In my country grade school, five-buckle-arctics were sort of a rite-of-passage for those whose families could afford them. Really poor kids had no boots at all for mud and snow and trudged around in thin worn-out shoes. Those slightly better off had green “gum boots.” The rest of us had five-buckle-arctics.
For those who don’t know, they were made of a black rubber with a sort of quasi-fabric lining, and slipped over your regular footwear, usually assumed to be work boots, and came up to about three inches below the bottom of your knee. Instead of zippers or laces, they were fastened in the front with a set of adjustable metal buckles. There were two-buckle-artics to go over low shoes, usually purchased by city-slickers with farm roots and by some practical women. There were also four-buckle-artics for kids, city-slickers and some women and girls. The goal of every country boy of my day, though, was to get his own pair of five-buckles. That was the equivalent of moving from short pants to long pants in their grandfather’s day.
You see, MEN wore five-buckles! Farmers, construction workers, utility workers, mailmen and anyone else who spent the day outdoors in cold weather probably did it in five-buckles. Back then, they were made in America and the rubber would last for five years if you didn’t wear them out first. Most outdoor folks were lucky to get more than one winter from them, though, since they wore them nearly every day in bad weather. My farmer/logger father lived in his for about five months a year, plus during rainy weather anytime.
Like everything else, good arctics seem to have gone the way of the dinosaurs. They got more plastic-like and less rubbery, and now start cracking before the first winter is over. They aren’t as tall either, when you can even find them. I don’t know if guys wear pacs these days because they can’t find good arctics, or if arctics have simply been replaced by pacs. Either way, the effect is the same. I like pacs, myself, but they aren’t as tall as the old five-buckles, and you can’t tuck your pants-legs inside them and cinch the top buckle to keep snow out. Plus, if you were going somewhere more formal, you could put arctics on over your dress shoes and just take them off when you arrived, already dressed for whatever the occasion might be. I’ve seen a row of five-buckles sitting in the entry of a country church or a funeral home many a time.
I think I’ll see if I can still find a good AMERICAN MADE pair. I’m sure they’ll be online if I find any. I’ll let you know if I have any luck. © 2012