Redefining “Lady-Like”: Introducing the Women’s Collection

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There was a time when only men wore trousers. But that changed in the early 20th century when ladies traded their dresses and skirts for long pants. That’s because pants are simply better for riding horses, climbing mountains, or flying airplanes, things women started doing with greater frequency. These were the same strong women who fought for voting rights and worked in factories during two World Wars. In the 1920s, Red Wing Shoe Company started selling women’s shoes and boots that were up to the rigors of these new feminine adventures—rugged and functional, redefining what was “lady-like”.

Barn Bluff, Red Wing, 1938. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN
Barn Bluff, 1938. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Co, Inc., Red Wing, MN

 

Now we’re doing it again. Introducing the Women’s Collection from Red Wing Heritage.

Gloria from the Legacy Collection
Style no: 3386, Gloria. From the Legacy Collection

 

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The new Women’s Collection not only pays tribute to our 20th century history, but is also inspired by the independent women of today. The collection is made up of three distinct families. The Legacy boots are directly inspired by two boots we made in the early 20th century—tall, rugged and refined. The Modern collection reinterprets classic shapes—a chukka, a Chelsea, and a lace-up—with a stacked leather heel and feminine lines, which make them both practical and stylish. And finally, the Core boots take classics from our men’s line that women have long cherished, and cut them leaner and more comfortable for a woman’s foot while keeping the legendary Red Wing toughness.

Style no: 3365, Iron Ranger. From the Core Collection.
Style no: 3365, Iron Ranger. From the Core Collection.

 

All of the boots in the Women’s Collection retain the hallmarks that have made us who we are. We use top quality leathers from our own S.B. Foot tannery, the same as we have since the beginning. All the boots are stitched together for unsurpassed durability, using Goodyear welt construction that makes them stronger and resoleable for a lifetime of wear.

When we decided to create the Women’s Collection, we knew the perfect person to spearhead its development: Allison Gettings. Allison embodies all that is a Red Wing woman—literally. Her great-grandfather, grandfather, and father have all taken a turn at the helm of Red Wing Shoe Company since the 1920s. Allison remembers visiting our offices and factories as a child, no doubt smelling the leathers and hearing the machines that have long been used to skive, stitch and nail boots together. Two years ago we tasked Allison with the launch of the Women’s Collection, a job for which she was seemingly born and, after ten years working at Red Wing, a challenge she was ready to take on.

Allison Gettings, Director of Heritage Product Creation.
Allison Gettings, Director of Heritage Product Creation.

 

“We wanted to start with a tight collection that has really strong ties to our Red Wing DNA,” Allison says, “but we wanted to have a large enough collection with enough gravity that would appeal to customers who know Red Wing, but also those who are maybe new to the brand.”

Allison points to the Gloria boot as an entry point to the women’s line, a tall lace-up that pays homage to the first boot Red Wing made for women in 1926. “It’s important to us that we make these boots to not only look like ones we made in the past, but are actually made in the same way, with the craftsmanship and materials that we used when we first made these shoes.”

Of course, getting nine new styles created was a tall order and not one Allison did herself. For help, she turned to talented designer, Gaal Levine, to start penning the new boots. Gaal drew from her experience in footwear design but also found inspiration in Red Wing’s company archives.

Gaal Levine, Women's Footwear Designer.
Gaal Levine, Women’s Footwear Designer.

 

“When I first came here, I spent some time doing a deep dive in the archives, looking through old catalogs to see what made sense to bring back.” Gaal counts herself as lucky to work for a footwear company that has its own company archivist. And its own tannery. During the design and prototyping phase, Gaal and Allison were able to talk to the master tanner at S.B. Foot about what was possible—new colors and leathers that suited the unique requirements of building boots for women.

Style no: 3396, Lillian. From The Modern Collection.
Style no: 3396, Lillian. From the Modern Collection.

 

Women have long favored Red Wing boots and often would wear our men’s boots in smaller sizes. But the new collection is designed just for them, with lighter weight and softer leathers, more cushioned fiber insoles, and built around all new lasts that are tailored for women’s feet. So while the Engineer, Iron Ranger and Moc Toe of the new Core collection may look like their masculine counterparts, they’re entirely feminine, from the ground up.

While the Women’s Collection is new to Red Wing Heritage, making women’s shoes is not new to Red Wing. 90 years after we made our first boots for strong, independent women, we’re making them again, just as tough and beautiful as ever. Just like the women we make them for.

