Joshua Bingaman moved to Austin on a whim. Neither he nor his wife, Sarah, had visited before they made the move in 2002. Despite this, it was a step in the right direction.
HELM Boots was founded in 2009 and has become a sought-after boot brand, competing against household names like Frye and Red Wing. But Bingaman didn’t arrive in Austin with a dream to start his own boot company. He did, however, have a passion for quality coffee, and founded Progress Coffee when he was just 23. It was located at what is now the east-side staple Wright Bros. Brew & Brew.
And while we already knew about Bingaman’s history with coffee, we realized there was more to learn. Here’s a list of 10 things you didn’t know about Bingaman and his footwear brand, HELM Boots.
1. Bingaman has a poetic background
The Kiffen Boot, HELM Boots
After arriving in Austin, and before founding Progress Coffee, Bingaman attended Austin Community College where he majored in English/Lit and Poetry. From a young age, Bingaman had a way with words, but only focused on his writings after a major car accident kept him from playing sports for a while. During his recovery, he concentrated his writing on poetry and music, ultimately landing a record deal at age 18. He released a series of short stories along with his first album.
2. Each boot pays homage to Bingaman’s love of words
Bingaman didn’t pursue the life of a writer, but he makes sure to include poetry in his everyday life. He does so through his boots, engraving each pair with a quote he selects. The quote changes seasonally and is stitched into the boot’s heel cup.
3. HELM Boots are collectables
The Klein, HELM Boots
Each boot is marked with the style, season, and year. Found on the inside wall or under the boot’s tongue, boot owners can identify when their boot was made and which style they’re wearing. As a result, collectors can note which boot edition they own or the version they’re collecting if buying from a secondary retailer.
4. There are new products on the horizon
HELM Boots is a lifestyle
With new designs slated to rollout in early 2018, customers can expect to see a women’s boot line as well as an expanded men’s shoe collection. The company is also working to expand its product scope. HELM is currently developing a branded line that will include high quality t-shirts—the brand’s first venture away from footwear.
5. Another retail store is in the works
Bingaman loves Austin’s east side, and he already knew where to look when it came time to move from their E 6th location. HELM’s second retail location is set to open on E 11th, next to Quickie Pickie, across from Paperboy and Hillside Farmacy.
HELM opened its first storefront on E 6th in April 2013. The store carries a unique selection of unisex products including handmade leather bags, fragrances, and belts. The 11th street location will carry the same inventory with a more focused selection.
6. HELM pioneered the leather-staked sole
The Marlon Boot, HELM Boots
For Bingaman, HELM represents a dressier version of the traditional work boot that includes design features seen on sneakers. This combo led to HELM’s signature design element: the stacked leather sole. Instead of the classic white sole found on many sneaker-inspired boots, HELM boots have a three-layered sole—leather, rubber, leather—stitched together while using the Blake-rapid welt construction.
Though skeptical at first, shoemakers effectively completed the design. The brand’s product line now includes a few designs with a four-layer sole.
7. Helm’s core values
While the company’s original designs mirror European styles, the boots’ designs became slightly more Americana after moving production stateside in 2012. Bingaman designed boots for the modern working man, and was determined to create a shoe—and a style—that helped the client “transition into a shoe that honors and respects a classic work boot, but feels and looks like a dressier boot.”
The result was the Muller, and it’s still one of the brand’s top selling items. But as the brand—and clientele—continues to grow, Bingaman projects that HELM will continually progress and advance beyond that original style.
8. HELM has a worldly team
Thousands of people arrive in Austin daily to pursue their passions. Lucky for Bingaman, a few of those came to Austin because of HELM. The team of 10 consists of talented creatives, product managers, and designers. Together, past employers include Adidas, Barney’s, Urban Outfitters, and Marc Jacobs.
9. The team understands the brand
The Riley Boot, HELM Boots
Helm team members are dedicated to the brand. That’s why each team member works in the retail store, visits the shoe manufacturer in Maine, travels for photo shoots, and meets with brand loyalists. Furthermore, every team member wear-tests a number of products before they hit the market to ensure each boot meets brand standards.
10. Joshua Bingaman is HELM Boots
Despite his duties as founder and owner of a growing brand, Bingaman still makes time to oversee every aspect of the company. From designing boots in Illustrator, to meeting with manufactures, to creating the concept and vision of this season’s look book, Bingaman’s stamp of approval is visible and constant. While he encourages suggestions and ideas from his teammates, the ultimate decision is his.
Joshua Bingaman founded HELM out of his love for boots, but continues to build the company for the love of his community and passion for dressing today’s modern workmen.
Featured photo courtesy of HELM Boots