Of all the styles and varieties of boots that I own, I think I have more harness boots than any other (that is, if you don’t count cowboy boots as a singular generic style. With 35 pairs of different kinds of harness boots in my current boot collections, I can understand why visitors to my website may think that I am fond of that style of boot.
Harness boots present a rugged yet simple appearance. With a square toe, stovepipe shaft, harness ring and straps, these boots are tough-looking and are durable for wear while riding a motorcycle, and/or just knocking about town, socializing with friends.
Lots of guys wear harness boots even if they do not ride a motorcycle. In general, guys like a boot that is designed with simple, masculine style. No stitching or inlays on the basic, timeless design of a harness boot.
As defined on the “Bootmen’s Tutorial” that I wrote for hotboots.com years ago,
Harness boots are a type of motorcycle boot usually worn by motorcycle riders. The boots are most often made of heavyweight leather and range in height from short (10 inches) to extra high (38 inches). The most typical height is between 10 and 18 inches. The most common colors are black and brown, but harness boots can be found in other colors and roughout leather as well.
Harness boots were originally modeled on the square toed boots prevalent in the 19th century, including those worn by US Civil War soldiers. Leather straps and rings were added to this style in the 1950s, creating the modern version of the harness boot, which quickly became a classic. Harness boots remain a very popular item today.
Harness boots are about the most popular style of motorcycle boots that guys wear in the USA.
I have some harness boots that are more appearance-oriented than others — some with exotic skins and some with features such as a knee-high shaft.
However, over the years, I tend to gravitate personally to the plain, simple, 12-inch harness boot as my “go-to” boot when I am going for that casual look with jeans.
I have harness boots with the Harley-Davidson label. Years ago, those boots were well-made by Wolverine in the USA. Nowadays, Wolverine Worldwide continues to make the boots with the H-D label, but they are made by some unknown sweatshop in China of poor quality materials and craftsmanship. One would think that if the retail price of a pair of H-D boots is over US$200, that he would get good quality boots.
Nope … remember, a well-known label commands its own price. Like women go for “Gucci” handbags, lots of guys go for being a billboard for a brand associated with a tough image — like the Motor Company from Milwaukee.
That’s okay if you like to have a motorcycle brand label on your clothing and boots and don’t mind paying a premium to be another marketing clone. Some of us have learned a bit more, and make other decisions.
My favorite brand of harness boots is Chippewa. The Chippewa harness boot is rough, rugged, simple, has a great sole that provides good traction, and is still made in the USA. No zippers, Vibram© yellow-plug sole, pull straps, and an exceptionally comfortable footbed make these boots my number one choice. Same with lots of my friends, too — most of them who have grown beyond wearing fashion labels have found Chippewa harness boots to be their choice, too.
I also have harness boots made by Boulet of Canada — those boots are good, too. Boots made in Canada are equally as good as boots made in the USA.
USA-made Wesco harness boots are the toughest in the business and are serious boots for the serious Bootman. I do not wear Wesco boots any more — they are just too heavy for me and tire me out if I have to walk in them much. They’re great for riding and for show, just not for strolling grocery store aisles with little old ladies 🙂
Fashionista harness boots, such as made with the American Rebel, Moonshine Spirit, or Stetson labels — are just that — fashion-oriented boots not made for the serious rider. Made of cheap quality materials, these boots look okay, but aren’t durable enough to withstand getting caught in the rain even once (as happens to bikers occasionally.)
Overall, I still admire and enjoy wearing harness boots. I think I always will. In fact, I have a pair of brown ostrich Chippewa harness boots on my feet today in my office, worn with tan khakis, dress shirt, and tie. Yep, harness boots can be worn with dress clothes in an office — not always by a biker on a Harley. (So sez “Booted Harleydude” LOL).
Life is short: know your boots and wear them every day.