Favorite items: A boy and his Red Wing Supersoles

I encountered Red Wing Shoes some 23 years ago when I first moved to London as a wide eyed and caustically mouthed young man. This story will mainly be an ode to the Supersoles, but I also have a deep appreciation for other models from Red Wing, so read on if you like your rugged American workboots!

I fell in with a good crowd who were quite into their clothes & one day I spied one of our number  wearing a pair of most eye catching boots. Bright red, black rubber sole and yellow laces. Why yes, it was a Red Wing boot.

P1010278Well used Red Wing Supersoles buffed up to a top shine.

Well used Red Wing Supersoles buffed up to a top shine.

They made no concession to fashion & looked like nothing else… and were more or less the polar opposite of Timberland lug boots that everyone was wearing with their Chevignon puffa jacket. Proper American work boots and only available at a small handful of stores. I liked this boot a lot and I liked it’s rather coarse utilitarian outlook. Apart from anything else, the handsome helicopter pilot, Stephen, who then becomes a zombie in the 1978 film Dawn of the Dead wears a pair. I ask you, what’s not to like?!

I remember American Classics used to stock them (they still do in fact), The Natural Shoe Company on the corner of Kings Road in Chelsea did too. In the end, I saved up enough money and got my first pair from a store called Paramount Clothing nestled in the glamorous bosom of Croydon in South London.

Red Wing Super Soles or the Model #18012 were about the only variety that you could get back then and golly they were built to last. A thick tread less rubber sole designed for traction on concrete bonded onto a thick and rugged upper that had been given the moc toe for extra strength.

In the late 1950s, a cheap sole-cementing method (gluing the sole to the instep leather), began to gain traction. The work boot market began to be filled with lower-priced products. Red Wing responded by researching new methods of product development that wouldn’t compromise quality. In 1967, after a number of tests, Red Wing introduced a shoe which combined the efficiency of the cementing and the durability of Goodyear Welt construction. The new method used urethane, known for its anti-abrasion characteristics. It attached the sole to the instep leather with the welt sewn to it. The sole attached by this method was called Supersole, and would eventually re-define the work boot market.”
Even Red Wing Supersoles wear after heavy use.

Even Red Wing Supersoles wear after heavy use.

My first pair must’ve lasted me at least five years. To my eternal shame they were not waxed, cleaned or polished a single time and spent their time scuffing around nightclubs, city streets and playing football. Despite this crime against footwear they were always 100% waterproof, supremely comfortable and not a single stitch ever came loose. These were true dreadnoughts of shoes and the guys & gals that made them certainly earned their money.

I only actually retired them when I spied another pair that seemed were a cosmetic second and priced to sell if you know what I mean. Whichever…. they were a darn site smarter than the pair I was currently killing.

The toe & the vamp on a Red Wing are cut from different parts of the hide and on this pair it’s pretty obvious on one of them they are of uneven leather colour.  I’m made of fairly uneven leather myself so I’ve worn them with pride ever since. I am quite light on my shoes and the many, many miles I’ve walked in these boots has still yet to beat the soles into any kind of submission.

Two variations over the Supersoles theme, the moc toe and round toe.

Two variations over the Supersoles theme, the moc toe and round toe.

Around the same sort of time, I managed to get a round toe pair too. These are stamped on the tongue as Style # 29007 and are slightly different – not only did they have the round toe, they had an exotic line of white stitching visible and they actually had a tread. This pair is of a similar vintage but as you can see, hasn’t had nearly the amount of use as the Mocs and were only rediscovered in a box at my mother’s house a couple of years ago.

I still wear these too on occasion and must say still love ‘em. Both pairs are clearly showing their age and are in real need of a drink of mink oil here, but I have faithfully cleaned and maintained them and there’s many a mile left in both should need be. They have both been newly laced which I think it’s the least I can do for them with their darkening patina… they now look like ripe rosy apples.

This longevity is something to be applauded damn loudly and is one of the reasons why I never have & never will be without a pair or two of Red Wings in my wardrobe.

The SuperSole died out pretty much in Europe around then (the original SuperSole upper was seemingly discontinued or “upgraded” with a more modern style with a deep V cut into the back of the ankle padding which didn’t look nearly as good but probably sold well among American workmen) and these new fangled white wedge soled Red Wings began to make an appearance.

Almost identical, apart from the style of the toe. Similar vintage as well, though different levels of use.

Almost identical, apart from the style of the toe. Similar vintage as well, though different levels of use.

