Brands You Should Know

Wolverine

The American workwear mainstay that’s crafting sturdy work boots for construction crews and style acolytes alike.

A vintage ad for one of the initial 1,000 Mile boots.

From wholesale supplier and retailer, to power company, to shoe manufacturer. Sounds like a strange progression, but for G.A. Krause—who founded the company that would become Wolverine in 1883—it was about as natural as you can get. The son of Prussian immigrants with a heritage of leather tanning, Krause was well suited to provide the raw materials for the first round of industrial shoemaking, and happy to sell the finished product to the consumer. But in 1901, he got tired of the middlemen, which meant his home base of Rockford, MI needed power to support a factory. So, after a brief stint in utilities that resulted in the juice flowing from early morning to late at night, he and his sons set up shop in 1903. They had their own tannery by 1908, and launched their famous “1,000 Mile Shoe” in 1914. Sold on durability and comfort, the company’s utilitarian lace-ups helped set the standard for the sturdy workingman’s boots seen nearly everywhere during the rapid expansion of the early 20th century. No surprise that they were more than a little bit popular. Buoyed by nationwide success, the brand—known officially as Wolverine from 1921 on—became a household name. And so it remains to this day, weathering everything from the Great Depression to the sneaker-centric ’80s with a combination of new-school comfort technologies and old school good looks. Recent years have seen them doubling down on the second half of that equation, relaunching the “1,000 Mile” line in 2009 with a lineup of US-made styles pulled from the vaults, and debuting the heritage-inspired No. 1883 collection in 2010. Both have found favor with style-minded gents the world over, and with good reason: When you’ve got archives like Wolverine’s, getting back to your roots is a damn solid bet.

Wolverine No. 1883, on sale Thursday, 1/5, at noon ET on Gilt MAN.

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