Emily Vikre

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Emily Vikre is the co-founder and president of Vikre Distillery in Duluth, Minnesota. Blending a love of tradition, penchant for pushing boundaries, and inspiration gathered from Minnesota’s North Shore, she and her husband Joel have built Vikre into a nationally acclaimed distillery. Emily’s affinity for meticulous process is echoed in the Red Wing Women’s Collection, and we’re proud to showcase her passion for craft here.

You and your husband quit your office jobs to dive into this work. Could you elaborate on the calling that drove you to be more hands-on for a living?

With a lot of work, the further you advance in your career, oftentimes the further you get from doing hands-on work with real things and real people. And while my husband Joel and I are both idea people—we can’t stop ourselves from brainstorming and exploring non-concrete realities—we both become more alive when we ground ourselves in making. While none of us need a lot of things, we do need some things, and the world is such a beautiful, meaningful place, it seems to me that things should be beautiful and have intention and meaning behind them as well, if at all possible.

What sparked your passion for distilling, specifically?

It was one simple, fateful conversation. Joel and I were living in Boston at the time, but we were in Duluth on a frigid January night to visit my parents.  That night we learned the story behind a Swedish whiskey: a few guys from Sweden were fishing in Scotland and they got sick of hearing the Scots brag about how they have the best grain and water and peat, and therefore they make the best whiskey in the world. They thought to themselves, “We have all those things in Sweden, let’s go make whiskey.” So, they did! When we heard that story, we instantly thought, well, we have all those things in Minnesota! At the time, my passion lay much more with wine—and I am still definitely fascinated by wine—but as I started to research spirits, I fell in love with the history and traditions and creativity that good spirits are imbued with.

How does Vikre blend tradition and innovation to produce compelling products?

Tradition is often as much a mindset as it is an actual set of prescribed practices. So, you can take traditions and apply that mindset of making something carefully by hand, or using the ingredients grown on the land nearby, and you can keep the tradition fresh by adding contemporary things that are meaningful to you. We honor the traditional practices of making whiskey, but I may reach for unusual grains or try combinations of barrels that no one has tried before. Or, all of our gins include the backbone of traditional flavors that you’d expect in a gin, but then I push and pull them in new directions with local botanicals and other unusual flavors. We’re inspired by how it’s done elsewhere, but because there hasn’t been a particular “northern style” of most spirits, like gin or whiskey, we can pave our own way as well.

Vikre is a triple bottom line organization. How does this direct your work?

Joel and I both came from a background of working on social and environmental issues through academia and non-profits, and even though making booze seems like a pivot from that, we’ve found that a business inspired by Lake Superior can actually be an amazing platform for focusing on the environment and community that we love and rely upon. We are a zero landfill company. We source all of our ingredients organically or locally or both. We developed a closed-loop cooling water system to reduce our water use by over 70%. We pay a living wage for all employees and provide earned sick and safe time for them.

Vikre sources locally and creates tastes that reflect the terroir. Why is this important for you?

Terroir has long been important in the world of wine, and as we have emerged from a weird era of whipped cream and blue raspberry flavored vodka, terroir is starting to become something makers are exploring in spirits as well. This idea that the nature and culture of where a product is made can influence its flavor has always been critical to Scotch and some bourbons. Every place is unique, and terroir honors that. Instead of differentiating your products with flashy branding and micro-targeting a customer’s desires, you differentiate yourself in a tangible, place-based way.

Does your affinity for localization and thoughtful process inform your decision making when it comes to products or organizations you choose to support your personal life?

For sure! We try to have fewer things and have them be things made by people and companies we know personally, or at least whose practices we know. Joel builds a lot of our furniture. We focus on buying and cooking local foods, and we recently planted a little apple orchard and berries in our backyard. I’m passionate about art, and love to surround myself with it, so our house is filled with pieces from artists I’ve met around the state and around our place in Norway. I also work to support our local opera, ballet, and theater because I think the way the arts reflect life and bring people together around our shared humanity is so incredible and important. And, of course, we work to support local environmental organizations and projects.