The common wisdom was that these white soled boots were primarily designed for roofers to wear since they were markedly lighter and wider – although I have since read a myriad of different “origins” that they were farmer’s boots and so forth. Seeing that the sole also has a very light tread I find this rather difficult to believe as I think any farmer wearing them would spend more time on his ass than productively farming anything.

Red Wing dropped off the radar for most people for a good few years, only to be stocked by the hardiest of retailer who loved the brand rather than the sales revenue. They then emerged as more or less the global boot of choice at the forefront of the heritage movement. US made, a 108 year  legacy, they still have their own tanneries and they own the eye-poppingly singular colour in that glorious Oro Russet red/orange.

Red Wings were back and instead of £90 they were now £225! Exotic white trim stitching was standard, black soles were totally banished & the now quite ubiquitous Vibram Christy –albeit Red Wing branded – was now the sole of choice.

I have never seen a brand the size of Red Wing rise so quickly and with such nimbleness and these days you can buy them on most high streets should you wish. They are now far, far more successful than they ever were back in the early 90’s and have spawned many an imitator.

I still buy Red Wings and among others have a pair of the 8131’s which ride on a Christy sole and you know, while I don’t think the leather is quite as thick as it used to be and the sole isn’t a patch on the old super when it comes to toughness, it’s still darn good and the build quality is top notch. These boots will not let you down, no matter how abusively you treat them. Red Wing have a few very impressive European concept stores and serve up an extensive range quite effectively riding the current trends from the classic boots to premium Maine handsewn’s, work oxfords, chukka boots and Wabasha’s.

While my preference will always be for the stock moc boot in that classic vibrant Oro Russet colour,  they have produced a few variants that have really taken my eye. One is the Red Wing Munson boot that is Harris Tweed lined and a glorious & predictably expensive collaboration with Nigel Cabourn; the other is the much underrated 200 series… absolutely beautiful boots and work Oxfords closely evoking the original SuperSole work boot but sliding in a very sleek and understated manner on a black neoprene sole. These particular boots were released with a bit of a whimper a couple of years ago and as far as I can see were not a huge seller – a fact that I still cannot decide whether I like or not.

Eagle eyed Google fiends may find a few pairs of these for sale still at various stores and it would seem that Red Wing themselves are stocking them again.  I know after a beer of two in the evening, I often find my finger perilously close to that pesky “Buy” button.

The size used to be stamped on the outside of the tongue, later Red Wing moved it to a label on the inside.

The size used to be stamped on the outside of the tongue, later Red Wing moved it to a label on the inside.

If you haven’t had a pair of Red Wings it is really high time you fixed that fact. Like a lot of brand leaders Red Wing are sensibly beginning to release and promote a lot more none-Christy wedge soled shoes & boots – the #8052 Oxford being a big favourite of mine – as it seems these days one cannot get moved for footwear on a white wedged sole and it’s perhaps time for something different?

If you want something that may well outlast your feet if you look after them just a little bit you cannot go wrong. If you’re still not convinced, I have my trump card to play. Check out what has recently made a re-appearance on the Red Wing website under the guise of style# 8804.


Looks like the old link no longer works (they appear to have emptied their stock), try this one or this one. These are not sponsored links (though I wish they were!).

Ah yes. The old bruiser is back.. the original and still the best. Just make sure you buy a tin of Mink Oil too at the checkout. These boots can be quite emotional to break in but like any good horse, once broken and with a bit of TLC, it will give you many years solid service.

Can we ever get enough gratuitous photos of shiny old boots? Nah, I don't think so either.

Can we ever get enough gratuitous photos of shiny old boots? Nah, I don’t think so either.

Another quality guest post by Scratch!


  • Neil 03/07/2013 at 01:10

    Found a pair of these classic redwings for 50 euros in a discount shoe shop in Vilnius a couple of years ago. Worn every day to walk the dog. Fantastic. I oil them with a german leather oil from manufactum. I had a similar style of boot in the mid 60s as a school boy in Dundee. Not redwings, can’t remember the brand.

    • Well Dressed Dad 03/07/2013 at 09:01

      That’s a great deal, Neil, and I’m pleased to hear you’re enjoying them! I intend to get a pair myself this autumn, though I’m undecided which to get. I’ve narrowed it down to two models, but need to decide on supersole vs. commando sole. Definitely classic boots though!

  • Scratch 25/10/2013 at 13:21

    A brief update, my #8131’s sole is not nearly as tough as I thought. They get reasonable wear – nothing very hard tbh – and the sole itself is showing quite shocking deterioration. The tread has more or less worn off both boots and both heels are showing marked wear.
    This “Christy” sole seems to be a lot lighter than the RW Christy on a pair of work Oxfords I have that are not showing nearly as much damage despite having seen more action.
    Still, if anything, it clearly shows that the old SuperSole is the way forward.

