When R.M. Williams was sold to LVMH, the high-fashion conglomerate, early last year, my first thought was, “what would R.M. say about all this?” After all, this was a man born on the Australian bush to a lower class family who worked his way up from a swagman to a millionaire with his eponymous line of Chelsea boots. Even still, I imagine that when R.M. churned out his first pair of Chelseas back in the 1930’s, he never would’ve fathomed that his name would once be listed alongside the likes of Louis Vuitton. Hell, I doubt he even knew who Louis Vuitton was.
R.M. was born Reginald Murray Williams in 1908, and for the first quarter of his life he lived primarily as a transient, traveling across the Australian countryside doing whatever odd job he could find. After dropping out of school at thirteen, R.M. worked as a camel driver, a well digger, and a leatherworker (a skill that R.M. learned from a saddler named Dollar Mick, because that’s just how stories like this go), which ultimately paved the way for his life’s greatest work.