The Gold Bond line of footwear was offered by Sears from the 1950s onwards, gradually replacing the older Wearmaster line of work footwear in most styles except for tall boots.
The emphasis shifted to “service” shoes, as opposed to the work shoes/boots of old, and the Gold Bond series was interesting in that they are a study in the bridge between the classic 1940’s work boot and their modern successors from the 1970s onwards.
The classic Gold Bond shoe featured a neoprene outsole unit, nylon stitching, incomplete Goodyear welt with steel shank bridging, a (what was then) high-tec “Breath-Easy” cushioned insole unit and very old-school leather.
Although, many variations existed and there is quite a range in terms of pricing/quality within the Gold Bond line.
See here a 1950’s catalogue – compare the specs with the older Wearmasters:
Is seems that the older vulcanised cork soles were being phased out, but the same high quality cattlehide still features.
Indeed, I can draw many similarities in the hand & appearance of this leather with modern day Chromexcel or shell cordovan – I’m guessing that this older tannage involves a heavy currying/stuffing process – more on this later.
Moving on into the 1960’s:
The classic Gold Bond shoe – the stitched toe service shoe/boot (marked ‘e‘ & ‘f” in the photo below) – still takes the spot-light.
I am quite amused by the similarity of these Gold Bond shoes to the older Alden-pedic footwear (it’s true, Alden wasn’t always a fine footwear brand…think orthopaedic work boots :P)
Indeed, the stitched-toe service shoe is eerily similar to my own modern day Alden “Indy” high work boots.
Have a look at the shoe marked “a“; looks familiar?
It’s another glove leather moc-toe boot, just like the Georgia Giant moc-toe sports boots I posted a few days back…everyone made them back then 🙂
Anyway, Wearmaster boots are highly prized collector’s pieces and there are a few pairs floating around on eBay all the time, sometimes are stupidly high prices.
Tthe Gold Bond service shoes are rarely mentioned, probably due to the fact that the branding is not done in such a way that is immediately recognisable and the neoprene soles took on a more modern, industrialised form as opposed to the older, more “pretty” soles such as Cat’s Paw, old-school Biltrite, Light Tred, etc….
…so, why am I ranting and where am I going with this historical curio?
Well, I had the good luck recently of acquiring a pair of Gold Bond service shoes in black!
Mmmm, yes, like a zombie crawling out of the old Sears catalogue.
Just scroll up a bit further and look closely, you’ll see this boot in every catalogue.
I really couldn’t pass up this one, because no one – except for Alden – makes a decent stitched-toe boot any more.
Heck, the Alden Indy only has 2 rows of stitching, this chunky monster has 4 😛
Granted, the leather is a little tired from storage, but the discolouration & apparent abrasions are very superficial.
The grain is 100% intact on the two boots.
And as long as the grain is intact, rest assured I can make this leather look & feel like it was tanned only weeks ago (ok, yeah, tooting my own horn a little too much here…)
Back to the boots:
Yuketen fans would recognise the shape of the back-stay 🙂
The Johnson (and Johnny) boots were inspired by the design of the Gold Bond era, as far as I can tell.
I am not American, but made in U.S.A. doesn’t hurt when it comes to vintage American footwear 😛
The stitching on this pair of boots is very well done, especially considering it was actually made for real work.
Funny how we pay top bucks for this kind of fashion nowadays, yet half a century ago no one would take a second look at your stitched-toe boots, even if they were cordovan? 😛
The hardware is superb on this one, with just a little bit of scratching on the speed-hooks.
That brings me to the comparison I made between these and my Alden Indy’s – the hardware configuration (4 hooks 5 eyelets), the last shape, the canvas lining (older Indy’s of course), the cut of the tongue, etc…
If this boot only had two rows of toe-stitch, I could easily mistake it as an Indy boot on quick glance.
The leather is fascinating – immediately soft, pliable & comfortable (after a half century time in storage too) with a durable grain…I could compare it too a few of modern day Horween’s leathers.
Particularly the re-tannage used in cattlehide & front quarter horse, or the post-tan currying/stuffing of shell cordovan.
However this leather was tanned, I like it.
One of the more elaborate linings I’ve seen, here are canvas, suede & two different types of cattlehide!
Based on the soles I would hazard a guess that these boots were made in the late 1960’s.
A stamp on the canvas lining say 1967.
Anyway, apologies for the radically long post~~~ time for me start refurbishing these boots.
Will post results very soon!