Blundstone, the iconic boot brand, is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2020. An incredible landmark in the brand’s history, Blundstone is justifiably proud of 150 years of making the sturdiest, most comfortable and stylish boots for all walks of life.
Established in Tasmania in 1870, Blundstone remains 100% family-owned, and continues to be shaped by the vision and values of its founders and owners. John Blundstone started making fit-for-purpose footwear that could withstand the cobbled city streets, rugged farmland, dance and factory floors of Hobart, Tasmania, in the late 1800s. This philosophy has allowed Blundstone to adapt to an ever-changing environment, and 150 years later the commitment to durability, quality and innovation has not wavered. “There are only a handful of brands that have been in existence for 150 years and an even smaller number that remain family-owned,” said Steve Gunn, Blundstone CEO. “The success of the Blundstone brand is that we have always remained true to our heritage. Blundstone boots were born tough to weather the untamed terrain of Tasmania, they have marched in armies and dug deep on Everest. Today, our boots continue to work hard, exploring the world while simultaneously pounding the pavements of fashion capitals globally. We’re really excited to mark our 150th milestone with new partners, campaigns and products.”
A History Of Never Standing Still
1870: A Tasmanian Icon
The story began in 1855 when John and Eliza Blundstone arrived in Hobart following a 93-day boat journey from England. Founded in 1870, Blundstone started importing boots from Europe before boot making with locally sourced leathers became its forte. A defining moment came at the Tasmanian International Exhibition in 1894. The collection of Blundstone footwear was deemed ‘exceptional’, ‘exceedingly well made’, and ‘second to none’.
Blundstone supplied every description of men’s, women’s and children’s boots designed to be lived and worked in.
1900s: Boots On The Ground
With John’s sons having proudly registered the trademark to include the word ‘Tasmania’ just prior, they led Blundstone into the 20th century as an era of prosperity began. A state-of-the-art boot factory was built from the ground up in the heart of Hobart’s CBD, pumping out 2000 boots and shoes per week. When World War I broke out, Blundstone was one of 20 manufacturers contracted to collectively deliver 100,000 pairs of boots per month to Aussie troops.
1930s: A Tale Of Two Families
In the midst of the Great Depression and resulting global financial stress, another family synonymous with quality footwear stepped in and acquired the Blundstone business when it was put up for sale in 1932. This family was the Cuthbertsons, who had navigated a similar path to Tasmania back in the 1800s and had been operating their own tannery and boot-making factory in Hobart. Following the acquisition, the name Blundstone was retained because of its longstanding association with quality and reliability.
1940s: War And Peace
World War II broke out and Blundstone stepped up again. Half-a-million pairs of boots were supplied to the Australian army during World War II, including those worn by soldiers on the infamous Kokoda Track. Blunstone’s wartime boots were so enviable American soldiers tried – and succeeded in – swapping them for their own. These coveted army patterns were incorporated into Blundtsone workboots in the postwar years.
1950s: The Rise of The Work Boot
Blundstone led the way with its cutting-edge sole technology and word of the brand’s ingenuity began to spread. The Campbell Street factory was soon inundated with requests for made-to-order work boots that could withstand the most extreme conditions, including the 350°C baking room of Comalco Aluminium in the following decade. Towards the end of the 1950s Blundstone was producing up to 200 pairs of boots each day under the stewardship of Managing Director Harold Cuthbertson.
1960s: The Birth Of An Icon
By the 1960s, more than 90 years after it was founded, Blundstone was standing tall as Tasmania’s preeminent manufacturer of footwear. This was also the era the company’s now iconic 500 series was born. These boots are true originals. The sole design evolved over time to incorporate new technology, but the overall design, with the distinctive pull-up tabs on the elastic-sided Chelsea boot, continued to set them apart. The 500 has since sold more than 25 million pairs globally, proving a hit with workers, adventurers, and creatives alike.
1970s: Scaling New Heights
In the late 1970s Blundstone reached new heights, literally. The boots were on the feet of an Australian expedition to Everest, with the Nepalese Sherpas loving them so much they requested (and received) them as parting gifts. Blundstone forged a partnership with the science institute, CSIRO, to explore new technologies and more sustainable production processes. The era ended with an Australian Design Award for the Armourtread range of safety boots – the first-ever to be bestowed on an Australian footwear manufacturer.
1980s: Blundstone On The Move
Managing Director Sir Harold Cuthbertson was knighted for services to industry and community, while demand for factory space saw the company on the move again. The new home in Moonah, north of Hobart, is where the global headquarters remains today. Blundstone consolidated ties with New Zealand in particular through the expansion of a factory in Auckland. Small volumes of boots were produced on this site as well as expanded manufacturing of boot uppers which were shipped to the Hobart site. In the mid-1980s, a Swedish farmer stumbled across a pair of Blundstones while holidaying in Australia. He fell in love with the product and opened the first export market to Europe. Blundstone received an Australian Export Award in 1986, recognising relationships with Pacific nations and New Zealand, while gumboots join the growing suite of products. They’re produced to this day in a purpose-built factory in Hobart.
1990s: Showing The Range
A collaboration with Sydney Dance Company’s Tap Dogs production capped off a decade in which Blundstone spread its artistic wings. By the late-1990s Blundstone was represented in 22 countries worldwide. The range expanded to include Blundstone boots for kids, as well as a range of safety footwear for women, acknowledging their place in our industries.
2000s: One Million Boots & Beyond
The era started with a bang. Blundstone was once again on the feet of the Tap Dogs as they showcased Australia to the world at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. The Mountain Master hiking boots – perfect for globetrotters – came with its very own Lonely Planet guide. By the mid-2000s, Blundstone was producing one million pairs of boots from its Hobart factory. During this period changes in consumer choice, global supply chain, and trade agreements forced a new direction for the business and production of leather products moved offshore. Today Blundstone products are manufactured in six sites around the world, including Hobart.
2010s: New Horizons
Blundstone’s international exposure continued, with Australian athletes proudly wearing the thermal boots at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.
A year later Blundstone won a second coveted Australian Design Award, this time for the 980 mining boot. Proving good design and supreme work wear aren’t mutually exclusive, these are credited with fundamentally changing the way mining boots are made.
2020: 150 Years Of Blundstone
Still proudly family-owned and headquartered in Tasmania, Blundstone boots are worn and loved around the world by people, young and old, for work and play.
And while Blundstone boots won’t change the world, the people wearing them just might.
Known for its iconic, elastic-sided Chelsea boots, Blundstone footwear is instantly recognisable for its tough, no-nonsense style that can be dressed up or dressed down. And the humble boots have endured the Great Depression, both World Wars, and an ever-changing fashion landscape, from the swinging ’60s to ’80s grunge. The brand’s history is a constant inspiration, but its ethos and focus remain the same – to produce boots that can take you anywhere. Blundstone and its products have stood the test of time, garnering cult status among creatives, adventurers, and tastemakers around the world.
Throughout 2020, Blundstone will unveil a yearlong series of activations and a creative campaign celebrating those who have worn the boots in the past and those who wear them today, inspiring the next generation of Blundstone wearers. A new microsite will showcase the brand’s history and the campaign creative, sharing stories of the people who wear these iconic boots.
The digital cornerstone of the campaign will live on www. blundstone150.com.
In honour of its 150th anniversary, Blundstone has released a limited-edition #9150 safety boot and a limited-edition #150 casual boot to mark the milestone with an iconic product.