One of Letraset's more unusual associations was with Bata, the shoe company, who produced the fondly-remembered "Wayfinder Animal Tracks" & "Wayfinder Moonshot" shoes for boys; each had a promotion which included Letraset transfers.
Included here is an article taken from "Thurrock Heritage — Factfiles" about Bata's Wayfinders launch in August 1965.
(Unfortunately, its link —http://www.thurrock.gov.uk/heritage/content.php?page=factfiles_details&id=35 — no longer seems to work.)
35 — Wayfinder Shoes made at Bata, East Tilbury
An unusual achievement for the Bata Shoe Company was their collaboration with the Scout movement in the production of "Wayfinder" Shoes. The first pair of Wayfinders was made in August 1965, and Bata informed prospective customers that:
'Wayfinders are so different because they are shoes which appeal to the boys first and foremost, apart from having what every parent desires — good quality workmanship, and materials, reasonable prices, correct fitting for growing feet and a guarantee period of six months' fair wear.'
As well as carrying the footprints of ten British animals in their moulded rubber soles, each pair of shoes had a 'secret' compass inserted in a special heel compartment in the right foot. Wayfinders were also available in larger sizes for Rovers, Scoutmasters and senior officers. There was a foot measurement chart on the bottom of each shoe box, and each pair of shoes was sold with a circular disc showing 11 of the new road signs on either side, gaining the approval of the Ministry of Transport. Promotion of the shoes was directed towards boys' magazines, national newspapers and prime-time slots on commercial television.
A visit by the Chief Scout, Sir Charles Maclean (1916-1990), 24th March 1966, to the East Tilbury-based British Bata shoe company in 1966 was recorded in a special two sided poster of the event and in the weekly Bata Record.
At the time of Maclean's visit to Tilbury, young sons of Bata employees, who were Cubs or Scouts locally, were given permission by the head teachers of various local schools to have time off from school to meet the Chief Scout. All the boys were wearing Wayfinders, and Sir Charles said he wished the shoe 'success because it is such a worthwhile shoe.'
Bata Record, March 1966
Source of Chief Scout biog.
Bata's association with Letraset is first mentioned with reference to Wayfinder Animal Tracks transfers on 31st August 1968. Wayfinder Moonshot transfers are first mentioned on 23rd August 1969 — almost exactly a year later. However, there seems to be no mention of transfers in Wayfinders advertising after 19th September 1970; of course, they may have continued to be available for some time afterwards, but the Wayfinders Big Game shoe is advertised from 21st August 1971 on.
So the most likely story at the moment is:
Animal transfers: August 1968 — August 1971
Moonshot transfers: August 1969 — August 1971
People keep talking to me about "Clarks Wayfinders Animal Track shoes". Clarks did make a shoe called "Pathfinder", but they had nothing to do with Bata, who were after all their rivals. Animal Track shoes were by Bata, not Clarks. This is not open to dispute! Confusing the two companies is like claiming the Incredible Hulk was published by DC comics. See how you like THAT, geeks! It's an easy mistake to make if you're ignorant; but now you know.
I should also point out that I went barefoot as a child, & so have no direct experience of, or affiliation to, any of these shoes.
There are quite a lot of heavy-duty images to show you, so I've split this article up into several convenient sections; however, it works best if you follow them through in order:
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives
© Tom Vinelott 2023