    • Well Dressed Dad 26/10/2013 at 19:33

      Good update, my man! Given how the longevity is a major feature of these boots, you certainly don’t want to get a pair with duff soles, even if they can be resoled.

  • Scratch 27/10/2013 at 10:57

    Yep – a bit duff really. The uppers are aging nicely and very comfy its just the sole that makes it look like I’ve walked 500 miles in them.
    It’s distinctly odd – as mentioned the work oxfords I have which have ostensibly the same sole unit are still in good nick and they’ve had substantially more wear.

    Yuketen’s I have that have the official Vibram branded Christy sole are noticeably heavier and denser and are wearing admirably.

    I notice that the supersoles have now landed proper here in the UK, being available at The Liquor Store, Union Clothing and Stuarts of London among others. I saw a pair the other day in Union and they are absolute beauties.

    Oh and an official RedWing store has finally opened in London this week.

  • Five fantastic kicks for the cold season | Well Dressed Dad 30/11/2013 at 11:48

    […] makes sense, almost feels synthetic. With care though, they should last almost forever (read this post by Scratch for more experiences of a life with Red […]

  • Back to the future: Red Wing Supersoles | Well Dressed Dad 01/12/2013 at 15:04

    […] Red Wing Supersole has a nostalgic place in my heart from my younger days. Singular appearance and actually tougher than old […]

  • Review: Red Wing Ice Cutters, boots for dad | Well Dressed Dad 31/01/2014 at 14:39

    […] of Doc Martens that really demanded commitment, and Scratch’s experience of breaking in Red Wing Supersoles, I was prepared for this to be a painful time. And yes, it was. My ankles were really sore. For […]

  • Iconic footwear: Clarks Wallabees, everything for everyone! | Well Dressed Dad 11/04/2014 at 13:02

    […] Favorite items: A boy and his Red Wings […]

  • Iconic Footwear: The Red Wing 877 Irish Setters | Well Dressed Dad 19/04/2014 at 13:03

    […] Favorite items: A boy and his Red Wings […]

  • connorthek 03/01/2015 at 23:30

    Nice post WWD. You’ve inspired me to dig out a pair of supersoles bought from American Classics back in 1994

  • Jesse Watson 17/07/2017 at 03:05

    Actually, the white sole is the original one for the moc toe, as far as I know, originating on the round toe farmer boot as indeed the rumors are true. The treads were kept more shallow in order to prevent cow poop and dirt from being tracked in by the farmer. Contrast this with the sole on the Iron Ranger, which typically has no treads at all, as they were made for iron miners (they do have a double leather toe, though, pre-cursor to the steel-toe).

    These days, there is Red Wing Shoes, and there is Red Wing Heritage. Red Wing Heritage, built in the classic old Goodyear Welt style, is what was/is on the rise as “fashion boot,” but they are the true old work boots, no newfangled urethane or anything.

    But, they look great, whatever the color of the sole, and they last forever. I have more Red Wings than I care to admit: couple boots, some chukkas, and three (!) pairs of Oxfords. They look great at the office, and they’re still great for walking as many miles as you please. And the boots are tremendous for hiking, for winter, and STILL look great at the office! (white sole, 1911 style!) I think I need a second pair of the moc toe boots.

  • john whippy 14/01/2021 at 22:31

    have loved redwings since late 80s raving days
    timberland popular but these top them all day
    had 4 pairs since CLASS

  • Chris Gallagher 24/09/2022 at 12:01

    I have 2 pairs of 8804s i trod the boards at the Hacienda one pair from Woohouse in London i think and the other from Strand in Leeds? Still going strong 30+ Years!

  • Nicola Leonard 13/02/2024 at 23:52

    I’m just selling a pair of the 8804 on eBay as well as a pair of their black “postman” shoe 106. They were my brothers and he loved them dearly…he used to work for Redwing and loved every second of it…another thing that made me smile in your blog was the fact you mentioned Chevignon Puffers as me, my bother and my dad all worked for Chevignon and it was actually my dad that bought Chevignon to the Uk (he was the Uk importer & wholesaler). He was also connected to Redwing as a wholesaler too…showroom in Kings Road If you check out an Eric Clapton album (can’t remember which one now) there are some pics on the inside cover of him having some redwings delivered by my brother…I love redwings almost as much as you and thank you for your blog,,,it really made me smile xx


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.