A pair of R.M.Williams boots will always keep you a step ahead
Crafted by hand in Australia, the brand’s sturdy, celebrated Chelsea boots have been in continuous production for 90 years. Here’s why…
There’s nothing tougher than old boots. Just ask R.M.Williams — because, earlier this year, the rough-and-ready Australian bootmaker marked a milestone. And today, the brand has been designing durable, long-lasting footwear for over nine well-heeled decades.
Born from humble beginnings in the South Australian bush, Reginald Murray Williams crafted his first elastic-sided leather boot in 1932. It soon swept the stretch of the outback, and became a working wardrobe mainstay of stockpeople from Cairns to Kings Canyon. And the brand, which had begun as a small mail-order business, was forced to expand and establish a full workshop by the mid-1930s — solely to keep pace with burgeoning, boot-buying demand.
The bootmaker set up this studio in the northern Adelaide suburb of Salisbury, where many talented craftsmen and women joined his venture. And today, whilst the businessman himself may sadly no longer be with us, his brand continues to stitch and sole its boots at the same site on Frost Road. Here, hundreds of highly skilled workers continue the good work RM began — creating a range of handcrafted leather apparel and accessories; everything from boots and bags to belts.
But footwear remains the sturdy, solidly-made cornerstone of the Australian brand — in particular, its Chelsea boots. Uniquely crafted from a single piece of premium hardwearing leather, fitted with Goodyear-welted soles and finished with a classic squared chisel toe, these iconic slip-ons are as comfortable as they are functional — and are as simple to care for as they are to step into every day. Here’s why a heavy-duty, hard-wearing pair will keep you a step ahead…
In Australia, ’80 pairs of hands’ craft just one pair of R.M.Williams boots
For almost a century, the Adelaide-based brand has been building boots in the same distinct way; by hand. After all, and as R.M.Williams believed, the human hand will always be more deft and dependable than even the most finely-calibrated machine. That’s why over 80 individual pairs of well-trained, steady hands work to create just a single pair of the brand’s boots.
And every one of these 80 time-honoured processes — from ‘clicking’ the leather with a sharp steel blade to twin-needle stitching the distinctive side elastics — is equally intricate and integral to the production of the perfect boot. The leather is clamped down in a set of heated jaws to form the perfect curved boot shape. The iconic embroidered tugs are hand-pressed securely into position. And every worker, at every station, works hard to ensure that every boot is worthy to wear the swagman-turned-shoemaker’s unimpeachable name.
These proficient pairs of shoemaking hands are also based in Australia themselves. Because, while the brand was sold to a division of French luxury conglomerate LVMH a decade ago, 2020 saw businessman Andrew Forrest (of Western Australian private investment group Tattarang) deliver the business back home.
R.M.Williams boots are a lifelong investment, not a fleeting purchase
We advise the same for those looking to buy fine timepieces and statement furniture — but these savvy, ever-persisting principles also apply to a pair of R.M.Williams boots. The sturdy slip-ons may cost a little more than you’d usually stump up for a pair of shoes (the brand’s collection of Chelsea designs costs between £399 and £649 per pair), but this quality of their construction is such that — even when well-worn — they’ll never look down at heel.
The Australian bootmaker ensures that only the finest, most flawless leathers are selected to be worked into the brand’s signature one-piece upper boots. Hardwearing and handsome enough to step out for decades to come, R.M.Williams’ time-tested Chelsea design can also be repaired and resoled an infinite number of times; a decent, defining principle that stands the brand apart from an increasingly disposable market. And it’s a resilience and robustness that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
In recent years, R.M.Williams’ boots have made a particularly strong stamp on Australian culture in particular. In 2013, the brand’s ‘Craftsman’ boots were chosen to be the Australian Army’s official parade boots. The country’s politicians and prime ministers have stepped the shoemaker’s styles out of the outback and into city settings.
With a dozen different styles, R.M.Williams boots are very versatile
But it’s no wonder that figures from showmen to statesmen have aligned themselves with R.M.Williams. Because, for all the attention to individual details, quality craftsmanship and sourcing of the strongest materials, the key to the brand’s continued success can be found in its stylish, steadfast overall design. The Australian label offers a dependable dozen Chelsea boot styles — and each of these twelve types is more versatile and adaptable than the last.
From the ‘Tambo’ to the ‘Turnout’, the ‘Sydney’ to the ‘Santa Fe’, the different designs span dress codes, seasons and functions. They are smart, but also casual. They are traditional, but also minimalist. They are unassuming, but also turn heads with every well-heeled, stitched-sole step. And their slim, streamlined construction means they’ll slip — with ease and sophistication — under every hem from your Savile Row suit trousers to your rough-and-ready denims.
Other key designs include the ‘commando’-style ‘Gardener’ boot, the buckled ‘Stockman’ boot and the rubber-soled ‘Lachlan’ boot. But, whatever your personal tastes, we’d always recommend starting your collection with perhaps R.M.Williams’ most enduring style; the ‘Craftsman’.
Spanning price points and purpose, the bootmaker touts its ‘Craftsman’ design as the “pride of the company”. With its refined toe shape, double-branded tugs and padded heel linings, it has variations in materials from soft Italian suede to Kangaroo leather — with the premium ‘Signature Craftsman’ boots even being personally signed by the artisan who produced your individual pair. So start your R.M.Williams collection today, and do it with one of these three reliable styles chosen exclusively by Gentleman’s Journal…
R.M.Williams ‘Comfort Craftsman’ Boots
R.M.Williams Suede ‘Craftsman’ Boots
R.M.Williams ‘Signature Craftsman’ Boots
Want more timeless style for modern men? Kit Blake’s smart, stride-making trousers are an everyday essential…
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