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Hay’s Haze: An abridged history of winter boots

It never ceases to amaze me what you can find on the interweb. Although I have my doubts, some of it even appears to be fairly legal and occasionally truthful. For example, I was thinking about snow boots the other day for obvious reasons in that it snowed like there was no tomorrow and I couldn’t find my snow kickers. So I did what I always do when I can’t find something – I asked the Better Half, who located them in about 30 seconds.

When I saw them, it reminded me that I forgot that I had fairly new snow boots that I really like, and as I shoved them on my feet and ventured bravely forth into the icy fray, it got me thinking about snow boots and how many different kinds I’ve had, and which ones were my favorite. These are the kinds of useless things that fill my brain when I should be thinking about world peace or the price of gas or who’s playing drums for the Rolling Stones. So I looked up “History of Snow Boots” on the Google.

Did you know that snow boots have been around since the invention of snow? My extensive research involving two clicks and four minutes of reading reveals that “fashionable” winter boots really began hitting the snowy ground in the 1920s with “carriage boots”. These featured a zipper and a fur cuffs and may have looked good but ladies, in particular, ended up shoving their carriage-booted tootsies into plastic bread bags to keep the boots dry. Which seems to me to be a tad counterproductive, counterintuitive, and well, completely counter-feet.

The sub-zero pediatric protection evolution gaining a foothold (sorry) over the years included granny boots, pull-ons, hikers, step-ins, booties, duck boots and full-on toe-to-knee extravagances of fluffy cylinders of funky fur.

But my own personal favorite snow boots also happened to be more or less the worst winter foot coverings I ever had the pleasure of strapping onto my cold dogs. I envied my Grade 3 friends because they all had them, but I had ultimate dork boots – rubber galoshes that fit over your regular shoes and had rectangular metal snaps where shoelaces usually are and always looked like you were on the way to church. But after I performed a great deal of pretty impressive whining and gnashing of teeth my Mom finally caved and we adventured to Eaton’s downtown to pick out a pair of coveted mukluks.

To be clear, these were the grey leather kind that came up over the ankle and had leather laces and a thick flat-bottom sole. Man, they had soul too. Once I tried them on at Eaton’s, I wouldn’t take them off. In fact, I almost tripped coming down those big white wooden stairs in the middle of the store on account of the squeaky new mukluks were a bit big and my feet were overheating with onset paresthesia (which the internet just told me is “pins and needles” caused by “hot feet”).

But as soon as I hit the snowy streets, the shine quickly came off the rose. My precious mukluks were dangerously slippery, instantly soaking wet, and had about as much heating properties as a bag of ice cubes. But I certainly wasn’t going to admit it, given the extent of pleading and moaning I had to act out in order to snag these fairly expensive foot fashion failures.

I slipped around with frozen toes for two or three winters, never failing to show off my mukluks in spite of the fact I may as well have been wearing flip-flops in the snow. But, hey, what’s a bit of chronic frostbite when your snow boots are totally radical?

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. You can send him column ideas to harleyhay1@hotmail.com.

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