Stars of ‘Coal’ Talk Work Gear

Mike Crowder
Hometown: Pine Flats, Tenn.
Years on job: 7
Job description: CEO and president of Cobalt Coal. “I’m hands on in areas [including] personnel, scheduling, coal sales and property acquisitions. [I’m also at] the mine checking up on production and coal quality.”
Attraction to the profession: “I worked in my family’s tire shop for years, so I know what it’s like to get dirt under my fingernails. Coal mining is so prevalent where I grew up, so when the opportunity presented itself [to run my own mine], I jumped at the chance.”
Scariest moment: “Letting a film crew from Spike record every moment for three months.”
Workboots owned: “Four pairs of Timberlands. They have steel toes required by the state, [with a] metatarsal [guard] providing additional coverage.”
Amount spent: $110 to $180
Points of purchase: Target or Magic Mart. “Once I find a style I like and the prices are reasonable, I buy [them again] at Amazon.com or eBay.com.”
Buying frequency: “About twice [a year]. They last maybe eight months before getting worn down and beat up.”
Key features: “Comfort because I wear them all day. Ease of taking them on and off because I’m often going back and forth from the mine to our offices. And waterproofing. People may not realize there’s lots of water involved in mining.”
Advice to manufacturers: “Talk to miners. I constantly hear that workboots need to be waterproof and puncture resistant.”
Off-site footwear: “Loafers or any shoe that’s easy to slide on and off. I occasionally wear sneakers and prefer Nike Shox.”


Jonathan Dotson
Hometown: Twin Branch, W.Va.
Years on job: 1
Job description: Roof bolter. “I operate the machinery to install roof support bolts in an underground mine.”
Attraction to the profession: “My grandfather was a miner, so it’s in my blood. Also, I have a little girl and wanted to be able to provide for her. The mines can pay very well.”
Scariest moment: “Having to jump out of the way when a 3-foot, unstable portion came loose and fell from the ceiling.”
Workboots owned: “I have two [pairs], by Oliver and Matterhorn. Both are metatarsal [styles].”
Amount spent: “I just bought the Olivers for $230.”
Point of purchase: “The local hardware store.”
Buying frequency: “Every six months or so, depending on the wear.”
Key features: “Safety, then comfort, because I wear them for long stretches of time. I also like [them to be] insulated and waterproof. I prefer leather boots over rubber, and the darker the color the better because they get covered in coal.”
Advice to manufacturers: “Longer laces. For each pair, I usually go through three sets. There’s not much overhand, and I need to pull them tight to get maximum protection.”
Off-site footwear: “I mostly wear sneakers. My favorites right now are Nike Shox. I got them at Foot Locker.”


J.C. Woolridge
Hometown: Gary, W.Va.
Years on job: “30-plus.”
Job description: Mine superintendent. “I have duties inside the mine, [as well as] in the site office filling out reports [and] reporting to management.”
Attraction to the profession: “I started mining during the summer of my first year of college. The pay was very good and I liked the work, so I never went back [to school].”
Scariest moment: “I’ve seen my share of accidents, but I’ve been very fortunate and have never been hurt myself. I even received a certificate from the government for my clean safety record.”
Workboots owned: “Right now, one. They are metatarsal boots by Matterhorn.”
Amount spent: “Around $200.”
Point of purchase: “United Central, a central supplier of miner supplies in the region.”
Buying frequency: “It varies. The last pair lasted almost two years.”
Key features: “Safety and comfort because I wear them all day. Waterproofing and insulation are also important. And I prefer rubber boots over leather.”
Advice to manufacturers: “They should invest more in comfort, [such as] cushioning, because we spend so much time on our feet. I also always look for insulation and waterproofing, which isn’t always available.”
Off-site footwear: “Penny loafers from JCPenney or Sears.”

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