new boots identity crisis

There are times in your life when you need to accept things as they are and not as you would like them to be. This is one of those times.

I have finally accepted that my old boots are done. Dead. Gave up the ghost. Broken. Blown-out.

However, buying a new pair isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure, I could just go get the same ones I had before, but I’m not the same person I was when I bought this pair in 2004. It’s pretty amazing that they lasted as long as they did. I wore them ‘year round riding my motorcycles in Chicago. Frozen, wet, snowy winters and broiling hot humid summers. I wore them in oven dry Phoenix for four years, but the leather cracked long before that. The first couple of years I took meticulous care of them – cleaned and polished the leather uppers each week. But after a while, the weather just beat them down, I got busy, and the boots started showing signs of wear.

A number of years ago, I should have retired these boots, but I’m stubborn. The soles were still pretty decent, so how could I discard a perfectly good (if holey) pair of boots?

Well, that time has come. I wear my soles out in the heel more than the toe and my gait is finally mal-adjusted to the wear.

When I started my new-boot-search, I was convinced I would get some side-zip Corcoran boots, like I had when I was in my teens.

But I decided I wanted something with better tread for hiking and walking. I like a good Vibram sole, so I started looking at other boots like Logger boots

but those weren’t quite right either. I was having a hard time pinning down what exactly I want from this new boot. I want it to be tough both in quality and appearance, but also feminine and not too clunky so I can maybe wear them to work, but also be a good beat-around boot for working in my garage.


This all got me to thinking about why I started wearing boots in the first place. I got my first pair of combat boots, used, from a back-woods military surplus store in a small town about 30 miles from my house. I was 15 years old, and full of hot temper and righteous indignation. I needed to be able to kick things. Punk rock and combat boots filled that need for me. As a girl, wearing the boots was also somewhat political (in that ‘the personal is political’). I was a tomboy punk rocker and made no bones about it.

As the years went by, my relationship to my boots changed, but the style didn’t. I lost my anger, but still liked the boots for their wearable function, protection, and tomboyness, plus the anti-authoritarianism and push-back at the status-quo that they still represented to me.

The last time I bought boots was in 2004. That was twelve years ago. A lot can change in twelve years. I’m still essentially the same person I was back then – my values and beliefs haven’t changed considerably, if anything, they are more refined – but my relationship to the larger world around me, and my own vantage point has shifted. I am no longer angry, I have less need to push-back against the status-quo but still want something that will protect me on my motorcycles, is comfortable enough to walk for hours in, still has an edge of my childhood punkness, but also provides a feminine aspect that wasn’t a requirement before.

There is also an aspect of “how do I want to be perceived?” It’s funny to me that most people I know were self-conscious in their teens, and as they’ve grown older, they’ve gotten less so. I was the opposite. I was pretty un-self-conscious in my teens and twenties, but as I’ve gotten older and have a professional career, I have been trying to find that balance between who I feel I am and how I wish to be perceived. Which then brings me back around to: who do I feel I currently am? I’m definitely not the same punk rock girl from 1987. I’m not even the same person who bought those boots in 2004.

I’ve often been accused of over-thinking things. I suppose this is a good example. It’s just foot-wear, right? But what we wear, how we style our hair, even our posture, are all things that are taken in and perceived by the world around us. It is also a self-conscious conversation with ourselves. Why do we dress up to go out on the town? It’s not just to receive admiring looks from strangers, it’s also to pump oneself up and feel good. “Daaaamn, I look good tonight!” That’s your self-esteem talking to you. We have different ways of experiencing that. In my younger years, if I felt tough, I felt good. Some people like to feel sexy, some to feel strong. And we wear clothes that reflect how we feel. If you are like me and tend to be a t-shirt and jeans person, that is a reflection too. I could choose to wear orange tennis shoes because they are comfortable too, but instead I pull on my boots. It’s all a choice.

Which brings me back to: What boots should I buy?

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