Alaska may not be considered a fashion destination, but a particular brand of rugged waterproof boots is showing up all over the state, on everyone from salmon fishermen to schoolkids. And consumers in the Lower 48 are taking notice.
Recognized for its iconic brown Legacy pull-on boot, Xtratuf has been protecting Alaskans since the 1960s against harsh weather conditions, including heavy rainfall, which can average 90 inches annually in the southeast part of the state.
Now the brand — owned by Honeywell Safety Products, based in Canton, Mass. — is stepping up distribution across the U.S. with more mainstream looks, such as the men’s 6-inch Ankle Deck Boot, introduced last year, and a range of women’s styles. For instance, this spring, the Salmon Sisters, two Alaskan fisherwomen who have their own lifestyle brand, put their spin on the women’s Legacy boot as part of a collaboration.
Bo Thai, associate product manager for Xtratuf, said shoppers are drawn to the brand’s heavy-duty capabilities. “Consumers are looking for waterproof, but not overengineered,” he explained, adding that the new products maintain that DNA but are more appropriate for urban environments, such as Seattle.
Growth of the brand outside Alaska has been due in large part to word-of-mouth. “People traveling to Alaska often find themselves in need of boots, and locals tell them about Xtratuf,” said Thai. In addition, interest has been bolstered by reality shows about Alaska, such as “The Deadliest Catch.” And going back to 2009, the boots were worn by Sandra Bullock in the film “The Proposal.” “People are curious about the lifestyle and culture,” said Thai.
To date, Xtratuf’s wholesale distribution has been focused on outdoor stores around the U.S., including the Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops chains. More recently, independent footwear and specialty stores have picked up the line. The brand’s authenticity resonates with consumers, explained Thai. “People are looking for products with a heritage.”