What lies ahead for Vikre? Where do you hope to take things in the next few years?

Our hope is to continue to expand our distribution footprint, but to do so in a way that is intentional and sustainable. We are planning to add more products, but again with intention. There’s sort of this expectation of craft breweries and craft distilleries now that we should constantly be releasing new product. While that is fun and creatively stimulating, it’s not so much my style. It usually takes me quite a while before I’m happy enough with something to release it. But, we do have a few products in the works that I’m really excited about. And, we want to keep tackling new environmental goals, greening-up our whole supply chain.

To learn more about Vikre Distillery, you can follow them on Instagram
@vikredistillery or visit their website at www.vikredistillery.com

 

Emily is pictured wearing our New 3368 Sand Mohave Iron Ranger as well as our New 3435 Colorado Atanado Hazel.

Gustav Frich

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Not so long ago, we heard the story of Gustav Frich, an 18-year-old guy from Copenhagen, Denmark, who went on what the Australians call a “walkabout”.  He had decided to walk across Scotland from coast to coast in 10 days’ time. This by itself would already be a cool story, but what drew our attention especially was that he did it in a pair of 9016 Beckman boots. Three years after this hike, we bumped into Gustav, now 21, in Copenhagen while visiting the city and attending a Red Wing event. We sat down with a good glass of wine to talk about his experience.

Q: It came to our attention that 3 years ago, you hiked across Scotland in a pair of Beckman boots and that you even did some mountaineering in them! Why did you decide to walk all the way across Scotland in the first place?

A: I grew up with an anglophile grandfather, who, when talking of his youth overseas, always emphasized his hunting trips to the Scottish Highlands. Growing up seeing his photos and hearing his stories, I suppose the place got an almost mythical appeal to me, and when I turned 18, I thought, why not see for myself?

Q: Then of course the next question is why you walked in a pair of 9016 Beckman boots? Generally, they are not the first choice for some serious hiking or for climbing mountains!

A: I did the hike with a friend of mine, Valdemar, who already had some experience in hiking and mountaineering. He suggested we do a test hike to see how our gear held up, so we did. That’s when I found out my hiking boots were just not going to work for me – my feet were wet and sore, and there was no ventilation whatsoever because of the membrane.

So there I was, a week before the trip, with no boots and no money. That’s when I turned to my neighbor Anders, who works for Red Wing. Lucky for me, he had a pair of 9016 Beckman boots that were a bit too small for him, but a seemingly perfect fit for me. So I left the hiking boots at home and went with the Red Wings.

Q: I heard that during the trip, you did not actually go from town to town or use a professional navigation system, but that you had set a few GPS coordinates beforehand and just walked in a straight line wherever possible. On some days, you did not even see a single person. How did that work out and how did you find food and water?

A: It was tough, but rewarding. I’m very thankful my friend did some preparation with the GPS, as otherwise we would have been utterly lost. He brought some filters as well, so we could drink straight from the springs. We mostly ate freeze dried meals I had stuffed in my 70s rucksack at the last minute. I guess I thought we’d have more opportunities to re-stock – instead, we ended up losing an unhealthy amount of weight.

Q: What about the mountain you climbed? What was the mountain called?

A: Ben Nevis, it’s the tallest mountain on the British Isles. We decided to avoid the crowded main path, and tried to scale it from the other side, off-the-grid. It was irresponsible, but the views were amazing.

Q: How did the boots hold up during the trip? We are so curious! It’s not the first boot we think of for a serious hike…

A: The few other hikers we met looked baffled when they saw me in a pair of classic leather boots. But I couldn’t have been happier – they stayed dry when they had to, were never too hot, and my ankles didn’t break when climbing. I’ve given them a lot of abuse, but they’re holding up nicely – I’m actually going to wear them again this winter.

Q: Are you planning other hiking trips in the near future?

