I am asked sometimes about different styles of men’s boots. Today’s feature is about harness boots. I own dozens of pairs of harness boots and like their appearance a lot.
Why are these boots called Harness Boots?
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 often been asked, “what is the purpose of the harness strap on the boot?” Answer: decoration only. The historical image of a horse’s harness may tie the harness strap on the boot to images of cowboys and masculinity in general. But overall, the harness strap adds a tough, masculine decoration to this style of boot. (Who woulda thunk that the words “decoration” and “masculine” would go together in describing a boot?)
Harness boots are affordable (though pricey versions are available from Wesco and other custom bootmakers), and present a commanding, masculine appearance without being too gaudy.
Most harness boots are just plain black or brown. But some makers offer harness boots made with exotic skins and of different colors, such as red, white, or variations of tan-to-brown. While most harness boots are made for motorcycle riders and appropriately have a Vibram or rubber sole (like my favorite Chippewa harness boots), there are some harness boots that are in the cowboy boot style and have smooth leather soles, such as the cheap American Rebel boots pictured below. Boots with smooth soles are inappropriate for wear while operating a motorcycle because smooth soles slip easily on damp and/or oily pavement.I have harness boots of all these colors and variations, shown here on my website and in some photos below.
Life is short: harness boots are rugged and masculine boots. Enjoy wearing them.