The name Sorel has become practically synonymous with quality winter boots. This shouldn’t come as surprise, especially when you consider the brand’s birthplace of Ontario—a place where harsh winter weather is simply a part of life. Although the Sorel brand wasn’t founded until 1962, the beginnings of the world’s most trusted winter boot can be traced to the early 20th century.
A son of German immigrants, Jacob Kaufman founded the Kaufman Rubber Co. in Kitchener, Ontario in 1907. The plant opened with over 300 employees and began producing rubber footwear for fisherman, miners, and policemen. The business grew, and by the late ‘50s the groundwork had been laid that would make production of the world’s best winter boots possible.
The Sorel line of winter boots was introduced in 1962, and they were an instant hit. Sorel boots―with their vulcanized rubber, waterproof leather shafts, and removable felt liners―garnered a loyal following among farmers, hunters, and working men, and the boots were sold by farm stores, tire shops, and traditional winter footwear retailers. For the remainder of the century, the Kaufman family ran the business and the Sorel line of boots continued to be manufactured in Ontario.
In 2000, following a series of warm winters, Sorel was forced to declare bankruptcy. Columbia Sportswear Co. acquired the Sorel trademark and went work revitalizing the brand’s image. While Columbia continued to produce the popular Caribou line of boots for the traditional Sorel customer, it made strategic moves to reach a new audience. That new audience primarily consisted of fashion-minded female consumers.
The new Sorel boots maintained traditional Sorel elements like vulcanized rubber and faux fur trim, but included slimmer silhouettes and sexy heights. By 2010, the fashion-forward boots were featured in Vogue ads and it became clear that Sorel boots were part of a rapidly growing fashion trend.
Today, Sorel’s product line still encompasses its traditional designs, but also extends far beyond the winter-worthy boots that first bore the name. From cushy slippers, to rain boots, to a casual pair of low-top sneakers, Sorel has a footwear choice for nearly every sensibility, and every occasion. When the weather turns cold, whether in city streets or the Arctic Circle, you can count on spotting more than a few pairs of Sorels.