A: We’ve been talking about Iceland. We’ll have to stock up better on food this time, though. But the 9016 Beckman boots will be back on my feet for the hike!

 

Thank you for your time and for sharing your story with us, Gustav!

Britta Lynn Kauppila

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Britta Lynn Kauppila is a jewelry designer and metalsmith who lives on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota. Through fire and hammer, she manipulates metals to bring to life pieces that are distinct in appearance and rich with meaning. Fueling her sought-after work is a drive to create by hand that has grown stronger throughout her life and career. This passion for the detail and dedication of craft is a cornerstone of the Red Wing Women’s Collection, and it’s what drew us to Britta to learn more about her creative process and the parallels between her work and our own.

What initially sparked your passion for this work?

As a kid I was interested in geology, archeology, and history, but as I entered college I was more interested in art. I was surprised to see jewelry in the fine arts department, and looking back now it was obviously an “a-ha!” moment. Jewelry combined everything I loved into one medium: geology, art history, and of course art. I loved the stories and history jewelry could tell. Humans have been adorning themselves with bits and pieces of nature for as long as we’ve had tools. That’s never lost its significance to me.

What was the professional trajectory that led you to where you’re at with your craft?

Once I discovered jewelry in college, I immersed myself in it. I got a job at a local, family-owned jewelry store, and I took a year off from university to complete a gemology program. Afterwards, I finished my bachelor’s degree while working at a local custom jewelry gallery. It was here that I met leading local, national, and international artists, exposing me to different paths to success as a jewelry artist. With my boss at the gallery serving as a mentor, my studiomates and I were able to support each other in finding our artistic voice. I’m happy to say that we are all now self-supported, full-time jewelry artists. We’ve spread out all over the country, but they will always be my metalsmith mavens. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their encouragement and support.

You have an affinity for ancient metalworking techniques. What draws you to the traditional methods?

This comes back to my love of history and what drew me to jewelry in the first place. People have been creating intricate jewelry for thousands of years, and it’s amazing to me that some of these techniques still live on. I love is granulation, which was perfected by the Etruscans in the 5th century. I mean come on! On a fundamental level, I’m drawn to the dedication and discipline of creating by hand. In this age of fast design and fleeting trends, I appreciate the dedication and discipline of creating by hand. I’d rather focus my energies on creating work that will be part of someone’s lifelong collection, not just the season.

Do you have a favorite tool that you use?

My dad was always confused why I would snoop around his farm looking for old scrap metal or tools. I’ve found that the impact of imperfect surfaces can pull unique texture from metals that creates incredible depth and meaning. I found an old ice skate blade on the shore of Lake Superior that I use to create texture. Seems pretty quintessentially Minnesotan. I also love my parallel jaw pliers and Pediman planishing hammer, which are the work horses in my studio and touch almost every piece. My anvil that was previously my husband’s great-grandfather’s, and I couldn’t be happier to continue its life for another generation.

Could you describe how working with your hands feeds your soul?

I grew up on a farm and the most impactful mantra ingrained in me from my father was “working hands are happy hands.” Although my father’s interests and my own are different, we’re uniting by working with our hands. I love that relationship. Creating with your hands is profoundly meditative and empowering, and I don’t take that for granted.

Jewelry is made to be beautiful, but it’s also meant to be used, rather than just gather dust in a box. Is the aging process something that you have in mind when you’re creating?

Jewelry is meant to have a life. It’s meant to be seen in motion. It’s not static, it’s lively. I love the movement of jewelry, and how it interacts with the body. As we wear jewelry we are burnishing it, which creates highlights and a new patina unique to each wearer. I love how it changes over time, showing the life of the piece.

Where do you hope to take your work in the coming years?

I’d love to have more time for experimental work in different mediums within jewelry. I want to explore wool and clay, and see how what I find might translate into jewelry. Not necessarily to sell as a collection but to grow as an artist.

Do you feel a sense of solidarity with other folks who make for a living? Does this manifest itself in products that you seek out for your family or yourself?