 

Red Wing at the Minnesota State Fair

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Red Wing at the Minnesota State Fair Minnesota Traditions

There are a few things you can count on in August in Minnesota: a hint of autumn in the longer nights, great sweet corn, and the State Fair. On the sprawling grounds in St. Paul, the Fair is a spectacle of all things Minnesota, from prize heifers to farm machinery, live music to butter carving. And for many years, Red Wing Shoe Company had a booth at the Fair, showing off the year’s latest styles and selling old favorites. Farmers, miners and workmen from all corners of the state could browse and buy boots from our booth, where a tower of shoe boxes was stacked to suit all sizes. And no doubt, many of those boots returned to the Fair year after year on the feet of those who bought them for use in the fields, job sites, and mines from Hibbing to Rushford and in every county in between.

Red Wing had a booth at the Fair from the early 1920s up until 1964, but in 2005, we returned, bringing along our World’s Largest Boot, the size 638-1/2 style 877 that is normally on display at our Main Street retail store in downtown Red Wing. And even though we don’t sell boots at the fair anymore, Red Wing will no doubt be well represented there this year when it starts on August 25th, on the feet of many who attend. And they will fit right in, whether dodging cow pies in the Cattle Barn, climbing on tractors on Machinery Hill, or standing in line for a last ear of that summer sweet corn. Because nothing is more Minnesota than the State Fair, or Red Wing boots.

Red Wing at the Minnesota State Fair

Red Wing at the Minnesota State Fair

PECOS – A CLASSIC PULL ON BOOT

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Red Wing Shoe Company is perhaps best known for the work boots made for the farmers, miners, and sportsmen of the Upper Midwest but early on, we introduced another boot for a different group of workers in the American West. We had an office in Dallas, Texas as early as 1923 to serve the unique market of ranchers, cowboys and oil drilling roughnecks in the region.

At the time, most of these workers wore pull-on riding boots, often with decorative stitching, and Red Wing responded with one of its own in the 1930s. By the 1950s, with typical Minnesota understatement, we did away with the decorative flourish and introduced a pull-on boot of our own devising.

This pull-on boot was given a new name, the Pecos, after a town in Texas and it evolved into one of our most popular styles. The renowned Red Wing durability worked as well on the ranches of the Southwest as they did the farms and fields of Minnesota. The appeal of the Pecos spread, thanks to its simple design, comfortable fit, and rugged good looks. Still made the same way with quality leathers in our factory in Red Wing, the Pecos is now seen on hardworking feet from coast to coast, both ends of the Mississippi, and everywhere in between. Call it a cowboy boot, with a Minnesota twist.

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Style no: 8187

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Style no: 8188

FACES OF RED WING | SOLID MANUFACTURING

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Dan and Alex Cordell: Owners of Solid Manufacturing

“I grew up in a woodshop,” Dan Cordell shouts above the sound of a lathe spinning a length of white ash. A shaft of sunlight is made three-dimensional by the dust in the air and chips fly as he deftly transforms the wood into a baseball bat using only hand tools. “My Dad taught me everything I know.”

Cordell and his wife, Alex, are the co-founders, and sole employees, of Solid Manufacturing, a company that makes and sells wood furniture, leather goods and a variety of household items you never thought you’d need until you see them. Everything, from the wooden pour-over coffee stand, to the leather key fob, to the baseball bat, is made by Dan and Alex in a small workshop near a railroad yard in Minneapolis using domestic hardwoods and American made leathers.

Alex studied furniture design at Minneapolis College of Art and Design; while Dan focuses on the woodworking, she does much of the product development as well as the finishing work—sanding and hand-oiling—while managing the administrative end of the business. Watching them work together, it becomes clear that they complement each other well and play to their strengths.

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The Solid Manufacturing duo started making things in Dan’s father’s woodshop just south of the city, selling their wares at pop-up events around town and through an online Web store. “We couldn’t do what we do anywhere else but Minneapolis,” Alex says while she rubs a block of wood with linseed oil. “It’s a city driven by people and community and when we launched, we were immediately embraced and it gave us the motivation and inspiration for us to keep going.”

Solid Manufacturing is one of the latest in a long legacy of Minnesota companies that make things of quality using traditional materials and techniques, a legacy that includes the Red Wing Shoe Company. This is not something lost on Alex and Dan Cordell, who were wearing Red Wing Heritage boots when we stopped by for a visit—Alex in a pair of 9111 round-toe boots and Dan in a pair of Iron Rangers. “At the end of the day, my boots are always full of wood chips,” he laughs.

So what makes Minnesota such a breeding ground for the so-called “maker” culture, where DIY becomes a society of inventors, designers and tinkerers? Is it the long winters that inspire creativity? Or perhaps the frontier history of self-sufficiency that has been passed down to its residents. For Dan Cordell, it came from spending time in his father’s woodshop and a desire to make leather bracelets for Christmas gifts. He bought some scraps of leather and thread and taught himself. “I grew up in a place where you make things, or you try,” he says.

