Reginald Murray (‘RM”) Williams was born into a pioneering settler family in 1908 at Belalie North about 200 miles from Adelaide, a horse trainer and bushman who rose to be a millionaire entrepreneur. His adventures in the outback created a recognisable Australian style of bush-wear.
RM was taught leather working by a horseman, Dollar Mick, including making bridles, pack saddles and riding boots. In 1932, to fund the hospital care of his son, RM founded RM Williams and he began to sell saddles; he established and rapidly expanded a small factory running in his father’s back shed.
RM’s most iconic designs were his handcrafted riding boots. They are formed of a single piece of leather or suede and stitched at the rear with elasticated sides. As of 2013, the company’s handcrafted riding boots comprises 70 hand processes and a single piece of leather.
RM sold the business in 1988 but sadly it entered receivership in 1993. The company was then taken under the control of RM’s long-time friend Ken Cowley who, with businessman Kerry Stokes, and Ken’s family ran R.M. Williams Ltd. for over twenty years.
RM died in November 2003.
In March 2013, the Cowley family released a statement of an intention to sell the company to a new owner for AUS$100 million sum. In April 2013, R.M. Williams sold a 49.9% stake to L Capital, the private equity affiliate of LVMH.
My RM Williams Craftsmen Boots: These guys are another wish list item for me. I have known of them for over twenty years as a friend from Sydney had the well known classic Craftsman boot which at that time he claimed to have owned for over ten years – they were pristine with minor tell-tale wear and a fabulous sheen.
In July 2016 I was in London and went to the new Westfield Shopping Centre at Shepherd’s Bush. I walked into the newly opened RM Williams store to discover I was in fact the very first customer.
A charming girl who had been seconded from RM William’s office in Adelaide was so well informed and enthusiastic in her desire to impart details about the hand-made boots I felt almost rude leaving after the limited time I had ran out…only to be stung by the excessive parking charges at Westfield!
She explained that they would prefer – if I lived in the UK – that I should opt to have a rubber rather leather sole, as the leather is so thick it took a while to dry out and risked deteriorating if not totally dried before it got wet again. She explained the use of kangaroo hide – which caused my son some disquiet – but it was explained as a by-product of meat production.
I am determined to return to place an order in due course – but suspect I may go for a suede pair.
Your RM William Craftsman Boots? Why not sure your experiences of these excellent boots – we’d love to hear from you? Please share your experiences of this iconic and increasingly well known brand in Europe and the US.
Images from RM Williams