Early Friday, a quick-moving winter storm dumped more than 8 inches of snow in the metro region. On Saturday, the temperature barely made it out of the ’20s. There comes a time in the winter when all of a sudden, bare ankles become obsolete. So do regular shoes, sneakers, and even boots for that matter.
You want to be warm and cozy, and you need thick rubber soles, so you don’t slip on the ice. Sure, you can wear your Uggs or other generic boots, but if you want something with more personality, more unique, and authentic, a better option is to go straight to the source.
Mukluks are the original winter boot created by Canada’s First People for warmth, comfort, function, and beauty. The word ‘mukluk’ originated from the Yupik word maklak, meaning bearded seal – a key animal source for Aboriginal clothing in the north.
Originally, mukluks were made from sealskin, moose hide, or caribou. They were insulated with animal furs and looked good (even hunters want to look stylish), adorned with pompoms or tassels and beaded patterns to keep extra warm.
Canada’s largest traditional and modern mukluks and moccasins manufacturer is Winnipeg-based Manitobah Mukluks. They strive to build a vibrant, global brand that significantly impacts indigenous communities. In recent years, celebrities such as Kate Moss, Justin Timberlake, Megan Fox, and Beyonce have brought an international profile to the company and, in turn, have helped Manitobah keep traditional arts alive in Aboriginal communities throughout Canada.
The suede and fur Metis Mukluk is perhaps Manitobah’s most iconic boot. Though many Indigenous peoples used flower motifs, the beaded floral pattern that adorns this Made-in-Canada beauty is a defining cultural symbol of the Metis—whom the Dakota Sioux and Cree called the “Flower Beadwork People.” It is priced at $359.99 and is available in tan, black, gray, and oak.
Wrap yourself in luxury and tradition with the Tall Wrap Mukluk. Priced at $359.99, it features a knee-grazing 17-inch shaft adjustable to a circumference of 19.5 inches. The fur luxuriously wraps around the leg up to the knee. As beautiful and functional in the woods as it is in the city, this head-turning mukluk is rated to-32C.
The Metis Spirit Mukluk, priced at $274.99, is a true show-stopper. The exceptionally warm lining and sheepskin footbed is guaranteed to keep you cozy and comfortable wherever life takes you. The Spirit Mukluks reference the Manitou (spirit) and the fundamental life force in all things.
The Waterproof Element Mukluk, priced at $359.99, was designed by award-winning Haudenosaunee fashion designer and business owner Nico Perkins using genuine glass crystals. Nico’s beadwork comes to life on black suede hides, with vibrant green stems leading to stunning white petals and brilliant crystal pistils.
Some of the most exciting styles are from Manitobah’s 2021 Artists Series. Each boot, priced at $359.99, creates beautiful wearable art. A picture of the boot includes a photo of the artist and a complete bio. Christi Belcourt’s beaded and embroidered design takes inspiration from the land and the ancestors who walked before her.
Corrine Hunt grew up on the reservation in Alert Bay. Corrine is a member of the Raven Gwa’wina clan, and she likes to share images of animals like the raven often found on the Northwest Coast, selecting to feature them on her design.
Jamie Okuma has produced album covers for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cher, and others. Okuma is a professional artist whose work is in the permanent collections of The Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Nelson-Atkins Museum, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Jamie wanted to change things up, so for her boot, she created a monochromatic geometric artwork that is not tribal-specific.
These days mukluks and moccasins are seen all over the world. Although rubber soles are often added to new versions intended for wet weather and urban environments, traditional mukluks and moccasins, made for the indoors, are still being produced. They are perfect for sitting by the fire in a chic lodge or your own home.
On Etsy.com, North of 49 Trading Co., a Canadian-based shop, specializes in one-of-a-kind vintage Canadian mukluks/moccasins. Typically unisex, they are made of beaver fur, smoked moose hide, tanned suede, and feature exquisite beadwork on the foot and upper leg. The assortment currently available is sized from 7 to 12, with prices ranging from around $250 – $390.
Canadians are not the only ones who know a thing or two about keeping warm. Seseg Bazarsdaeva, a seller on Etsy whose shop is Arctic Reindeer, specializes in reindeer boots made in Siberia/Mongolia.
Seseg, who has a shop on Etsy in addition to her own website, boasts that her boots, priced from $400 – $650, are probably the warmest shoes in the world. Thanks to tiny “thermos” hairs that keep your legs warm, genuine shearling lining, double felt soles, and the addition of a microporous frost-resistant rubber sole.
Litvin, a Ukraine-based store on Etsy, sells the warmest furry winter boots and house shoes for women, men, and children priced between $180 and $290. Anatoli Litvin will also take custom orders. The positive customer feedback speaks volumes.
And for those who want to do something with their own hands, Ambers Leather Creations, a Canadian-based mukluk, and moccasin craft supplier offer a DIY Mukluk Kit. Priced at $119.57, it includes a video tutorial to guide you in making your very own pair of mukluks.