I really enjoy supporting other artists through my business. Whether it’s custom ring boxes or stationary, I’m always seeking out how to support other artists through my work. It’s more meaningful to me, and I think for my clients as well. In my personal life, I’m drawn to handmade goods for their quality and added meaning. Each piece has its own story that makes it meaningful, and I feel creates a more purpose-driven life for me.

Small Leather Goods

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After years of development, we’re proud to announce the release of our line of small leather goods. We sat down with the mastermind behind the new wallets, zipper pouches and lanyards, Danny Karp, Senior Product Creator-Accessories for Red Wing Heritage, to learn more about what went into creating this line.

What are you most excited for with this product rollout?

I’m excited to see these goods that we’ve put so much time into developing go out into the world and get put to work. Knowing that our customers will be able to confidently count on these products every day makes the all the work worthwhile.

How did you decide on small leather goods?

This is a logical extension for Red Wing. Not only do we make the best footwear in the world, but we make the best leathers in the world. Our loyal customers were looking for the next move from us, and here it is.

What were your priorities during the design process?

Stylistically, we knew that these products needed to be classic and timeless across the board, but designed and executed for owners today. From a practicality perspective, we don’t design for the sake of design. We don’t add embellishments and decorative stitching just for the look. Every stitch has a reason to be there, and same as our footwear, is built with purpose.

What was your creative process like?

The research that went into the line goes back a few seasons. I wanted to make sure that we could provide a product that would be globally embraced in regards to concept, design and overall quality. I studied leather goods manufacturers all over the world. Taking note of what they did well and where I saw room for improvement. We made a point to combine heavyweight leathers with long-lasting stitch techniques to create a line that will proudly stand in line with our footwear and bear the Red Wing name.

What was the most memorable part of this process for you?

I can remember walking into the factory for a meeting one morning and realizing that the craftsmen and craftswomen around me had actually begun production of the small leather goods. I took a moment to look around and at every step, you could see them putting their hearts into creating each piece. From shopping globally, to designing and making decisions that eventually became the “DNA” or key details of the entire leather goods collection, it was humbling to see it all finally come to life.

What was involved in the process of selecting and developing leathers?

We worked hand in hand with our Red Wing tannery team at SB Foot throughout the process. This leather was specifically made for our leather goods collection. We wanted leather that’s struck through, meaning that color goes through the entire thickness of the leather. The leather needed to be robust and rigid, and it needed to be aniline or naked, with no protective top coat sealants. All of these factors combine to create leather that can last for a really long time, while developing a unique patina and character over the years.

Some of the small leather goods are made with vegetable tanned leather. Could you share a little bit more about this type of leather?

We started using vegetable tanned leather in the Heritage belt program a few years ago. We source our veg tan leather from Hermann Oak tannery. Compared to other veg tan leathers, theirs is more robust and durable. This comes from the old world technique that they’ve used since they opened their doors in 1881. They don’t cut corners to accelerate die and stain penetration, instead they allow the leather the time to fully make the most of the preserving process. For the leather goods, we decided to use their bridle leather, as it will age and patina beautifully with use. This leather has a very light tan color when first cut, but over time, with the natural oils in the owner’s skin and sunlight, the leather will darken and develop a slight sheen as the oils and waxes come to the surface.

What can owners expect with these goods down the road?

An old mentor of mine had a saying “design with the end in mind.” This has always stuck with me and was the driving force that motivated all of the time on developing the leather, and dialing-in the construction details so that the leather will develop its own unique patina and distinct character that gets better with use. Owners will be able to look back at the memories that they created with their piece and be able to pass it on to the next generation.

What do you hope the legacy of these wallets will be?

Just like our footwear. Timeless, classic and passed down from generation to generation. When our fans talk about Red Wing they share stories through their footwear. This will be the same for the small leather goods–creating stories and memories that can be passed down from one generation to the next.

Red Wing Heritage small leather goods are now available online and at select Red Wing Heritage retailers.

