Every man needs a fine pair of boots; a pair that might withstand the rigours of climbing up Mt. Kenya, traipsing over Dartmoor or even sloshing through the rain swept streets of Soho. Luckily Minnesota-based company, Red Wing Shoes, makes such an item. Founded by a Mr. Charles H. Beckman in the town of, well, Red Wing actually, for the last 104 years they have been constructing the most durable, most stylish, most essential utility footwear in the world. Indeed, such is their prowess that in 1915 the entire US army trudged to the trenches in Red Wing Number 16s. In World War Two the company produced a remarkable 239 different widths and sizes for America’s armed services. In fact, they are still such sticklers for fit today that they won’t sell their shoes online. (Which, by the way, is most annoying when trying to get those gems only released in other territories!)
Essentially a manufacturer of no nonsense work boots, Red Wing initially crossed over into the street when Marlon Brando sported their classic Engineer boot in the film The Wild One (1953), thus prompting millions of bikers (including a certain Steve McQueen) to follow suit. In fact, today the Engineer boot is so synonymous with the biker style it is hard to imagine they were originally made for American steam train drivers back in the ’30s. But the really big leap into civvy street occurred in 1975 when Jack Nicholson wore the classic wedge-soled Red Wing 177 (with the Moccasin front) underneath capital ‘E’ Levi’s, sweatshirt and vintage WW2 USAF leather bomber jacket in the movie, One
Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Suddenly thousands of British soul boys adopted the boot, forging a whole new brigade for the bootmakers.
2005 marked Red Wing’s centenary and the launch of the quite superb Beckman Collection. Thus named after their glorious founder, it is
hardly surprising to discover these shoes harking back to the original styles of the ’30s and ’40s. There can be no denying the durability
of a Red Wings boot when it comes to construction, and, judging by their recent anniversary, the same can be said for their enduring
popularity. Whatever fads and fashion come and go in the next 100 years, its hard to see these fantastic boots being stamped out.