The Boots of Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones would never consider adventuring without the right hat. Similarly, Harrison Ford didn't take the role of Indiana Jones without the right boots. Despite costumer designer Deborah Nadoolman's plans that Indy wear Red Wings, only a pair of orthopedic boots called Aldens would do.
The boots Indiana Jones wore are Alden 405 Truebalance walking boots made by the Alden Shoe Company. The Massachusettes-based shoe company has been in business since 1884 and the Alden 405, commonly referred to as "the Indy Boot," has been part of their catalog for decades. However, as matter-of-fact as this information is, finding out the exact identity of these boots was not an easy task.
While the hats, jackets and to a lesser degree, the bullwhips, are clearly visible throughout the three movies, Indy's boots aren't as distinctive and, well, they're on his feet under the cuffs of his pants! The hunt for the true identity of the boots started with IndyGear legend Lee Keppler in the years following Raiders of the Lost Ark's 1981 release and from all accounts it wasn't easy. There was no Internet and barely any home video technology.
The costume designer, Nadoolman, had Red Wings as the documented Indy boots and the Red Wings 1905 style work boots look almost identical to Alden 405s, especially in moving film frames before the age of crystal clear DVDs to reference. However, Keppler dogged ahead and through sheer determination and some clever detective work, discovered the identity not of the boot but of the shop where Ford bought his first pair.
Legend has it that Ford had a preference for the Alden boots because he had worn them while working as a carpenter in Los Angeles in the years before Star Wars and stardom. Ford originally purchased his boots from a local shoe store in Sherman Oaks, California named Frederick's Shoes, run by a German man named Fritz. When the time came to source multiple pairs of the boots for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ford insisted the boots be purchased from Fritz's store and the production team honored his request. Fritz sold a number of pairs of boots to the production for use in the film.
When Keppler found Fritz, the story started to unfold. The late Fritz was a very cautious, old world cobbler and professional shoe salesman. He kept all of his records on paper, including a precious and guarded rolodex that contained the names of all his customers, including Harrison Ford. Fritz revealed to Keppler that the boot was indeed an Alden make. Incidentally, IndyGear staff member Sergei had the privilege of seeing Ford's customer card in Fritz's rolodex for a brief moment and learned he wears a size 10 ½ in the now-famous Alden 405.
Fritz died in 2002 and the shop he spent a lifetime selling shoes out of is now closed, but many an Indy fan, including a few IndyGear staff members, had the pleasure of meeting Fritz and getting fitted for their own pairs of Alden boots before his death. He was always a friendly man and a consummate professional with his customers.
Alden 405s are made of a heavy, full grain waxhide with a heavy 100 percent cotton duck lining complete with leather facings and rubber heels. They are heavy boots to carry in hand due to their sturdy construction and the ribbed, tempered steel shanks that run inside the heel and arch of the boot.
Indy's boots in Raiders of the Lost Ark are a dark brown color leather with what appear to be rounded laces. The boots are clearly seen in the beginning of the film when Indy enters the inner sanctum of the Peruvian Temple and carefully makes his way across the flagstones, avoiding the dart traps. Although they are rugged ankle boots, Ford appears to have not used the top two lace hooks when tying his boots as can be seen in key sequences in Raiders, including the Flying Wing fight.
By all accounts, Indy's Alden boots remained the same color in each film in the series, dark brown, though sometimes with the amount of sand and dirt caking them it is hard to tell. In Raiders of the Lost Ark there is an insert shot of Indy's foot at the pedals of the Nazi truck and the boots are noticeably lighter in color, a lighter brown leaning towards a brick-like shade.
In the years since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989, Alden has changed the color of the Indy boots a few times, much to the constant dismay of Indy gear collectors who hunt for the elusive original brown Indy boot.
The original color in Raiders of the Lost Ark was a brown patent leather that was discontinued sometime after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The boot is distinctive from later Aldens as it does not have a lined upper and the leather is stiffer than later versions. As late as 2002, before Fritz's death, fortunate Indy gear collectors with obscure size feet, smaller or larger sizes generally, were known to sometimes come away from Frederick's Shoes with a pair of old stock Raiders brown Aldens. The color is generally considered to be “extinct” but there are still “new” old stock pairs that surface every now and then from the storerooms of old shoe shops.
A common color in the years after Last Crusade for the Alden boots was a reddish brown color, almost a brick type shade or russet color. This color for the Alden makes the boots look dusty and matte when brand new, but with the proper polish the boots darken and age quite nicely. For years, Meltonian brick color shoe polish was recommended to owners by other Indy gear collectors.
The color of the boots hiccuped briefly when, as our own Michaelson discovered when he called Aldens about it years ago, there was a leather sourcing glitch that resulted in a batch of 405s in what has gone down in infamy as the “pumpkin brown” color. Fortunately, it was a one-time misstep and not a deliberate color choice by the company.
Over the years, Indygear collectors went to great lengths to get their boots a screen accurate color, with some repeatedly treating their boots with brown polishes before sealing the leather with Pecards dressing. Others, including IndyGear's own Dalexs, went the extra mile and dyed the leather of their boots to the proper Raiders brown shade.
As of this writing, the boot is being made in a “brown,” also called a “dark brown,” color and retails around $300. The color is actually not nearly as dark as the original Raiders brown, but it is a more traditional brown without the pumpkin or brick tones of previous incarnations. These boots can be readily acquired through AldenShoe.com and AldenShop.com. The original Raiders brown is no longer in production.
For those interested in "seeing for themselves," Indy's boots can be most easily seen in a few choice scenes from the series. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Aldens feature prominently in the aforementioned opening Peruvian Temple sequence as Indy traverses the floor traps and on the pedals of the Nazi truck. In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the boots are easy to see as Indy tries to stop the mincarts with his feet when the brakes go out. Probably the easiest and clearest scene with his footwear is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy braves the "Path of God" trial and his shoes are closely focused on as he steels himself for the leap of faith.
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