Fashion comes in cycles. There’s birth and rebirth, and often time its natal state is that of practical workwear before coming back as something de rigueur. This is especially true today, where sartorial and workmen aesthetics and streetwear collide into some kind of Hypebeast monstrosity, effectively blurring the lines of working men, fashion grads, and the aforementioned blog-reading hipsters.
Enter Minnesota-based heritage brand Red Wing, while not as prominent here as a certain brand of its ilk, it is more revered as a manufacturer of quality practical footwear – two World Wars were fought with American soldiers wearing their boots for one! Their lineup of shoes throughout the ages have since included specific job types – from miners to factory workers – before expanding to more fashion-oriented designs (with practicality maintained). It was said that quintessentially Americana wear, whether jeans or boots, only become fashion staples once the Asian market appropriates them. True enough it was Japan that galvanised Red Wing’s foray as a formidable force in not only workwear but fashion as well.
Naturally the first ever Red Wing Shoe Store in this region, approximated to look like a vintage carpenter workshop straight from 1905 Minnesota, was designed by Red Wing Japan’s General Manager Michiya Suzuki. Filled with miscellaneous tools, antiquated stitching machine, factory racks, and leathers, the store’s aesthetic choices reflect both the brand’s Midwest heritage and their tradition of championing blue-collar workers. The result is a rustic look that makes sense, there’s historical context to be gleaned here as opposed to when the same look is emulated for coffee shops. Just ask any of the store’s staff members if you’re curious, each one of them is equipped with knowledge of the brand’s history.
Unlike other footwear stores, Red Wing takes great care in making sure your feet are comfortable in their shoes. There’s an actual fitting process here wherein the width and length of your feet are measured with a specialty scale brought in just for the store. The uninitiated can also get a quick education on boot care and the grooming of its leather as it ages. Further techniques will be taught in the offing as Red Wing promises to hold boot care clinics soon.
Being something of a kicksologist ourselves, we know the pain of trying to find a specific pair of Red Wing around this part of the world. Most specialty boutiques offer limited amount of pairs, and they are never full collections. It’s a godsend then that this store has the largest collection in Southeast Asia, boasting both the heritage work and classic-styled footwear with up to 100 styles on display. Our personal favourite is the Iron Ranger – classical manual labour design made ideal as streetwear. But of course, there’s the Engineer, Postman, Lineman, and more to choose from.
If the shop proved to be successful enough to instil confidence, Red Wing is sure to open up another flagship store ’round these parts. We’re crossing our fingers it’s going to be Malaysia.
The first flagship Red Wing Shoe Store in Southeast Asia is now open at orchardgateway, #04-16, Singapore.