2013-12-26 / Views

From the Braver Institute

For the past eight years a band named The Killers has released a new single for Christmas. As you might expect these songs usually have a Christmas theme, but with the exception of “Don’t Shoot Me Santa” and maybe one other, the theme isn’t overt. My favorite of these eight songs is called “Boots.”

“Boots” is a far cry from the tongue-in-cheek “Don’t Shoot Me Santa,” and is a song the whole family could enjoy. It isn’t really a song about boots but it did get me thinking about boots and how boots have been some of the greatest Christmas gifts I have ever received.

For a substantial portion of my childhood, winter was a time of foot misery. The technology simply didn’t exist to keep feet warm. We were told to put on extra socks. Mom’s advice was all of the tech we had at that time. We wore green rubber “swampers” and as many socks as we could manage to fit into the things, which effectively cut off our circulation and caused our feet to start freezing before we made it to the door to go outside.

I know that at some point in my youth I had a pair of what we called snowmobile boots that had a rubber foot, a nylon shaft, felt liners that would never go back in, and buckles like old galoshes. These weren’t much warmer than the sock-stuffed swampers.

That would all change one Christmas in the 70’s.

We had heard about a boot made by a company called Sorel. We had even seen a few pairs. They were ugly. They had a rusty brown rubber foot with a dark brown leather shaft. They also had a felt liner that apparently worked much better than the liners in the snowmobile boots for reasons I am not sure of. I did know that Sorels were made in Canada and Canada was cold, so these things must be warm.

The gift from my parents that year was a new pair of Sorels. Coincidentally my best friend, Denny, got a pair for Christmas too. Since both of our families celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, we both had them at the same time and we decided that we needed to go out and test them to make sure they were as great as we were led to believe, and they were. We walked almost all the way to the end of our road and back and our feet never became cold.

Winters were never the same.

Your feet would eventually become cold in Sorels though. Perspiration would saturate the felt and then it would freeze and your feet would be encased in blocks of ice. Better technology was still needed.

When I was a teen, a boot company called LaCrosse introduced a new boot called the Iceman. These boots not only had a felt lining (a wicking one no less, that pulled moisture away from the skin) but the boot itself was insulated. They were also available in dark green or black, which looked much better than the Sorels.

I think I was eighteen or nineteen when my parents bought me a pair of them for Christmas. These boots were the steel toed version and if you have ever worn steel toed boots in the winter you understand a new level of cold feet, but that was not the case with the Icemans. My feet never became cold in these boots, and when I say never, I mean never. It hasn’t happened. So wonderful are these boots that I still own them. The same exact pair. They are no longer waterproof and are quite worn, but they are a good backup pair of boots.

Ten years ago I bought a new pair of LaCrosse Ice Kings as a Christmas present to myself. (They are nothing like the current Ice Kings. There is no comparison.) I worked outside year round and needed good, warm boots. I still wear this pair of boots. These Ice Kings are quite a bit lighter than the Icemans and they make my feet feel like they are on summer vacation when I am wearing them.

Every time I wear my Ice Kings I think of how cold those swampers were and of Christmases that brought progressively warmer feet.

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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by email at waye@braverinstitute.com. Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com

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