A work boot protects the wearer from harm, particularly those that arise due to one’s occupation. For example, a construction worker should wear steel-toed boots. Likewise, there are work boots that work best against water, chemicals, and the cold. This wasn’t the case when the work boot was in its infancy.
Wooden Work Boots
So, how did the work boot come to be in the first place? We have to go back to the Industrial Revolution. This period took place from the late 18th century to early 19th century. Droves of people in Europe were moving from rural areas to work in cities and factories. Instead of steel-toed boots, they were using wooden boots referred to as sabots.
People in farmers were already using these wooden boots. Farmers didn’t worry about getting hurt by sharp objects or farm animals. In the Netherlands, these sabots had a significant role. The workers actually used them for protests. The working class would throw the sabots into the gears. This would then halt production in factories.
Shift to Steel-Toed Boots
First, there were wooden boots and leather boots. After that, there was a big shift to steel-toed or safety boots. This occurred in the early 20th century. Industrialization was rampant. More and more people needed a trustworthy pair of boots to protect their feet at all times. Cases of work-related injuries were increasing. Also, the existing laws didn’t help keep the workers safe.
The enactment of Compensation laws finally convinced companies to get good safety equipment. It was no longer a good financial decision to replace an injured worker. The compensation companies gave was far pricier than buying safety equipment. In line with this, boots became steel-toed. These worker safety boots prevented many punctures and other safety-related issues.
Starting in the 1930s, Red Wing Shoes began manufacturing steel-toed work boots. On a related note, German marching boots were also reinforced with steel toe caps. These became the standard boots of non-commissioned officers during World War II.
U.S. Laws and Subcultures
By 1970, the United States also improved worker safety. They enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration set the workplace standards. The use of appropriate work boots reduced work-related injuries. This was a good change in mining industries and construction sites.
Of course, the steel-toed boots became used beyond the workplace. Punks and other subcultures used steel-toed boots and other work boots in the early 1960s. Fast-forward to today, and work boots have improved a lot. They now look better and are sturdier than ever before. Work boots now come in various styles and colors. There are now variants that use plastic or composite material. Still, many workers still have work boots with steel reinforcements.