Erika Duran

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Erika Duran is a Philadelphia-based embroiderer whose work is inspired by her upbringing in the desert of West Texas. Duran’s business Eradura is a one-woman shop that specializes in intricately crafted patches and striking pins, many of which stylistically reflect her time spent in the southwest.

“I think the desert landscape, with its spindly brush and bleached sand, not only shaped my visual language and aesthetic, but my entire sense of self,” Erika reflects. “It takes resilience and endurance to survive in a place that can be harsh and lonely.”

This hard-earned toughness prepared Erika for the challenges of her work and is unmistakably a foundational characteristic of the Red Wing Women’s Collection. It’s this resilience, coupled with Erika’s passion for craft that drew us to her as a kindred spirit of our women’s collection this season.

Erika traces the genesis of her passion for making back to watching her grandmother sew dresses growing up. When she took the plunge into independent embroidery, it was a saying of her abuelita’s that inspired confidence: “Que no se te cierren las puertas.” Meaning, “Don’t let opportunities close on you, there’s a way.”

“My abuelita’s work gave me the initial belief that I could be an independent maker. Her immense work ethic, creative vision and dedication to her craft all coalesced between the four walls of her backyard shop. She was a commander of the room, and I fell completely in love with that idea.”

A defining characteristic of Erika’s embroidery is how she brings her designs to life entirely by hand. Eschewing machines, she relies entirely on unwavering hands and patience for the intensely meticulous and time-consuming needlepoint process.

“Maybe it’s a bit of my own stubbornness, but the actual making, the handwork that goes in to every little bit, is what I feel gives an object its soul,” Erika says. “The unique textures and irregularities that come from needlepoint create a visual map of how a piece came together– the slow crawl of a stitch, seemingly impossibly, eventually filling space.”

Erika’s appreciation for the detail and process of craft is echoed in her affinity for Red Wing.

Erika is pictured (in order, above) wearing the Clara – Oro Legacy, Inez – Black Boundary, Pecos – Amber HarnessPecos – Olive Mohave, and the Iron Ranger – Black Boundary.

Our fall collection is now available online and in select stores.

Check out Eradura to shop her online collection and learn more about Erika’s work.

Travel Care Kit

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The Red Wing Leather Care Travel Kit was conceived of and curated for Red Wing owners on the move. In designing the kit, we set out to balance the demands of proper leather care with travel practicality. Pulling from the staples of Red Wing’s leather care lineup, we assembled a utilitarian kit capable of maintaining every type of Red Wing leather that conveniently fits inside a small Red Wing leather pouch.

Inside the pouch, you’ll find a small buffing brush, 1oz Leather Cleaner with sponge, .5oz Leather Cream and a Care Cloth. The Leather Cleaner can be used on all Roughout, Smooth-Finished and Oil-Tanned leathers, and the Leather Cream can be used on Smooth-Finished and Oil-Tanned leathers. For more in-depth info on leather care, consult our leather care page.

We’re particularly fond of this kit’s versatility. For starters, it’s a perfect purchase for a range of folks. Red Wing owners with established leather care routines will appreciate the compact travel setup. For those who are newer to leather care, the kit is a beautifully streamlined introduction to the processes and benefits of caring for your leather. And across the board, it makes a highly practical gift for any Red Wing leather owner.

One last point that we’d be remiss not to hit on: The leather pouch, by design, also doubles as one seriously stylish clutch. Made from Red Wing leather, it’s as rugged as you’d expect, with a super clean and classic look. So, even if you’re not into accessorizing, we bet you know someone who is.

Cate Havstad

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Intro

Cate Havstad is full of bright, contagious and committed energy to her craft as a custom hat maker. She lives on a small farm outside of Bend, OR and draws inspiration from her surroundings and her supportive community of creatives.

We had a few days to spend with Cate as she worked on filling a tall stack of custom hat orders, helped out with the local Organic potato harvest, attended the farmer’s market and talked about her path.

What is your first memory of wearing a cowboy hat?

