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American Overlander: Woolrich Yankee Work Boots

Within the outdoorsman’s lexicon, few words resonate with more textured history than the name––Woolrich. It instantly conjures images of black and red plaid shirts worn by woodsmen, hunters, and tradesmen, the very customers for whom the brand has relied on for more than 185 years. Like all companies with such a long tenure, Woolrich has had periods of market domination and challenging years assuaging the competition. Throughout it all, the descendants of founder John Rich, now in their seventh generation, continue to pilot the company through uncertain times by adapting to changing consumer needs while staying grounded to their established roots.

In the fall of 2013 Woolrich partnered with Portland Product Werks to provide their loyal customers with another product category––footwear. In an era where these types of licensing collaborations are little more than exercises in label swapping, PPW’s premium boots perfectly compliment the Woolrich legacy. The Yankee, a reintroduction of the classic work boot, is a beautiful product that lives up to PPW’s company ethos, “Make it worth making.”

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If you follow our American Overlander series, you have read my castigations of the naysayers who opine the demise of homegrown products. The people who say we as a nation no longer manufacture anything––are wrong. The Yankee is not only hand crafted here in the States, it is made of domestically sourced Horween leathers and materials, right down to the laces. They’re not just well made on our soil, they’re gorgeous.

Over the years I have worn and evaluated similar boots from heritage brands and have come to learn one thing; even the boot makers with a century of experience don’t always make the most comfortable products. Slipping my foot into the Yankee I could immediately feel a modern approach to fitment and shaping. Although feet haven’t changed over the years, our understanding of ergonomics and footwear has. Leveraging their extensive experience in the boot and shoe industry, PPW’s team created a boot that offers a vintage aesthetic and construction, but with contemporary fit and feel.

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As much as I like the appearance of the ageless work boot, the reality is I’m not going to be kicking railroad ties or toiling at the steel foundry all day. I’m your typical modern working Joe tapping away at a keyboard when I’m not out playing in the woods. Simply put, I appreciate the Yankee’s detuned brawn. They’re not clunky or heavy. The toe box is not excessively cavernous or clad in steel and the mid and outsole package is thin enough to provide a comfortable stride instead of a cumbersome plod like most work-inspired boots. The Vibram outsole even has shallow lugs in my favorite old-time waffle pattern. They make even my footprints look vintage.

It’s a handsome boot with quad-stitched uppers and a stout Goodyear welt. I think if John Rich were alive today, he’d be quick to lace up a pair and walk the floor of his Woolrich factory. Portland Product Werks may be a new enterprise, but they did an incredible job tapping into Woolrich’s near two century history. MSRP $299

 

www.woolrich.com

 

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Christophe Noel is Expedition Portal's Editor and the Senior Editor for Overland Journal. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.