When you think of durable and comfortable boots, the name Doc Martens may come to mind. But some forty years before Klaus Märtens designed the unique air-cushioned sole, Charles Beckman was designing his own revolutionary line of footwear- Red Wing.
At the risk of quoting Julie Andrews from The Sound Of Music, let’s start at the very beginning: 1905, Red Wing, Minnesota, USA. The city’s population had grown by almost 20% in the last decade alone and a local shoe merchant, Charles H. Beckman, saw a demand for purpose built industry-suitable footwear. He knew these shoes needed to endure the harsh conditions of mining, logging, and farming as well as being comfortable for the people who wore them. It was with this forward thinking that Beckman, alongside a number of investors, founded Red Wing Shoes and changed the footwear market forever.
Over a century has passed since then and Red Wing’s commitment to high quality performance shoes is as unwavering as Beckman’s first vision. Within the first decade of production alone, more than 200, 000 pairs of shoes were manufactured per year. Red Wing went on to become the main supplier of boots for American soldiers fighting in World War 1 and World War 2 and these products are still protecting workmen today in over a hundred countries.
As the company has expanded, the focus has always stayed on work boots which feature technical properties to make the shoes safe for heavy duty industries. Most styles feature steel, non-metallic, and aluminium safety toe caps as well as being static dissipative to protect the wearer from contact with electrically charged objects. But despite this clear focus, Red Wing has started to experiment with more fashionable designs like the men’s Oxford brogue shoes and even a few styles of trainers which are available in brighter colours such as red, blue, and pink. These fashionable designs still acknowledge Beckman’s focus by typically including the classic metal toe cap and other safety features.
As a tribute to Red Wing’s promise of quality, the brand launched the Heritage Collection which includes footwear that represents the American values of hard work and prosperity. The selected shoes are designed and built just as they were up to eighty years ago, handcrafted to the specifications that made the styles timeless when they were first produced. Alongside their own products, Red Wing also manufactures shoes for other footwear brands such as Irish Setter Boots, Vasque, and Worx. The styles produced for these brands still adhere to the classic Red Wing boots, often featuring water proof and scent control properties.
But perhaps Red Wing’s most prominent legacy has nothing to do with work boots and toe caps and other technicalities. Instead, as a true testament to Beckman’s support of hard working people, the Red Wing Shoe Company Foundation was launched in 1955, boasting a determined commitment to young people, education, and the environment. The RWSCF has supported hundreds of non-profit organisations, events, and projects mostly in the Red Wing area, but also in other communities where Red Wing employees live. In 2002, the RWSCF developed the Partners in Sharing Programme which encourages employees to give back to the community. The programme matches gifts and donations made by employees and in 2011 it began matching employees’ voluntary hours with monetary gifts to non-profit causes.
Today, Red Wing is as passionate about practical and comfortable footwear as it always has been and it is maybe the brand’s slogan which best summarises the true ethos and lasting legacy of Charles H. Beckman: Work Is Our Work.
Explore the brand new collection of Red Wing footwear now.
Written by Rachel Glass