Breaking down the boot boom: Why are Blundstones so popular?

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Breaking down the boot boom: Why are Blundstones so popular?

Imagine this: on the way out of a house party, you realize your boots have been stolen — because everyone's boots are the same and someone mistakenly walked off in yours.

It seems to be a common problem in mudrooms across Canada, and it's all because of the popularity of Blundstone Originals — slip-on, ankle-length leather boots with elastic sides.

The boots aren't a new innovation; they were first sold in 1870 in Australia, where the company's headquarters remains today, and are sold in more than 50 countries now. But in the last five years, Blundstones have boomed in Canada, despite a price tag north of $200 for an adult pair.

"Every porch you go into, pretty much, you're going to see a pile of, typically, rustic browns in the corner," says Jameila Ali, who handles marketing and inventory at First Western Boutique in St. John's, one of Canada's earliest sellers of Blundstones.

"I tell everybody now, if you're taking them off, take a permanent marker, put your initials on the inside."

Ali said wearers have to be careful not to have their Blundstones accidentally nicked.

"They're going to house parties, everyone has the same boots, and they'll literally come in the next Monday and say, 'I lost my boot,' or 'I have one that's a size 9, one that's a size 8, what do I do?'" she said.

"They'll have to get a new pair. It's a very very common thing now, because everyone has them."

Why so popular?

Blundstones are all the rage in part because of the trendy celebrities — like Ellen Page and David Beckham — who have been spotted wearing the boots.

But the company says the comfortable fit, high quality, and suitability for the Canadian climate have won over wearers, and word of mouth has helped grow the brand.

Sales 'off the charts'

Tim Stacey, Blundstone Canada's president and chief operating officer, couldn't provide exact sales numbers, but he told CBC News that Canada is in the top three in sales worldwide, and has the widest selection of colours and styles outside of Australia.

Sales are strongest along the coasts, he added, particularly in St. John's and Halifax where the numbers are "off the charts."

In fact, sales have been so high that it's roused suspicion at Blundstone's head office, Stacey said, prompting the company to double-check its sales figures.

The boots are most popular among younger women, Stacey said, but he added that Blundstones are a "cradle to grave" product that appeals to all ages.

Whatever the reason, they're selling plenty of boots at First Western Boutique. Ali said the store's most recent order included 408 pairs of Blundstones, nearly three-quarters of which were sold before they hit the shelves.

In December 2016 alone, Ali said the shop sold almost 300 pairs of just its most popular model, Blundstone 585s in rustic brown.

Never out of style

Ed Grace has worked at First Western for 18 years, and said Blundstones have become the best-selling item.

The boots are a product he's serious about — he's got five pairs of his own.

While the boots may be in high demand for now, Grace said a classic, quality boot will never be out of style.

"The trendy fact will still be forgotten over time [and] it will still be comfort, it takes over," said Grace.

"You get people now who are repeat customers, who have more than one pair. It really is addictive footwear."

And it's not just adults buying for themselves.

The broad appeal has made for "Blundstone families," Ali said, with kids, parents and grandparents all having their own pair.

"We'll have parents with like four kids, they all have different styles, but they all have them," Ali said.

"Every Christmas time, they'll say my brother has them, or my son has them, my husband has them, and now we all do."