Welcome back to the Gentleman's Gazette!
In today's video, we'll be looking at Red Wing boots and whether they are worth
your money or not. Today's video is another installment of our review series,
Is it worth it? where we take a look at iconic products and see whether or not
they are worth your money. To find out more episodes, check out our
playlist here. Red Wing boots have long been a staple in American work wear. Now,
we're starting to see people wear them in a more fashion context but in either
application, are they worth the price? In order to answer that question, let's take
a look at the history of Red Wing shoe company. Many people now recognize the
over 100 year old company as a family-owned business that was launched
in 1905 in Red Wing, Minnesota.
However, in 1873, prior to the inception
of the Red Wing shoe company, Red Wing, Minnesota was known as one of the most
efficient producers of wheat in the United States of America. Soon after, the
discovery of natural clay beds in the area launched a healthy stoneware
industry. During the turn of the century, Red Wing, Minnesota was seeing
massive success from its river port and businesses were springing up all over
the place. European immigrants are creating
factories and workshops all over the city. Now at that time, Charles Beckman,
who happened to be a shoe seller and a very wise businessman, would watch the
carpenters and the blacksmith's walk throughout the city and noticed that they had
ill-fitting boots and shoes on. He came up with the idea to have something that
was specific to a certain job. Now, as Charles struck out to launch
this new venture for shoes and boots that would fit people appropriately, he
initially found that manufacturers were not willing to work with him. Thankfully,
Charles didn't have to wait forever. He was soon joined by other investors and
they began launching the Red Wing shoe company in 1905.
Now by 1912, Red Wing
shoe company was seeing massive success with its new style, the black and brown
chief. Now, this boot was created using manure proof leather to assist farmers
while working on their land. This boot also carried the likeness of
the legendary Dakota chief, Red Wing, on the sole of the boot as well. During
World War I, as the man who would have worked in the factory went to war, women
entered the factory to help with the creation of boots.
In particular, the 1088 Pershing boot was one that gained a lot of popularity.
Red Wing shoe company continued to make the 1088 Pershing style until 1965.
over the years, Red Wing shoe company has become known for more than just
shoes or boots for wartime or marketed just to farmhands. Now, in the 60s and 70s,
we see an adoption of Red Wing Shoes and boots by a much broader audience. In more
recent years, we see that a partnership with a popular company J.Crew helped
launch the heritage collection around 2007. The heritage collection was
advertised initially, as being a collection that would bring together
both the standard Red Wing boots along with a more modern aesthetic for a
broader audience. Today, we are seeing Red Wing boots appear in the classes of very
fashion-forward individuals. Now, those who choose to wear the brand casually
and opt to wear the more fashionable heritage collection are often branded as
hipsters; this is something I know they usually don't like.
Now, what has become
one of the most iconic styles from the Red Wing heritage collection is their
classic 6-inch moc-toe boot. Over the years as fashion rules have softened, we
see that many more people are willing to shell out the 200 plus dollars for these
popular boots. The Red Wing shoe factory produces up to two million shoes
each year. The Red Wing shoe factory has seen over four generations of shoemakers.
Fun fact! Did you know that Red Wing boots not only designs and manufactures
shoes under its own brand? It also produces footwear under Irish Setter
boots, Vasque, Carhartt, which happened to be
discontinued in 2011, and Worx brands.
Now, some of these non Red Wing brands
include a variety of models that were manufactured in the People's Republic
of China. Now, the over 100 year old factory is
located at 315 Main Street in Red Wing, Minnesota. I can say
from experience that the amount of history that it holds is incredible.
Many years ago, I had the privilege of going on a tour of the Red Wing Factory
in Red Wing, Minnesota and I had an absolute blast.
There's so much history
and passion behind this brand and I really enjoyed seeing how something
that's over 100 years old and located in a small town is helping people all over
the world. Now, the tour lasted a number of hours but the people working there
were extremely welcoming and I could tell that they were extremely passionate
about what they were helping to create. Now, my favorite
part of the tour, and I had a few, included seeing the leather being dyed
and the boots being stitched together with the soles.
Now, it takes a large team of dedicated people who have a critical eye to
produce a high-quality boot from beginning to end. Many of the shoes are
actually hand-stitched; this is done because much of the technology that's
available today does not stitch components of the shoes together to
Red Wing standards. It all begins with leather, in the beginning, Charles Beckman
partnered with the SB foot tannery to get the best and most durable leather
for the Red Wing shoe company.
