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You either recognize these boots or you don’t. If you’ve never been to Alaska, chances are you don’t. They are called XTRATUFs.

I used to wear them only during summer salmon work, but I have since felt the dry-footed glory of puddle jumping all over Portland’s rainy face in my Tufs. As visible in the photo above, the mighty Pacific Ocean taught me a little lesson about boot ego.

When my cousin and I arrived at our very first salmon cannery, Wards Cove Packing in Ketchikan, Alaska, someone from the office led us into an attic stockroom. Here we received our very own set of raingear (pants and a jacket) and a pair of black waterproof boots. One 12+ hour workday, and we understood why seasoned workers had turned up their noses at the free black boots and ponied up $60 for the brown Xtratufs. When you spend over 100 hours a week on a cold, gut-covered cement pad, you buy the boots that provide a (slight) cushion and that have enough traction to keep you upright and out of the small rivers of fish blood, sperm sacs and egg skeins.

I am probably on my fourth or fifth pair by now, and they are getting a winter workout. The last pair are still kicking around, cut off into ankle-high slip-on boot slippers. The other day walking around in a Portland downpour, I barely caught the words of a fellow pedestrian as she passed me headed in the other direction. “….Alaska?”

“What?” I asked turning back toward her and catching sight of her calf-high Tufs. “Oh! Nice boots, man.” I clicked my rubber heels and walked off with a smile. Walking around Sitka in February, however, I would estimate one in three people are wearing the same boots, protecting their feet and calves from the slushy snow drifts. Spot a pair in the lower 48, and you know you have found a boot brother – someone you could no doubt share a beer and stories with.

Lest y’all be feeling left out and want your own: here’s a boot-buying link.

If you have the fashion fortitude, you just may be able to pull off the coveted roll-down (boot) roll-up (pant) summer style.

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