WW2 and the American soldiers would try to swap boots with Australians to get their own feet into a pair of Blundstones.
The post-war decades saw Blundstone lead the way with cutting-edge sole technology, and word of design and manufacturing ingenuity began to spread globally. Orders for made to order boots that could withstand extreme conditions inundated the Campbell Street Factory.
The ‘60s and late ‘70s saw a global market open up to our Pacific neighbours and a partnership with the CSIRO saw innovative developments that would again win awards and achieve international acclaim.
The ‘80s held a knighthood for managing director Sir Harold Cuthbertson. Bigger factories in Hobart and Auckland began operations and exporting to Europe saw Blundstone truly become a global brand. Meanwhile more awards and accolades unfolded back home, including an Australian Export Award in 1986.
The pull-on, kick-off style elastic-sided series provides lace less convenience with total foot safety and Blundstone comfort. Regardless of the use or purpose of the Blundstone boot, the comfort factor has been consistent over the years. From a punk band in the UK looking for an industrial look to a tradie or miner in WA looking for the ultimate safety boot, the comfort factor and durability has and continues to be synonymous with the brand.
From Aussie soldiers, Everest expeditioners, miners and musicians to footballers, farmers, tap dancers and Olympic Athletes, Blundstone has helped many elite Australians and regular Joe Blows over the years put their best foot forward. It makes you ask yourself the question, what has been the secret to this success?
Well, the most obvious answer to that question is quality, versatility and functionality. You can pull them on and off 10,000 times, mess them up, dress them down – or the other way around. When you buy a pair of boots for a certain purpose and they excel at this task, then also turn out to be great for many other tasks, and then outlast your other boots, well it won’t be a hard decision when the time comes to replace or upgrade said boots –you’re going to stick with Blundstone.
The ‘90s and 2000s saw the company’s growth continue its trajectory, crossing over into the arts and fashion off the back of exposure with international Australian success stories like Taps Dogs and growth back into sectors like kids and women’s safety footwear were well received. By the late 1990s and early 2000 Blundstone was being sold in over 22 countries worldwide.
By mid-2000s Blundstone had become the preferred boot of global travellers with the Mountain Master hiking boot range and new global supply chains across the entire ranges paid dividends.
This is the type of Australian success story that legends are made of. When quality isn’t compromised and values are held true through the generations. Next time you’re thinking about grabbing a new pair of work boots, think about the Australian history and culture that is embedded into every pair of Blundstones. Wear them with pride and appreciation of the evolution and knowledge that has gone into every single pair.