In 1986, Red Wing shoe company acquired that
tannery. To begin the construction process, first, the leather is tanned,
stretched, and then rolled. Then, the leather is cut into patterns and then
fitted. Now, a fun fact: the fitting department actually holds 30 different
steps the leather has to go through before it's able to be transferred to
the next department. The leather is then sent to the lasting department, this
department holds over 30 different styles and hundreds of different sizes
in which the boots and shoes can be made. From there, the footwear is sent to
the bottoms department, this is where the soles are applied. Finally, the footwear is
sent to the finishing department. Now, this is where each shoe and boot is
reviewed, shoelaces and footbeds are added, and
things are then prepared for distribution all over the world.
of the best things about Red Wing boots is their soles. The lug sole is invented
by Vibram. This hole provides a lot of traction. Traction Tred is a non-marking
outsole and one of the most iconic elements in Red Wing boots. Now that
we've gotten over construction of the boots, now, let's go over two different
styles. The first will be the Iron Ranger style 8111. Now, this style was originally
built for iron miners on the Minnesota Iron Range in the 1930s. Now, each pair of
boots take on a personalized fit through to the cork mid soles and the leather
insoles that form to the wearers feet. Now, the style features a Goodyear wealt, a
steel shank, and a puritan triple stitch construction Also, there are brass speed
hooks for precise lacing.
Now, the iron Ranger style I'm wearing today is made
with a Vibram 430 mini lug sole. Now, according to Red Wing, the iron Ranger
style should fit comfortably tight on your foot while still allowing for
enough room for you to freely move your toes. The Iron Ranger style was built on
the number-8 last. Now, this boot designed features a bump toe
which allows you to freely move your toes. This style fits a variety of foot
shapes and retails for 330 dollars. The second style we are going to review
today is the classic 6-inch moc-toe. The classic moc-toe has gained a lot of
popularity over the years in part because of the Goodyear construction and
also, the contrasting sole with traction tred. Now, this boot was created using
Red Wing's number 23 last. This was developed in the 1950s and is arguably
one of the most popular last styles. Now, the style provides extra room in the
forefoot and instep to be able to fit a wide variety of foot shapes.
style is sold by Red Wing in eight different color options and Red Wing
actually recommends that you size down one half to one full size when making
your selections. Now, as for the iron Ranger style and the Classic moc-toe,
they are available in sizes 7 through 14 and widths D and double E but please be
advised that not every style and color combination is available in every size.
Now, depending on the color and/or leather style you choose in your
purchase, it will determine whether or not you're going to need a leather protector
and/or leather oil to maintain the appearance of your boots.
Not many of Red
Wing boot styles are known for their work functionality, the authentic work
boots from Red Wing that are used by construction workers and others are
specifically designed to withstand moisture, paint spills, mud, and some
styles even have the ever-popular steel toe installation to protect your toes
from being crushed while on the job. Now, those are the two different styles that
we're going to look at today.
With that said, let's dive into some other
experiences that I've had with the Red Wing boots. A number of years ago while I
worked for Brooks Brothers, we temporarily sold shoes and boots out of
the Red Wing Heritage Collection. At that time, I was offered a sizeable discount
and I decided to purchase two pairs of boots. The amber colored Iron Ranger and
the light brown 6-inch classic moc-toe. Out of the box, I distinctly remember
noticing the quality and the craftsmanship of the boots. The clean
precision mixed with the handmade details was fantastic and the scent of
the leather reminded me of the long history of this great brand. Now, from the
beginning, I was told to make sure that I took time
to break in the boots. I thought I was well aware of the process of breaking in
shoes as I had been through this process with other footwear purchases.
In the end,
I found myself wishing that I had taken much more time for this break-in period.
I decided to wear my brand new boots to work all day long and I immediately
regretted that footwear choice. Now, over time, my feet got used to the boots, the
leather softened, and they have since become some of my favorite boots to wear.
Ss the boots have aged, the weathered look has started to work even better
with my personal style. Now in the future, I'm planning on purchasing the taller 8
inch version of the moc-toe boot, as well as the Muleskinner Iron Ranger.
Now, these boots have never had any major quality issues, no tears in the leather,
nothing wrong with the soles at all. Now, in nearly 10 years of wearing these
boots, the main issues stem from my neglect and not caring properly for the
leather and also, wearing the soles down so much and forgetting to have them
resoled. Now, personally, one of the main aspects I didn't really enjoy of the
boots was the laces. The boots arrived with a leather lace option as well as a
traditional braided style.
I found that the boots felt tighter and much more secure
on my feet when I used that traditional braided style. By after nearly 10 years
of pulling and tightening, the laces have started to look much more weathered,
however, I understand this is nothing really to complain about. Having nearly
10 years of wear, I had no major issues except the laces, that's pretty fantastic!