My first western hat came to me when I was 21 years old. I was thinking about dropping out of school for a while to go on tour with songwriter Willy Tea Taylor and help film a music documentary he was working on. I was nervous about the decision and perhaps knowing this or just out of kindness Willy Tea showed up one day with a flat brimmed vaquero style hat for me. When he gave it to me he told me it was my “movie making hat” and encouraged me to follow the inspiration that way to be found on the road. I decided to go on the trip and I wore that hat every day, it became a piece of a new and evolving identity. It was the beginning of my journey of finding that which truly inspired me.

What do you think is the biggest challenge about being a woman hat maker?

My little fingers keep me from making nice creases… NOT! I once had an older male hatter tell me this is why women hatter’s aren’t as good, not even kidding. You should have seen my face. The biggest challenge for a female hatter is hearing misogynistic comments like the above, unfortunately some our society is still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to equality and respect. Luckily, I don’t have to interact with these types often but they are out there. Other than that, I don’t feel like there are any challenges I face that a male hatter doesn’t face.

What do the “X’s” mean in the hat band?

The X felt grading system is not standardized so it means different things for different hatters. I adopted the felt grading system of one of my first teachers in which 10x is a European Hare fur felt, 50x is a Beaver/ Hare fur blend, roughly 50/50, and 100x is 100% Beaver fur felt. As of this year I am only working with the 50x Beaver Blend and 100x Premium Beaver fur felts as they are the qualities I believe are truly lifetime quality, and I only want to build lifetime quality hats.

How do the felts get dyed?

Some of my felts come dyed from the manufacturer, and for the last couple of years I’ve also been working on a Naturally dyed hat collection. By using High Desert plants that are wildcrafted, a dye bath is created with the plants and the felts are dyed with this plant dye. The resulting hues are a really amazing soft desert palate that I’m in love with. When I am working on those hats, the steam unlocks the smell of the plants in the felt and it fills my workshop with the smell of sage or rabbitbrush or juniper.

What boots do you have and why did you pick those?

I have the Clara boot in the Oro legacy leather. I’m so in love with these boots because they embody a feminine grit that is exactly my style. The boots have a slender mock toe for that classic Red Wing look but with a moderate heel adding a femininity to the boots profile. While I’m certainly a feminine woman I also am utilitarian in what I wear because I’m either on my feet all day working in my hat workshop or I’m helping out around the farm I work on, often transitioning from one to the other and having a functional boot that can play hard and look good is key.

Where is your shop?

Currently my workshop is parked at the farm I live on, Juniper Jungle Farm. Last year I bought a 32 ft airstream, gutted it and built it back up as my hat workshop. I took the airstream workshop around the country last fall, logging about 8,000 miles in 6 weeks. Since that hat-tour I have had my workshop in town parked next to a couple of local businesses but I found that I prefer a more private, quiet work environment which is why I’m now working from the farm.

Where do you find some of your most powerful inspiration?

My most powerful inspiration comes from the landscapes I’m surrounded by, the regional styles that are so distinct from one another, and my customers are very powerful inspirations to me.

Each hat is custom made and built to suit a particular person. In this way, the stature, style, family history or a new life endeavor that the customer happens to share with me might inspire a new hat style that I have never done until that person inspired it. Right now I’m interested in working more with my Hues of the High Desert hats that are naturally dyed, the plant hues are so unique and very inspiring.

Was there one defining moment when you realized that you were going to commit to making hats?

After I had decided to leave my first teacher’s workshop and strikeout to start my own workshop, I had a lot of self-doubt. The start-up period is so difficult for so many reasons, but one of the biggest transitions after leaving an apprenticeship is learning to do it on your own with no teacher to turn to when you hit a wall. The first public forum I sold hats at was at Bandit Town in California. All hail Bandit Town! Frankly, I was such a fresh baby hatter, that first collection I took to sell was terrible. I mean, it was terrible in retrospect but it was my first solo effort as a hatter, we all have to start somewhere and in those first years the key was make, make, make, I learned so much through just spending countless hours in my workshop with lots of trial and error.