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Solid Manufacturing Co. has an eclectic portfolio of products tied together with a common thread of honest Minnesota handcraft. But if Alex and Dan have a signature product, it is a three-legged stool made from black walnut, oiled to a rich brown, with legs painted in a number of bright colors. Its simplicity and stripped down purity of purpose are its appeal, not unlike a classic baseball bat, or a pair of Red Wing Heritage boots. In a word—solid.

Updated – Beckman Oxford and Chukka

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Beckman Style no: 9047, 9048, 9046, 9049* (Not Shown)
Beckman Style no: 9047, 9048, 9046, 9049* (Not Shown)

 

In the early twentieth century, Red Wing, Minnesota had only a few dirt roads. In the winter, or after a good rain, those streets would get muddy, making a good pair of boots a necessity. But our founder, Charles Beckman, a respectable businessman, wanted a pair he could brush off and wear right into his shoe store on Main Street. So that’s what his Red Wing Shoe Company made—sturdy, versatile footwear that could take some abuse and still look good. And that’s the kind of shoes and boots we’ve been making ever since.

Main Street, Red Wing, MN. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN
Main Street, Circa 1900, Red Wing, MN. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN

 

The Beckman name has always been reserved for Red Wing’s most refined footwear, and we’ve added two new styles that add to that legacy. Built around our number 210 last, the latest Beckman chukka and oxford have a more refined shape. We’ve used premium Featherstone (Smooth Finished) leather for a rich, classic look and added stitching details that make them more durable while adding to their elegance. The new Beckmans are built using Goodyear welt construction for maximum durability and underneath, our lugged Roccia sole gives traction so the shoes can go from muddy streets right into the office. Charles Beckman would no doubt approve.

Beckman Style no: 9046
Beckman Style no: 9046
Beckman Style no: 9047
Beckman Style no: 9047
Beckman Style no: 9048
Beckman Style no: 9048

Faces of Red Wing – Hai Truong

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Hai Truong of Ngon Vietnamese Bistro

Hai Truong: Chef and co-owner of Ngon Vietnamese Bistro 

Hai Truong is an autodidact, having taught himself how to swap out a clutch, sew a leather seat for his Moto Guzzi, cook a mean duck ph, or brew his own beer.

Truong is the son of immigrants and grew up in and around his familys Vietnamese eatery on St. Pauls University Avenue. Though he had a promising career in finance after college, the pull of the family business inspired a life change, and about ten years ago he reclaimed the restaurant where he grew up, put his DIY skills to work and created Ngon Bistro.

The cafe specializes in French-Vietnamese cuisine and offers craft cocktails from a space that Truong resurrected from its past. The menu is filled with familiar Vietnamese specialties like ph and bún but with influences from Vietnams French colonial era, and produce and proteins bought from local farms.

Local sourcing also extends to Truongs choice of footwear. I sort of discovered Red Wing boots around the same time I started looking into local ingredients and it led to an interest in American-made products.Truong wears an old pair of Engineer boots that hes had resoled a few times, and owns two pairs of vintage steel-toed Red Wings that he likes for motorcycling. I like that you can just keep resoling them instead of buying cheap disposable stuff,he says.

Boots of Choice: Engineer 2991

Red Wing Heritage Weekender | Ireland

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Ireland1Early the first morning I made my way into an adjacent pasture from where we were staying. Two horses, and one pony greeted me as they enjoyed delicious food before sunrise

Ireland2The Weekender and pony hooves.

Ireland3This one was the most curious and clearly has a good taste.

Ireland3aVibrance all around.

Ireland4You can’t visit Ireland without tasting delicious whiskey.

Ireland4aSpending much of my time in the deserts of the American Southwest, being reminded of what this much rain can do for the landscape was refreshing.

Ireland4bAnd the stout just tastes better.

Ireland5The necks on small, and newly constructed copper pot stills used for making Irish whiskey.

Ireland5aJonah Bayer kept me in stitches the entire trip.

Ireland5bDusk.

Ireland10 Ireland9 Ireland8 Ireland7 Ireland6Weekender Chukka style no: 3321

Ireland12By chance we flew over just the Southern-most tip of greenland on our flight back the the US. A new place to explore!

Work Hard, Play Hard: Introducing the Red Wing Heritage Weekender

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Red Wing Shoe Company has such a long history of building work boots that sometimes it’s easy to forget we’ve also made footwear for after the workday ends. As far back as the 1950s, we were making shoes for the weekend, when work boots were left by the door. We’ve called this “off the clock” footwear many things over the years—the Great Outdoors Boot, Dunoon, hikers, chukkas—and now there’s a new name. Introducing the new Weekender collection from Red Wing Heritage.