Now for the sake of comparison in this worth it video, we actually have a brand
new pair of Iron Rangers similar to the ones that I brought in today. These
happen to be fresh out of the box and comparing this brand new pair to my
nearly ten year old pair, the first thing I'm noticing is how sturdy these boots
are and I'm amazed at how much of that sturdiness is still represented in my
older pair. The attention to detail is immediately noticeable and things like
the stitching, the sole trimming around the perimeter of the boot, and the
distinctive coloration in the toe which blends darker in the further back into the
top of the boot.
Now if you look closely, you can see minor fractures in the
leather color, as well as stray leather from the raw edges. These subtle details
add a human element which further enhanced the character of the boots over
time. The pliable leather upper has a unique coloration and the color
seems to even shift as the leather is being bent. The leather upper also holds
on the interior and stitch tag referencing the branding, the style name,
and the fact that it was made in the USA.
Now, in this particular tag, we see that
this is style 8085. The oil resisting Vibram sole is
securely stitch and offers a great deal of traction. Now, as I previously
mentioned, there are a handful of things that they could have done differently to
further extend the longevity of my two pairs of boots. During my visit to the
factory, I was given specific information on how to best care for my boots.
Unfortunately, I did not listen! Now, to return my boots to their former
appearance and any capacity, I will be sending them back to Red Wing to be
cleaned and in the case of my Iron Rangers, to be resoled.
Needless to say, I
have certainly learned my lesson and I will definitely take better care of my
future pair. Now on that note, there are a number of things to think about when it
comes to leather here. Each type of leather may require a different type of
cloth, brush, or oil. For example, Red Wing recommends that their
all-natural boot oil be used on their Iron Ranger.
At the same time, any product
designed to help you care for calfskin leather would also work well. Now while
we're on the subject of care, let's look at some of the repair services offered
from Red Wing shoe company. For 125 dollars, you can have the boots resoled,
replace the welting, recondition the uppers, and receive a full-size container
of leather conditioner. You can also pay for ala carte repairs, as well. For
example, add or repair the eyelets for twenty-five dollars, replace heels only
$50, repair stitching 25 dollars, and replace the gussets 75 dollars.
Now before we reach our final verdict and whether or not Red Wing boots are
worth it or not, let's take a look at some similar options that are also in
the same category. Now, the first one we're going to look at is boots from
Wolverine. Now, they offer a similar style to Red Wing's classic moc-toe, they are
men's 6-inch loader which they sell for 105 dollars.
Timberland offers their iconic classic 6-inch waterproof style for 198 dollars.
Next, we have the boot brand Chippewa which offers a variety of styles many of
which are sold for about 280 dollars or less.
And on the more expensive end of
the similar section here, we have the brand
Westco which offers subtle different customizations you can make to your
boots but many of the boots start out at about 599 dollars. Now, as it's often the
case in this series, whether or not Red Wing boots are worth it for you, really
depends on how you'd like to wear them. Now, if you're looking for a heavy duty
boot that could withstand and run through say Jurassic Park, Red Wing
actually does make boots that are designed for people who work outdoors.
Now, as there are many different options available from brands that are also made
in the USA, some family-owned and some bigger than
others at varying price points, it's easy to see why some people prefer one brand
over another but if you are more fashion focused individual and you enjoy the
offerings of the Heritage Collection, you probably aren't planning to wear your
boots outdoors hiking or at a construction site.
Now, it will be great
if Red Wing offered its boots at a lower price point but we need to remember
where Red Wing is making its boots, here in the USA. Production costs here in the
USA happen to be much higher than they would be overseas. Now, as previously
mentioned, elsewhere, the costs of calfskin leather are rising globally and
often, manufacturers have to make up this cost in their retail pricing. After
visiting the factory myself and seeing the time and care that is poured into
this product, I can understand why the price point is such. Overall, I have found
that through my nearly 10 years of ownership of Red Wing boots that they are
worth it. These boots are worth the investment due to their quality
construction, durability, and versatility to be worn with many things throughout
the year. Today, I'm wearing a navy blue v-neck wool sweater from J.Crew,
underneath I have a light red and white candy stripe sports shirt which I picked
up from Brooks Brothers. I'm pairing that with a dark wash slim fit denim also
from J.Crew and then tying it all off with one of my favorite pair of boots, my
classic six-inch moc-toe from Red Wing.
If you'd like to spice up your look a
little bit, we've got some great options at the Fort Belvedere shop. Offering you
great boot and shoelace styles..