Iconic bootmaker Blundstone turns 150 this year, and the company is marking the occasion in style with its latest release: the #150 boot, a limited-edition run that pays homage both to Blundstone's legacy of Australian artisanship and to the rugged island where it all began.
The company was founded in 1870 by English-born settler John Blundstone, a stagecoach builder drawn to the possibilities of life and business in the then-colony. He pivoted to shoe manufacturing soon after arriving, and his Hobart-based operation quickly became known for its sturdy, functional boots built to tackle Tasmania's wild terrain and the daily rhythms of everyday islanders.
At the time, the island's main economic drivers were agriculture and sheep herding — but that agrarian lifestyle shifted as the region's profitable mining industry began to take off. (In 1895, the northern city of Launceston became the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to have electric streetlights.) Blundstone set out to create footwear that could "withstand cobbled city streets, rugged farmland, and dance and factory floors," CEO Steve Gunn told Travel + Leisure. "150 years later, the commitment to durability, quality, and innovation has not wavered."
Since those early days in Hobart, Blundstones have followed Australians from the pastures to the mines to the Winter Olympics. Blundstone outfitted Australian soldiers during both World Wars — and even equipped an Australian expedition for their successful ascent of Mount Everest in the 1970s. But while the brand has skillfully adapted to a changing world — gaining popularity among urbanites and creatives, with boots on the ground, so to speak, in 70 countries — some aspects of the operation remain unchanged since the 19th century. "We remain 100 percent family-owned," explained Gunn. "In the late 1800s, we were one of 350 cobblers in Tasmania. In 2020, we are the only one remaining."
On the face of it, the #150 is a nod to the classic silhouette that earned Blundstone its loyal following. It's a riff on the brand's instantly recognizable elastic-sided Chelsea boot — Joe Carfora, who oversees global product and design for the company, explained that “the #150 was inspired by our iconic #500, the oldest pattern in the range." Thick auburn leather uppers and impact-absorbing soles are complemented by subtle updates that include hand-printed lining, rolled edges, and pull-tabs with gold stitching.
But the #150 also exhibits an unmistakeable pride of place. "The isolated environment of Tasmania can foster resourcefulness and creative thinking," said Gunn. "Living on an island has an impact on the way you do business and the products you make." Carfora explained that, as a nod to the company's homeland, the design team drew from the palette of Tasmania's distinctive landscape: "the rich bronze, auburn, and gold of the wilderness."
The #150 is a collector's item for any Blundstone devotee: "It's a tangible way to mark a moment in time," Gunn told T+L, "and one we’re incredibly proud of." But it's also a damn good boot. And it's built to last, just like Blundstone itself.
The Blundstone #150 comes in women's and men's styles and is available at blundstone.com or at retailers like Nordstrom and REI. $205.
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