For quite some seasons now, heritage and vintage have been some of the main buzz words of fashion. Besides denim, the wave has carried other well-crafted brands and product categories with it, like high quality footwear from Red Wing Shoes. In just a few winters, the Red Wing brand has been incorporated as an undisputed part of heritage-vintage look, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The arch-American footwear manufacturer was founded in 1905 by Charles Beckman. The company is named after his hometown Red Wing, Minnesota about an hours drive outside the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area. Today, the Beckman-line, where only the highest quality leathers are used (the so-called Featherstone leather), is a dedication to the company’s founder.
Within 10 years of its founding, Red Wing Shoes was producing more than 200,000 pairs of boots a year, and was the primary company that makes shoes for U.S. soldiers fighting in World War I. Red Wing Shoes continued its tradition of producing footwear wartime use in the manufacture boots for U.S. soldiers during WWII. Each shoe in the extensive collection were made with a specific purpose and user in mind, including farmers, shepherds, railroad workers, miners, and factory workers.
In the postwar period, Red Wing boots began to become more than just soldiers’ or workers’ boots, and the brand became popular in combination with jeans from Levis (501) and Lee (101). In a major reorganization of the company, and with the launch of Red Wing stores, sales records were set in 1952, primarily based on the model 877 “Irish Setter Sport Boot”.
Red Wing boots have reached cult status in Asia and especially Japan, where used and worn-out Red Wings often sell at higher prices than new ones. Lately, Europeans have followed suit, and the Red Wing-craze doesn’t seems to have reached it’s peak yet. Below are some of the most popular and iconic models.
All boots from the heritage collection are sewn by hard in the factory in Red Wing, Minnesota using the best American quality ox leather from S.B. Foot Tanning Company, another proud “son” of the city of Red Wing, which is owned by Red Wing Shoes today after being acquired in 1986 (or 1987; the websites of the two companies seem to disagree), but was founded independently in 1872.
The heritage collection was officially established in 2008, and covers styles and designs inspired by past of the company’s century-long history, like those above: the 6-inch Moc toe (from “Moccasin”), the Iron Ranger, the Work Chukka, and the famous Irish Setter Boot. In the video below you can a closer look at how Red Wings are made.
Although Red Wing Shoes is known primarily for their heavy work exclusive leather boots in original designs, in recent years the company has expanded its lineup to include athletic-styled work shoes and footwear for specific job applications (such as slip resistant shoe designed for the service industry). Red Wing’s are still primarily handmade in the USA at one of the company’s factories in Potosi, Missouri and Danville, Kentucky and two factories in Red Wing, Minnesota, yet some of the non-heritage models are manufactured abroad.
Red Wing Shoes are sold in a wide variety of high-end stores around Europe including three Red Wing flagship stores in Berlin, Hamburg, and Amsterdam. In Scandinavia, noticeable dealers include Brund, Sivletto/Unionville, Meadow, and Støy Munkholm, yet the list continues. You can find your local dealer by following this link.