For some folks, shopping for outdoor gear is almost as thrilling (and satisfying) as the hike ahead of them.
And I’ll admit, I’m one of them.
It’s almost impossible not to become mesmerized by the variety of outdoor gear and accessories available. Most of us have fantasized about that ultimate camping trip we’ll never take while staring at hiking equipment we don’t even know how to use.
Looking at gear, I’ve noticed some common color choices, especially the red laces on hiking boots.
Yet another mystery lingers. One that isn’t so easily answered.
Why Do All These Hiking Boots Come With Red Laces
No, it isn’t some Illuminati shenanigan, but almost all hiking boots from the 60s through the 90s came with red laces.
There really isn’t any definitive reason for this. Well, nothing concrete at least.
It’s not daft to believe that companies wanted to distinguish their brand from ordinary work boots. Red laces became the beacon “for hikers only” footwear.
Trekking the great outdoors holds different treasures for everyone. Hell, it’s where we came from, how we got here.
But hiking exploded in popularity during the hazy 60s and right through up into the grungy 90s. In the wake of this revived regard for nature, a new lane of fashion and accessories zapped into existence.
The 70s is really when hiking developed into what it is today. Steel framed hiking packs, nylon and polyester hiking clothes, and portable camping accessories. Then for some reason… red-laced hiking boots.
They were especially popular during the 70s. So popular, in fact, red laced hiking boots quickly became the unofficial “uniform” for the American hiker. At one point, they weren’t just unique accessories but rather a legitimate staple within the culture.
Considering how trends initiate and root around the nation, it is assumed that certain brands wanted to distinguish their product strictly as “hiking boots” by giving them a unique aspect.
Do you love the look of hiking boots? You might not care, but they do have a distinct look. In our article, Why Are Hiking Boots So Ugly? we discover why boots look the way they do.
An aspect that was quickly adopted and shared around the country like a wildfire by alternative brands and companies. Purchasing a pair of leather hiking boots laced in red was a hot commodity!
If you google “70’s hiking boots”, every pair you see will have red laces. Even my mom’s old boots in the basement have red laces.
If you don’t believe me, remember that “pretzel bun” phase every restaurant in the galaxy was bidding to the public?
Another popular opinion is they are used to increase your personal visibility.
It’s not uncommon for hunting garb to display subtle features that stand out to the human eye in thick forest. Even my running shoes come with fluorescent illuminating laces.
Or it could even simply be that the best brand laces were coincidently woven from red material, which presented them with social notoriety. It’s a classic case of “don’t fix what ain’t broke.”
When you hit a stride, it’s best to leave things be, and red laces have an adaptive feel to a standard leather hiking boot.
Are There Any Benefits of Red Laces
If it’s made with good quality material, then yes, there are. But no, the color itself doesn’t affect your laces’ functionality. That would be like me saying, “my car is faster than yours because it’s blue.”
The only time the actual color of the material will make any difference is if you’re a hunter, tracker, or wildlife photographer.
Basically, anything that requires you to be not so obvious on the terrain. It might not seem like the color of your laces could make any difference, but these are crafty critters that can pick up on the tiniest of tells.
For basic hiking and trekking, the only thing that matters is quality. A good pair of laces are just as important as the boots themselves.
If your laces don’t effectively keep your boot tight, you’ll experience a loss in ankle support, which can potentially lead to chronic injuries.
Aside from quality, material and lacing styles play vital roles in practical boots.
Popular lace materials include nylon, elastic, Kevlar (yes, Kevlar), silicone, and polyester. Each is durable, waterproof, and thickly woven.
A decent lacing style can differ from person to person. Depending on where you want more or less pressure around your foot, you can adjust the lacing and even the knot itself. There are tons of different guides and techniques. (Lacing styles include the loop, D ring, surgeons knot, and marathon loop.)
Perhaps one of the most convenient aspects of laces is how easily replaceable they are. For example, you can’t find hiking boots without red laces? Buy a green pair and lace them up!
A Sinister Tradition
As I researched the information for this article, I stumbled across an interesting yet sinister fact about red laced boots that I felt should be shared.
Red laced boots (and sometimes white laced) are known accessories for Neo Nazi’s.
More specifically, the subculture which stemmed from within it is the “skinhead” subculture. Skinhead culture was created in Great Britain during the 1960s. The result of a radical shift in global politics. They were even referred to as the boot party.
In this twisted realm of thought, red laces are something that’s “earned,” like a badge.
To these extremists, red laces broadcast a clear signal that they are ready to fight or prepared for violence. In certain sects, it can even relay that they have spilled blood “for the group” via committing violent crimes. It became a subtle accessory to the “uniform.”
Traditional hiking boots aren’t typically the type used.
They are usually black, leather, and steel-toed. More so like a workman’s boot. Although this cosmetic tradition has lost momentum through the years, it’s still a relevant practice.
Now, you might be thinking: “I thought I was reading about hiking boots? Why is he talking about Nazis now?”
An excellent point. It’s quite the segue in an article about hiking boots.
I bring this up because of the Doc Martens controversy in 2019. The famous brand received tremendous flack for debuting its “rock the holiday” ad campaign. The ad contained a pair of black high-top boots with red laces.
They closely resembled the boots used by the Aryan movement.
Although the company has absolutely zero ties to anything remotely like this, Docs were brand new to the world at the time. But unfortunately, they were the boot of choice during the infant state of the movement back in the 1960s.
Although it’s very, very unlikely that anyone will notice your red laced boots and connect you to skinheads, but if you have red laces, this is info you might want to know.
The Best Laces to Buy
Typically, you won’t have to put too much thought into this. Unless you do some serious hiking, shopping around for the perfect lace might seem like a waste of time.
But folks that spend a lot of time trekking can clearly comprehend the importance of quality laces during deep hikes.
Kevlar and polyester tend to be the most durable. They often come stock with higher-end hiking boots. These are waterproof and hard to stretch, aiding with ankle support. Kevlar laces are sometimes on the pricier end of the spectrum. But if you hike a lot, they’re well worth the investment.
Nylon is a popular material. But for me, it’s too stretchy. You don’t want laces that allow you too much pull.
You wouldn’t want to put cheap tires on an expensive car, would you?
If you genuinely want the perfect fit, you can even measure your laces before lacing them for optimal use. Hiking boot laces average anywhere between 27in to 160in. It all depends on the size and type of your boot.
So those were all the reasons for red laces on hiking boots. Some of the reasons surprised me when researching why so many boots have this lace color.
Before getting a new pair of hiking boots, you should know how they will stretch and feel over time. Please take a look at our article, Do Hiking Boots Stretch Out Over Time?