That first day at Bandit Town before the vendors area was officially open I had two women walk up to my booth and each bought a hat off the wall and each ordered a custom hat as well. That moment was it, I can’t even describe the feeling I had. One of my best friends from childhood was helping me that day at the booth and at the end of the day he looked at me and said, “Cate, you’re doing it, I’m so proud of you” and I remember sitting there so exhausted after a hectic day of sales, I took a breath and thought, here we go. There was no going back after that first day of public sales, and my hunger to improve and dedicate myself to the mastery of this trade has been insatiable ever since.

Sheldon

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The history of the land, industry and culture are inextricably bound in Red Wing, Minnesota. The town’s location on a bend in the Mississippi River, surrounded by fertile farmland, meant it was an ideal place for a riverboat port, grain mills, and all the businesses that supported these industries. In the 1880’s, more wheat was traded through Red Wing than anywhere else in the US. And in the cold winters between growing seasons, the people who settled the town found diversion in skiing, crafts, and the arts.

Theodore B. Sheldon was a wealthy Red Wing grain baron who made his fortune in the booming days of the late 1800’s. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Sheldon bestowed $83,000 to his town with the stipulation that it be put to some good public use. The funds went towards the construction of a grand theater, which was completed in 1904, four years after Sheldon’ s death, and named in his honor, the T.B. Sheldon Memorial Auditorium. For years it played host to the traveling shows that were popular at the time, a chance for Red Wing’s hardworking citizens to put on their “good” clothes and polish up their shoes for a night out. Today it still stands downtown, hosting arts performances as one of the oldest theaters in the state of Minnesota.

Our latest boot is named for T.B. Sheldon, and we think it’s a fitting tribute to the spirit of his legacy. The Sheldon is still a Red Wing boot, built to the high standards we apply to everything we make—Goodyear welt construction, triple-stitch details and quality leather that will last a lifetime. But that leather is our premium Featherstone, rich and supple, with a smooth finish. A low-profile Roccia sole provides some traction on mud and snow without drawing too much attention, and we build the Sheldon around a more tapered last for a sleeker, dressier appearance than our more rough-and-tumble boots.

Red Wing is a town where hard work meets high art, where “farm to table” is taken literally. Things need to be versatile and low maintenance. This is where we live and these are the principles behind our boots, like the Sheldon. With a little bit of care, they’ll age as well as you, maybe even enough to be called, “distinguished”. And Friday night, after the work week’s over, they’ll pair well with a jacket and, if you’re bold, even a tie when you head downtown for a night at the theater. We like to think T.B. Sheldon would approve.

 

*Photo courtesy of Goodhue County Historical Society.

Irish Setter Limited Series

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In the postwar years of the last century, Red Wing Shoe Company introduced a 9-inch lace-up boot for sportsmen—bird and deer hunters who spent autumn days in the woods and marshes of North America. The boot called the Style No. 954, made use of leather tanned with the bark of sequoia trees that gave it a distinctive deep reddish-orange color known as “Oro Russet”. It was so similar to the coat of a certain breed of hunting dog that it was given the name, “Irish Setter”, in our 1950 catalog and it quickly became a popular boot.

In 1952, the Irish Setter evolved further, taking on a form that has come to be synonymous with Red Wing ever since. Retaining the distinctive moc toe of the 954, the new 8-inch Style No. 877 replaced its predecessor’s heel with a wedge sole made from a white crepe rubber that promised to be quiet underfoot in the woods. This sole had been used on shoes before but the No. 877 Irish Setter was the first to use it on a tall hunting boot. In addition to its benefits for the stalking hunter, its comfort also found favor on the job site and soon the Irish Setter was seen in the factories and on the scaffolds of a growing America.


Since the 1950s, the Irish Setter changed little from its origins. A 6-inch version and a few other colors were introduced, as well as some subtle new construction techniques but otherwise, it remained the same boot that was ceremonially presented to President Eisenhower in 1960. By the 1990s, the original No. 877 became simply known as the “Classic Work Boot”, while the Irish Setter name branched off for an entire family of hunting boots made by Red Wing.

