To commemorate its 140th anniversary, Wolverine has released a special edition of its most recognizable model, which is priced at $415 and subtly calls back to how the 1000 Mile would have appeared in 1914 when it was first introduced. In lieu of the shell horsehide utilized at that time, the anniversary edition is crafted from a Horween Chromexcel leather in a ruddy hue resembling equine skins. On a more contemporary note, the boot also features off-white cotton laces, red stitching that references the company’s branding, and a Wolverine logo patch pulled from the archives at the tongue.
This combination of workwear details preserved for more than a century coupled with purely aesthetic-related tweaks is a neat summation of the style’s trajectory in the past 100 years. When it arrived on the scene in the same year that World War I began, the 1000 Mile was indeed a work boot. But as Scott Schoessel, Wolverine’s vice president of global marketing, succinctly states, “Work boots and work sites have changed over time.”
The catalyst, according to Schoessel, was the WWII. As America’s industrial capacity reached new heights to supply the global conflict, work sites enlarged, safety requirements changed, and both grippy, lugged rubber soles and steel-reinforced “safety toes” became standard.
In a profoundly changed industry, Wolverine faced a choice. It could re-tool the 1000 Mile and its smooth leather outsole or keep it alive for consumers more drawn toward its stylistic appeal than its worksite value.
“It would have been a whole different boot,” Schoessel says of the ultimately scuttled plans to bring it up to code. With the decision made to preserve the 1000 Mile rather than re-tool it, the decades-old design found a second life as a “fashion” boot, in contrast to the purely utilitarian styles that make up the great majority of the company’s range today.
And yet, “fashion” never seemed quite the right word for a hard-wearing boot whose Goodyear-welted sole ensured it could be worn for years with proper maintenance. “People like the boots to pick up a few dings and dents,” says Schoessel, while encouraging owners to look to their local cobbler for resoles.
Though it may not be worn to build high-rises or lay track, the boot has continued to see practical use in lower-intensity projects like gardening or home improvement. According to Schoessel, Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe and University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh have both been known to put their 1000 Miles to work.
Another thing that’s remained constant about the boot is its place of origin: it continues to be made by Wolverine in Rockford, Mich. “This will never be made anywhere else,” Schoessel assures of the style’s made-in-the-U.S.A. bonafides, which extend to its components. In addition to the Horween leather upper tanned in Chicago, each boot also features waxed cotton laces made in South Carolina and a Vibram rubber forepart and heel manufactured in Pennsylvania.
While the 140-year mark is certainly worthy of celebration, the new boot saluting the occasion is not the first 1000 Mile to be offered as a limited edition. In the recent past, the company collaborated with whiskey maker Pappy Van Winkle to produce a boot with a heel stack made from the latter’s barrel staves, while a partnership with Metallica yielded a glossy black boot with heavy lugged soles and an ornamental guitar pick attached to its laces.
As to what another century-and-change of the 1000 Mile Boot might bring, one can only speculate.