Red Wing at the Minnesota State Fair

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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.

RWH_state_fair_flyerRWH_Statefair_xxxx

Pecos – A Classic Pull On Boot

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Red Wing Heritage Pecos Boots

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.

Style no: 8187
Style no: 8187

 

Style no: 8188
Style no: 8188

 

Who’s Afraid of a Little Water?

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Red Wing Heritage Tannery Process

If you’ve ever been caught in a rainstorm wearing a leather jacket, you know what happens when it dries. Chances are, it will wear a little tighter the next time you put it on. That’s because if leather dries too quickly, it can shrink and become brittle. At the S.B. Foot tannery, great care is taken to make sure that the hides are dried properly after their hours tumbling in tanning solution. The drying process is a slow and deliberate one, perhaps less glamorous than the tanning itself, but one crucial to the quality of the leathers that we use to make our boots.

Right out of the wooden drums in which they have bathed, the hides are sopping wet, stacked by hand by burly men in rubber boots and aprons to be transported to the drying room. The hides then are laid flat on the layers of a tall mechanical “sandwich”that pulls out the initial moisture without applying too much heat. From there, they are pulled through a set of large rollers that press out more moisture while stretching the leather to eliminate unwanted wrinkles as the hides dry. Finally, the hides, which still are damp to the touch, are transferred into a large heated room, where they are individually draped over hundreds of rods where they will be left to completely dry.

Red Wing Heritage Tannery Processing

Of course, the leather that leaves the tannery is destined to be made into rugged boots that will no doubt get wet countless times over their hard working lives. But that’s why, after tanning and drying, the final step in the process is to treat the leather with penetrating oils that protect them from moisture.

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Faces of Red Wing | Solid Manufacturing

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Alex and Dan Cordell

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 youd 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 worksanding and hand-oilingwhile 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.

Solid-ManufacturingRed-Wing-Heritage-boots

The Solid Manufacturing duo started making things in Dans fathers woodshop just south of the city, selling their wares at pop-up events around town and through an online Web store. We couldnt do what we do anywhere else but Minneapolis,Alex says while she rubs a block of wood with linseed oil. Its 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 visitAlex 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 makerculture, 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 fathers 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.

Solid-Manufacturing-Wood-Block
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 wordsolid.

Updated – Beckman Chukka and Oxford

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Beckman Oxford and Chukka Style no: 9047, 9048, 9046

 

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.

Red Wing Heritage Brown Beckman Oxford
Beckman Oxford Style no: 9046

 

Red Wing Heritage Black Oxford
Beckman Oxford Style no: 9047

 

Brown Red Wing Heritage Beckman Chukka
Beckman Chukka Style no: 9048

Special Delivery: New Postman Oxford Styles

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Red Wing Heritage Postman Oxford
Postman Oxford  Style no: 3103, 3107, 3108, 3104

 

In 1954, Red Wing introduced a humble shoe that would go on to cover more miles than any other we’ve made. Called simply the No. 101, it would come to be known as the Postman, thanks to the legions of mailmen who wore them on their rounds. We’ve never stopped making this popular shoe so it’s no surprise that the Postman is one of the company’s best sellers. The same nonslip sole and one-piece quarter that were added in 1960 still make the shoe as comfortable and durable today as it was pounding the pavement over 50 years ago.

Red Wing Heritage Postman Oxford 101
Postman Oxford Style no: 101

 

This year, Red Wing introduces two new colors to the Postman collection, our rugged Copper Rough and Tough (No. 3107) and a stylish Navy Abilene (No. 3108). These comfortable and versatile shoes feature our white Atlas Tred sole for excellent grip, Goodyear welt construction, and low maintenance, durable leathers from the S.B. Foot tannery. They’re built right next to the original Postman shoes at our factory in Red Wing, Minnesota. And of course if your uniform, or your taste, demands it, the original style No. 101 is still available in shiny Black Chaparral, ready to put on the miles.

Red Wing Heritage Postman Oxford 3107
Postman Oxford Style no: 3107

 

Red Wing Heritage Postman Oxford 3108
Postman Oxford Style no: 3108

 

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 Weekender

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.

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Faces of Red Wing | Christopher Winters

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Winters_Shipyard-17

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.

Southie

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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