When it comes to unlikely style icons, the Blundstone 500 has to be up there. Traditionally the footwear of choice for Australian laborers, these days you're just as likely to find the hulking rubber boots on the feet of art school kids in trendy neighborhoods such as New York's SoHo, Berlin's Kreuzberg, and London's Shoreditch. And why not? The 500 ticks just about every box. Comfort? Check. Durability? Check. Versatility? Check. All that, plus they look dope.
There's no single reason behind the 500 or the 550's headway into the fashion realm. Rather, it has been caught up in a perfect storm. For some people, the sneaker business has started to feel like a rat race — an endless cycle of frivolous hype dictated by people more concerned with Instagram likes than they are true style. It can be exhausting, and impossible to keep up with. In reaction, the disillusioned have turned to legacy brands, companies known for perhaps one strong, unchanging, high-quality product.
Names such as Dr. Martens, Clarks, Birkenstock, and Blundstone all cut through the noise by letting their history do the talking rather than chasing the social media dragon. Throw in affordability, accessibility, and the fact they simply look good, and their uptick in success is pretty much self-explanatory.
This year, the Blundstone 500 celebrates its 50th year. We caught up with Blundstone CEO Steve Gunn to discuss the enduring success of his brand's classic Chelsea boot.
Steve, why has the 500 boot been so successful among younger people in recent times?
Young people today want to support authentic brands that have a story to tell and a genuine organic following. The boot’s understated unisex style has propelled it to cult status among creatives, adventurers, and tastemakers around the world.
Initially, the 500 appealed to farmers, builders, and workers due to its rugged charm. The current fashion landscape has shifted to prioritize practicality over style. The utilitarian traits combined with all-day comfort and practicality have broadened its appeal, allowing the 500 to be incorporated into a range of wardrobes and styles.
And why do you think it's such an enduring shoe?
The 500 sits at the core of Blundstone design, highlighting comfort and practicality. 50 years have gone by and the original design has adapted to an ever-changing environment, remaining an authority within the unisex boot market. When you own a pair of Blundstones, you own them for life.
Where is the 500 most popular?
All over, but particularly [Australian island] Tasmania, Japan, Canada, the US, and Israel.
When did you notice it start to gain traction in the fashion world?
Our presence in the fashion sphere has only come about within the last 10 years or so. In 2015, our international sales outstripped our home market volume, with the elastic-sided Chelsea products becoming the clear favorite the world over. Today, you can see the boots' distinguishable double tabs on the L train in Brooklyn to the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel.
Would you ever consider doing a collaboration with another brand on the 500?
At this stage, the Original 500 is just that — original, unique, and one of a kind. We have partnered with fashion brands to feature the 500s and enhance their seasonal presentation, rather than trying to collaborate or change a boot that has remained timeless.
What do you make of fashion giants like Prada biting the style with the Brixxen boot?
For a boot that was developed 50 years ago in Tasmania to be gaining attention from high fashion brands shows how iconic we have become since the brand’s inception in 1870.
What do you think is the best way to style the 500?
I’ve seen the 500s styled in so many ways and I’m probably not the best person to ask, since I pretty much live in mine. I’ve seen them paired well with anything from jeans and a button-down to outdoor activewear ensembles and even dresses and skirts. Whatever the 500 is paired with, it adds a hint of ruggedness and classic style that, in my opinion, can only enhance the overall outfit.
Browse the latest range of Blundstone 500 styles here.