Built for spring mushroom foraging, a spirited round of mini golf or a night on the town, the Weekender lets you play as hard as you work. In other words, perfect for the weekends between now and when the snow flies. It is available in two styles: a familiar chukka boot with ankle height and three rows of lacing (Style no. 3320, 3321, and 3322), and a low-cut oxford (style no. 3301, 3302, 3303). Both are available in three colors—charcoal rough & tough, copper rough & tough and hawthorne muleskinner—and feature our textured polyurethane “Hill” sole for grip and a decidedly casual aesthetic. The oxford and chukka were designed from the ground up to be lightweight, cool for the warmer months ahead, and comfortable right out of the box, with or without socks.

 

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Just because the Weekenders are not work boots doesn’t mean they aren’t built to be rugged companions. They’re hand-made right next to all of our other Heritage boots at Plant 2 in Red Wing, Minnesota.  And the durable leather for their uppers is sourced from the S.B. Foot Tanning Company just down the road, where we’ve been getting our leather for over a century.

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To keep the Weekender lightweight and easier to break in, we use a technique called “stitch-down” construction. Also known as “stitch-out”, the outer perimeter of the leather upper is turned out and then cemented and stitched to the larger profile of the midsole before it’s trimmed. By eliminating the sturdy ribbed insole we use in our Goodyear welt boots, the chukka and oxford save weight and are more flexible right out of the box. Unfinished edges, suede lacing and contrast stitching lend a look that’s perfect for a boot called the Weekender. And like all our boots, when your Weekenders start looking tired, you can send them back to Red Wing and our repair department will get them looking new again.

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The Weekender is the latest in a long lineage of Red Wing footwear designed for after you punch out, and it comes just in time for summer weekends when you want a shoe that can stand up to your adventures while still keeping things dialed down. You might even be tempted to wear them to work on Monday morning.

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Faces of Red Wing | Christopher Winters

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It’s cold at the shipyard in mid-February. The north wind off of Sturgeon Bay whips around the lake effect snow and subtracts a dozen degrees from the thermometer reading. Thousand-foot freighters are docked side by side as if huddled for warmth, their hulls frozen in place by 8 inches of ice. The locks and channels that connect the Great Lakes are closed for the season and these ships are in for their winter maintenance. Despite the frigid weather, the shipyard buzzes with activity—cranes removing scrap from the boat decks high above, trucks and forklifts scurrying around the limestone yard and hard-hatted workers crawling all over these iron leviathans, getting them ready for the spring fit-out which is now only a month away.

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Working in the midst of all this activity is a lone photographer, Christopher Winters, who’s been documenting the work here for the past decade. Bundled in insulated coveralls, a battery-heated jacket and his Red Wing Ice Cutter boots, Winters fires his camera in frenetic bursts, darting up and down the gangways, inside the engine rooms and under the massive propellers in the dry dock. He’s no impostor here. The workers accept his presence and respect his work because he respects theirs. The Milwaukee-based Winters is one of the foremost maritime photographers and historians in the Great Lakes region, a published author of two books who drives and sails port to port, April to December from Duluth sometimes as far as the Gulf of St. Lawrence, camera in tow.

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Raw Ingredients – S.B. Foot Leathers

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A good chef will tell you that the best meal starts with the best ingredients. Similarly, a good boot has to start with good leather. At Red Wing, from the very beginning, that relationship between raw ingredients and craftsmanship has gone hand in hand. When Charles Beckman started Red Wing Shoe Company back in 1905, he didn’t have far to look for the best leathers with which to work. Just up the road from his factory, on Trout Brook Road, was the S.B. Foot tannery, which had been tanning hides since the 1880s. A partnership was quickly formed and S.B. Foot has been a supplier of leathers to Red Wing ever since.

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So what makes S.B. Foot leathers so special? Ask any of the old timers who work there that question and you’ll see a twinkle in their eyes. Is it the hides themselves, which are of uniform thickness and free of blemishes?

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Or is it the proprietary mix of tree oils, dyes and tanning agents used to give the leather its rich color and durability? Or is it the traditional wooden drums they’re tumbled in for hours?

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The answer is “yes”. The fact is, from the meticulous grading process of blue tinted hides as they come in, to the precise mix of tanning solutions, to the timed tanning in the wooden drums, followed by the gradual drying and stretching and oiling, S.B. Foot leathers are a big part of what makes our Heritage boots so special. Charles Beckman recognized this early on, and Red Wing has been getting its leathers from Trout Brook Road ever since.

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