A few years ago, we embarked on a project to recreate the iconic Irish Setter boot, as close to its original form as possible, for our Japanese market, where Red Wing has long enjoyed a loyal following. It was an ambitious undertaking. We dusted off old machines at our Minnesota factory, called in help from retired workers, and experimented with tanning methods that could recreate the original Oro Russet color but adhere to modern environmental practices. Finally, after three years, the boot made its debut. And now we’re bringing it back to the American market.

The new limited series Irish Setter appears as if out of a time machine from 1952. In addition to its matched color, which we’re now calling “Gold Russet Sequoia”, the boot has all the exacting details of its historic forebear. The “Red Wing” name is embossed on the inside quarter of the boot, the moc toe is finished with a distinctive rectangular bar-tack stitch, and the backstay chain-stitch is once again done on our ancient Puritan Stitch machine, which has its origins in the 1890s. We use the same mahogany and sage thread of the original, the top band is double-stitched, and the laces are leather instead of Taslan. All of these features are subtle differences from our standard No. 877 Classic Work Boot but they add up to an Irish Setter that is both unique and true to its name. Finally, to finish it off, we’ve added the traditional woven “Irish Setter” label inside the tongue and the boots come in a box that features the original logo and text from the 1950s.

While the limited series Irish Setter boots will no doubt be coveted by collectors who want a piece of history, these are Red Wing boots, after all, built for a lifetime of service. Like the faithful dog for which they’re named, they’ll come out of the box eager to head into the woods when the leaves start to fall in autumn, not afraid to get dirty. And we’d have it no other way.

Faces of Red Wing | Christina Giordani

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Christina Giordani
Christina Giordani

 

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Southern California in a suburb north of Los Angeles where I was very connected to the natural world through surfing, hiking and exploring but had little connection to my food. When I moved to San Francisco at the age of eighteen my world opened up and agriculture and the connection to food producers found its way into my heart.

If someone asked you about your profession how would you respond?

My profession is a mix of creating a path for myself and walking through the doors that opened for me. I have developed a profession that is hard to define, it’s a mix of expertise and constant education. I am an Agrarian Innovator who helps farmers, ranchers and producers tell their story and develop their businesses, yet at the same time I learn from all these skilled and brilliant people I come in contact with.

Agrarian_Giordani

What does a normal day look like for you?

No day is ever the same. One morning I may be at a ranch assisting with sheering sheep or at a farm harvesting potatoes and in the afternoon doing a tasting with a chef. The next day I may be at the butchers in the morning and producing a video shoot focused on sharing the story and passion of a 4th generation farmer in the afternoon. I juggle multiple projects and clients at a time so it isn’t a rare thing to see me in a field on my cell phone responding to emails and making calls with whatever service I can find.

What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?

The people. It takes a very special person to raise, grow or produce food for others.

What lead you to farm and ranch work?

A bunch of little things led me here, but the most significant of those was my friendships in college with people who grew up on farms. I would visit their homes and fall in love with the lifestyle and leave wanting to know more about why they lived that way and how I could someday be a part of it.

Why grass fed?

I genuinely believe in being aware of the what the animals you eat are eating. I have seen what grass-fed and finished looks like especially in the open lands where forage is a mix of wild grasses and flowers. What that animal eats comes through in the meat. Meat has terroir too.

Why do you think it is important for people to eat food that is produced locally?

When we eat locally we support the people in our communities that have committed their life to providing for others. We reduce the distance that food has to travel to get to market. We are able to understand better how and why that food is grown and make more educated choices. We are then consuming more sustainably.

What are some of the obstacles for a woman in the ranching world?

Having your own identity. Not being someone’s wife or daughter but your own woman who paved her own way.

Finding workwear made to fit a woman.

Which Red Wing boots are you sporting?

Black Engineer

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