Named after one of history’s most storied women, Sorel’s Joan of Arctic boot celebrates its 10th anniversary this fall with a special collection and a legacy that continues to boost the fashion profile of waterproof winter boots.
The boot—identifiable by its vulcanized rubber shell, herringbone outsole, waterproof nylon and leather upper, D-ring eyelets and faux fur cuff—debuted during a time when consumers were beginning to curtail their spending. It was 2007, just before the Great Recession, and consumers were choosing to invest in durable, functional footwear with a timeless design that could withstand multiple seasons.
Sorel’s Joan of Arctic boot offered the heritage-inspired caribou look that was gaining momentum at the time, while providing the waterproof and insulating properties of a hardcore winter boot.
Sorel Director of Product Erin Sander says the Joan of Arctic filled an iceberg-sized gap in the footwear market. “It really disrupted the women’s winter boot market at that time. It was the first fashionable snow boot for women,” she said. “There were not a lot of options where [the consumer] could look really great and also be protected from the elements. This boot came in and established that and became the icon for stylish winter boots for women,” she added.
Despite seasonal color updates and occasional new material, the Joan of Arctic’s blueprint and standard of winter performance have remained the same since its inception. “We’ve kept it intact,” Sander said. “It still looks quite similar to what it did in 2007.”
Part of the boot’s success lies in its composition. Sander says the boot’s handmade vulcanized rubber shell and seam-sealed construction provides ultimate protection against the elements. The outsole of the boot features specific traction detail for the snow, while the six-millimeter felt liner provides warmth and moisture-wicking naturally.
The popularity of the Joan of Artic helped the winter boot brand step into the lifestyle footwear category. In 2013, the Joan of Arctic Wedge Mid served as Sorel’s introduction to the women’s fall lifestyle space. “From the Joan of Arctic icon, we have created a Joan Wedge franchise, a Joan heeled franchise, a spring version, a lighter winter version,” Sander said. “It’s allowed us to take that look that women love so much and expand it into new places and spaces.”
In January, the brand bowed the Joan Rain Wedge, once again proving that women do not need to sacrifice fashion for function. The brand also collaborated with Paris fashion house Chloé this year for a $515 version of the Joan of Arctic, decked out with gold buttons, metallic laces and a shearling tongue and lining to keep feet warm at temperatures as low as -25F.
To mark the style’s milestone, the brand launched the Joan X Collection this fall, featuring the Joan of Artic boot, Joan of Artic Wedge Mid and the Cozy Joan sneaker boot in sleek black and white colorways. The collection retails for $200 to $260. A second Fall ’17 line, called the Lux Collection, features the iconic style with upgraded materials including cashmere inner boot lining. Boots retail for $300.
“Winter boots do not have to be ugly and boring,” Sander said about the Joan of Arctic’s success. “They just don’t.”