In 1932, William Brooks, joined by his brother F. M. "Mike" Brooks, founded The William Brooks Shoe Company in Nelsonville, Ohio. In search of opportunity, the brothers set up shop in a rent-free factory with lent equipment and what would eventually become Rocky Brands was born. The company originally employed 50 to 100 workers with a production rate of 300 pairs of shoes per day. With a newly constructed addition and the installation of more equipment, by the mid-1930's the factory employed 225 people and production output increased to more than 2,000 pairs per day. While supplying more than one million pairs of shoes and boots for military conflicts such as World War II and the Korean War, the company built key relationships with leading footwear retailers. In 1977, Mike Brooks won an award for what now is called the original "Rocky boot," and the company paid $1,000 for a trademark and launched the Rocky brand. Sales rose and in 1988, the company reached $20 million in annual revenue. Two years after the retirement of John Brooks in 1991, his son, Mike Brooks took the company public, spending nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in the process, changing the name to Rocky Shoes & Boots and initiating the company's initial public offering. Rocky Shoes & Boots acquired EJ Footwear on December 6, 2004 where they brought Georgia Boot, Durango, and Lehigh Safety Shoes brands into Rocky's fold and added a licensed footwear brand in Dickies.

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