GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Boots, especially work boots, are a hot fashion item.
Iconic footwear brand Cat Footwear reports sales up are nearly 20 percent over last year.
The Rockford brand gave a sneak peek of its 2015 fall/winter collection to its global distributors at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids last week for Wolverine Worldwide’s semi-annual meeting.
The appeal of the Cat Footwear brand is its authentic heritage, said Onder Ors, president of Cat Footwear.
This year marks the footwear company’s 20th anniversary as a licensee of footwear products for Caterpillar Inc., the world’s biggest maker of construction and mining equipment. Under the Cat Footwear brand, Wolverine has sold more than 100 million pairs of shoes.
The work boot craze, which started in the United Kingdom, is circulating the globe.
“A new audience is discovering it,” said Ors. “It’s the millennials, it’s women who are discovering the brand.”
The company’s largest markets are EMEA (Europe Middle East Africa), Latin America and North America.
“It’s a look the fashionable are wearing after work, and in some case at the office.
“It’s a more casual environment,” said Ors, of the workplace.
The new style trends he is seeing in work boots are monochromatic, dark black silhouettes and as well as the classic, traditional work boot colors.
Most of Cat Footwear fashion boots sell in mid- to up-tier independent retailers, although the brand’s work boots have been carried for decades by Midwest retailer Meijer.
“We’ve had a long relationship with Meijer, and they are great partners,” said Ors, noting that the West Michigan companies “have kind of grown up together.”
Wolverine Worldwide has been around for 130 years, and Meijer for 80 years.
He’s not surprised that Meijer is seeing customers buy the brand’s boots for reasons other than utility.
“You can wear our work boots and they don’t look like work boots,” said Ors. “You can wear them after you get out of work and still have a great look.”
Meijer is seeing an uptick in sales of its industrial work clothes and steel toe boots, as the look moves beyond construction sites to street fashion.
“The boot wear is a category business until itself, aspects of that are influencing fashion, and creating a fashion look,” said Mariana Keros, Detroit-based fashion trend expert and Meijer fashion adviser.
The trend is not about the function of work wear but fashion. Meijer has long carried the industrial work clothing: from Wolverine and Cat Footwear work boots to Carhartt and Dickies clothing.
She recently recreated musician and style-icon Pharrell Williams’ look on a budget with clothing bought from Meijer shelves for a fashion segment on WZZM-TV 13.
The outfit featured a varsity cardigan sweater, striped shirt, Seven jeans and Dickie work boot.
“You always seem him in these work boots,” said Keros. “When people are looking at the trends, they are looking at what celebrities are wearing. They want to emulate that. That’s another indication that the workwear details are being incorporated into fashion.”