Tanker boots are a form of footwear that originated in the military. They are distinguished from other kinds of boots by being secured with leather straps, rather than laces. Military tanker boots are extremely rugged, and are worn by the American, German, and Israeli armies.
Since they were developed by the military, these boots are designed to withstand and protect the wearer from many adverse conditions. Traditionally, they are worn by those who ride in tanks and other vehicles with treads. The boot is therefore designed to allow for circulation in the feet when the wearer will be sitting down for long hours.
The boots' main material was chosen with a specific purpose in mind. Unlike many forms of footwear, tanker boots are always primarily crafted out of leather, rather than nylon or other synthetic materials. Leather is less likely to catch fire or melt when exposed to harsh chemicals, such as fuel. Using leather straps also circumvents the possibility of laces getting broken or tangled in machinery.
Besides the distinctive leather straps that fasten them around the ankle, the boots have many other details that help the wearer walk safely in several climates. Originally, they were fashioned to be entirely waterproof, with the boot tongue sewn in so as not to have a gap where water could leak inside. Desert tanker boots are no longer fashioned to be waterproof, in response to the rise of desert combat in the Middle Eastern country of Iraq.
Tanker boots also may or may not be enforced with metal toes. Metal reinforcements to the heel and soles are common to provide durability and protect the foot from being pierced or crushed. Metal toe caps were not added to the first versions for fear that a serviceman's toes might be cut off by it when enough pressure was applied.
The origin of tanker boots is unknown, but there are many romantic stories about how they came to be. In one variation, a squad of tanker personnel in World War I lost their boots' laces when they froze in the snow and snapped. American Captain George S. Patton, Jr. turned over the straps of his cavalier pistol holster to the youngest soldier in order to secure his boots, and the idea for the tanker boot was born.
Whatever their real origin, some military groups have the tradition of earning one's boots rather than being directly issued them. A tanker is only allowed to get their boots after completing their first tank mission. Other times, a tanker is issued them after successfully completing a training course instead of taking part in actual combat.