June 29, 2011

One Hundred Year Old Boots

My feet are throbbing all the way up into my knees and it feels as if the seams of my socks are cutting right through my toes. I can't even make it a couple of steps before I'm searching for the next place to rest my feet. If the pain is intense then so, too, is the relief at finding a seat.

I'm breaking in my new Red Wing Beckman boots, style no. 9016. Or, rather, they are breaking me in.

After a few weeks of wearing them, they're worth it though. My stride imposes its shape into the heinously thick, albeit gorgeously colored, cigar featherstone leather. I become more accustomed to the logistics of getting the boot on and off. (It's like wrapping your feet in a leather straight jacket the first few times. Especially after being staunchly opposed to any shoe higher than ankle height.) I've shaped over a hundred-plus years of boot making know-how around my twenty-nine year old feet. It's worth it to have that kind of satisfaction, that kind of craftsmanship.

I say 'craftsmanship' because it conveys a deeper meaning than, say, 'manufacturing.' Manufacturing is how sweatshop labor makes basketball shoes. Manufacturing is a disposable process. They make it, you buy it, you wear them asunder and you toss them out. Red Wing crafts a shoe that can be worn to hell and back and, like Lazarus, be resurrected. It's a reassuring feeling to have a company willing to stand behind its product long after they've sold them to you. The video below shows you just how this revival is done.

If this is what goes into repairing a shoe, it doesn't take much to imagine what goes into making a brand new pair.

It's true that things eventually fall apart. There's no denying that. If anything, the boots in the video show just how demolished a shoe can get over days, months and years of abuse. But while shoe manufacturers seem to be resigned to this idea of entropy, Red Wing seem to vehemently fight it--making a boot, from the start, that is as bombproof as shoes come and then backing it up with their very own cobbler to make sure the shoe has every chance to continue on a journey of your choosing. Entropy, it seems, has an enemy.

Call me a stalwart. Call me an old man. I really don't care what you call me because at the end of the day I take solace in that old mantra of "quality over quantity."


  1. One can find quality in quantity, also
    if one is looking for it

  2. You're right on, Nix. In fact, you could argue that Red Wing makes quantity, too (they mention the their output in the linked video and, while I don't remember the exact number it's pretty significant), it's just that given one or the other, I'd pick quality.