HELM Boots Hop Onto the Railroad Revival Tour - Rolling Stone
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HELM Boots Hop Onto the Railroad Revival Tour

Cult-favorite footwear line growing in popularity with musicians

The Railroad Revival HELM BootThe Railroad Revival HELM Boot

The Railroad Revival HELM Boot

Chris Bilheimer

This fall, the second annual Railroad Revival Tour will roll into eight western American cities and feature performances by Band of Horses, Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson and John Reilly & Friends. Building on last year’s hype, the locomotive festival recruited the Austin workman boot brand HELM as a partner.

Photos: Railroad Revival Tour, Opening Night 2011

In conjunction with the Railroad Revival Tour, HELM created a limited edition, handsome namesake boot for $385. A reimagined take on the boot styles worn by train workers at the turn of the century, it fits in well with the nostalgic and patriotic theme of the tour – or, as HELM puts it, “glorifying the historical romance between music and trains across the great American landscape.” The sturdy boots utilize Horween, the same leather the NFL and NBA use to create their balls. As Thrillist quips, those wiith a sense of humor might find within the details some cunning little references to Willie Nelson, too.

As festival-hoppers may know, HELM enjoys a cult popularity among musicians at Austin’s own SXSW and counts among its fans Spoon, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones and Nick Cave. They even designed the Poppy, a goth-leaning boot, in Cave’s honor, injecting a classic steampunk twist to their all-American identity.

However, while HELM’s aesthetic plays well into hipster fashion’s current fixation on blue-collar gaslighting, founder Joshua Bingaman insists it’s incidental.  “For me, it’s been unintentional that [American workwear] has [become] somewhat of a fashion trend, because there’s always been a lot of people in Austin, I find, who have more of a classic style,” he said in a recent interview with Austin’s Culture Map. “For us, [the style] is almost this acknowledgment of our ‘working class hero’ grandfathers and fathers.”


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