Boots 101

It takes 133 steps to make every single pair of Helm Boots, each one necessary in creating quality that will last generations.   Using only the best leathers from US suppliers like Horween in Chicago, SB Foot in Minnesota, and Tasman in Maine, every single pair of Helm is 100% made in the USA. 

 

WHY LEATHER IS IMPORTANT

Leather is like a lot of investments in that you get what you pay for.  Not only will a quality leather develop a unique look and feel as it ages, there’s nothing more important to the durability of your product than the quality of leather.  Using full-grain leather, widely recognized as the best and highest quality leather, when taken care of properly, should last a lifetime.

OUR LEATHERS

  • Boot Leather - For the main part of every boot, we use full grain side cow leather, meaning that we only select the best part of each hide to be used on our products.

  • Cow vs. Steer Leather - With a focus on durability and comfort, we also exclusively use cowhides for our products, as the quality is un-matched with thickness and soft-feel. While steer leather can look shinier, it’s much thinner and less durable. 

  • Leather Lining – to increase the durability and comfort we fully line every product with leather.

LEATHER TERMS

  • Grain: The outside of the animal hide, the grain side, is typically de-haired leaving the grain exposed.

  • Full-Grain Leather: A leather that is minimally processed so that the grain retains all of its natural characteristics and imperfections. The grain is not buffed, sanded, or corrected in any way.

  • Pull-Up: A characteristic of high-quality full-grain leathers where there is a temporary lightening of color when pressure is applied. This is due to the natural oil and wax in the hide moving around.

  • Side Leather: Leather from an adult cow, the hide is split into two equal pieces along the backbone creating two sides to be sold. This is generally the most expensive piece of leather due to the consistency, quality, and thickness.

 

 WHERE WE GET OUR LEATHERS.

  • HORWEEN is located in Chicago and is widely considered one of the best tanneries in the world.  We use several leathers including their signature Chromexcel which is an aniline finished leather notable for its distinct pull-up and luxurious, oily hand. Horween is used for the majority of our boots, including the Muller, Marion Olive, Railroad Boot amongst others.

  • S.B. FOOT is a tannery founded in 1872 and located in Red Wing, MN.  Known for their oil-tanned and tumbled full grain leathers, we have used their Fargo leathers on a variety of boots.

  • TASMAN located in Hartland, ME, was originally founded in 1947.  Their York line, which has a distinct pull-up and a flexible, oily finish is used for our boots such as the Pete Black and Dash Black.

 

LEATHERS WE USE

  • CHROMEXCEL is a product from the Horween Tannery in Chicago, IL. It is one of their most famous tanning processes and comes from adult cowhides. It is very thick, waxy leather noted for its distinct pull-up, usually smooth in texture, and bright in color.

  • FARGO is a product from the SB Foot Tannery in Minnesota. It is thinner and more pliable than the Chromexcel, and feels pliable, waxy and soft. Similar to Chromexcel, it has a smooth finish to the touch, but looks more matte.

  • YORK is a product from the Tasman Tannery in Maine. The leather is flexible and the finish will have a very distinct oily feel.

  • TUSCON BISON – this American Buffalo leather is tough, yet pliable, and has a beautiful rugged grain and texture.

Boot Lasting at the Factory

FOOTWEAR LAST

A “last” is the solid form around which a shoe is molded. The fit of a shoe depends on the design, shape and volume of the last. The boot or shoe last must represent the anatomical information of the foot, at the same time giving the product the intended finished style and design. Lasts typically come in pairs and are from various materials, including hardwoods, cast iron, and high-density plastics.

 

LASTING

Lasting is the process of molding the sewn-together upper of the boot onto the last. Depending on the process and machinery involved, this can take minutes or days. The shape of the last is what gives each boot its distinct shape and toe shape.

  • The 323 Last: Rounded toe similar to a classic American work boot – roomier toe box average D width. Examples of this last shape can be found on the Muller, Railroad, or Marion Olive boots.

  • The 415 Last: Slightly rounded toe but more tapered than the 323- average D width. Examples of this last shape can be seen on the Lee Low and the Pete.

  • The 512 Last: Tapered with a narrow squared off tip- average D width. Examples of this last shape can be found on the Sam Original or Sam Black.

  • The 405 Last: Wider more bulbous toe box – average D width – Examples of this last shape can be found on the Pablo Black or Pablo Brown

WELTING

The welt is a strip of leather that runs the perimeter of the boot. Its primary purpose is attaching the outsole to the upper, but it affects more than just how these two pieces are attached. HELM uses two main methods: the Goodyear Welt construction and the Blake Rapid (Stitch) construction. Each style will list what welt is used in the style details and most cobblers have different opinions about both welts and tend to lean toward one or the other.
  • The Goodyear is the oldest form of welting. It can be done by hand or machine and is believed to provide a slightly more waterproof boot. It uses more layers of material, sometimes resulting in what can be a stiffer sole.
  • The Blake Rapid process is done with a worker operated machine. It provides a sole that is capable of being resoled, and uses less layers of leather resulting in what can be a more flexible boot. HELM also uses cemented construction where neither method would be functional, such as when the Raptor rubber sole is attached

 Helm Leather Outsole

HELM SOLES

  • MINI-LUG - Featured on the Marion Olive and Railroad, the Mini-Lug is from Montello in Massachusetts. The lug is the rubberized part that covers the leather sole and adds extra durability and grip when walking.

  • TEMPEST - Currently on the Reid, the Tempest is also sourced from Montello. It features a compressed and texturized rubber sole and heel to add durability, grip and protection from the elements. This is a great sole for wearing in urban environments and in wet weather as long as the upper is protected. The dot injections provide extra grip and help slick water away.

  • RAPTOR - Sourced from Meremac, the Raptor is our most durable sole. We find this holds up wonderfully in wet weather, provides a nice cushion for walking and a favorite of motorcyclists, chefs, and those who spend a lot of time on their feet.  You can find this on the Ayers and Klein models.

  • HARRIER – Also sourced from Meremac, the Harrier is made of the same material as the Raptor, but features a slightly thinner profile. 

  • WATER RESISTANT LEATHER - Our most traditional dress sole. It provides comfort and a thin silhouette, stitched using either Blake Rapid or Goodyear construction. The Water Resistant Leather sole is treated with oils to help it be water resistant.  This sole is featured on the Muller, Lane, Pablo, Pete, Lee Low in addition to others.

  • FINE-LINE – Sourced from Montello in Massachusetts, the Fine-Line sole is composed of water resistant leather as well as a textured rubber panel across the mid-section of the sole. The rubber panel provides more traction while still maintaining a sleek and elegant profile. The Fine-Line is featured on several of our styles, including the Riley and the Wells.

  • RIPPLE SOLE – The Ripple Sole, supplied by Vibram, is made of a long-lasting rubber, providing a durable and comfortable walking experience. Inspired by a paratrooper sole, the Ripple is great for more extreme environments as well as everyday wear. The Ripple is featured on the Kiffen.

  • CAMP MOC - From Amazonas and is featured on our Dash Black. The camp moc shoe itself was invented by L.L. Bean’s founder and this sole is based on its original concept. The textured mold helps create grip when walking and the raised middle provides extra support.