Red Wing Pecos Boots and the State of Heritage

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Six months ago, if you’d asked me what I thought about the heritage movement I would’ve told you with all the confidence in the world that it was undoubtedly on it’s last legs.  And yet here I am, eating those imaginary words by writing about a pair of Red Wings as one of my final posts so the year.  You could say that it’s this southwestern atmosphere messing with my head, but I suppose in a way it all makes sense.  I, like so many of my peers, had used the heritage wave as my gateway drug to the hashtag menswear set, and as they say everything is cyclical, so with another year coming to a close, I have found my way back to the start once again.

Pecos Boot

While that “heritage” period of wearing raw denim, flannels, and Red Wings every day was the crucial first time that I actually considered how I dressed, once I adopted a new uniform of an oxford, khakis, and a pair of loafers, it was as if those Red Wings that I once wore proudly never existed.  Relegating my Red Wings to the back of the closet, I effectively erased the heritage and drew over it with trad, and in a way we all reach that point, something’s cool to us for so long, then suddenly one day it’s just not, and as swiftly as changing a pair of shoes we forget what came before.

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Lately though things have started to change, as menswear has become such a self-referential amalgam, that the most important thing these days is not forgetting what came before, but drawing from it and half-sarcastically, half-seriously melding it into your current wardrobe.  It’s what’s given us sneakers and suits, sweatpants with blazers, five panels with cashmere sweaters, and for as much as I could say that I find it ridiculous, here I am sitting in Santa Fe, staring down a few open tabs of Red Wing Pecos boots debating whether or not I want to buy them.

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The Pecos obsession is not uncharted territory for my side of menswear-Maxminimus has long been a fan, and the Japanese have been on them for years with an exclusive model that has never been available in the states.  Well, that is until this past year when Unionmade picked them up, a move that brought Pecos Boots onto my radar and have since driven my own fascination over the unique roper meets hiking meets cowboy boot hybrid.

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If there’s one thing you could say about Red Wing, it’s that they’re always had the finger on the pulse of their consumer.  in 1953, the Minnesota based brand noticed that while their typical boot model already had built up a dedicated fan base, there was a group of farmers, ranchers, and oil-rig workers who were in need of something a bit more.  They were searching for a year-round, go to hell and back on any given day sort of boot, and so to match these demands Red Wing came out with the Pecos Boot.

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The all leather, ankle high, pull-up, crepe-soled Pecos Boot was ready to go no matter what and became a serious hit amongst it’s target audience.  Unfortunately though, in the states, it never really caught on as a mainstream boot and so it faced out over here, but the Japanese, with their infinite interest in Americana discovered the boot and became enamored by it.  Their infatuation lead to a serious hunt for deadstock Pecos in Japan, until 1997 when Red Wing saw the demand and released the 8866 Oro-Russet Portage leather Pecos Boot as a Japan exclusive.  The boot, while successul overseas, was no where to be found stateside for over a decade and a half, until Unionmade decided earlier this year that it was high time we got a taste of the Pecos, and released forty-eight exclusive pairs.

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I, more than almost anyone I know, had been predicting that the last days of heritage were just around the corner all year, but as I sit here, contemplating yet another Red Wing purchase, I think it’s time to finally admit that heritage isn’t a movement after all.  Menswear has become this melting pot of influence and it’s now about picking and choosing from that rather than simply riding one wave with blind dedication.  Which is why we should all never forget that moderation is key, because let’s face it we really don’t need to go back to the days of dressing like turn of the century railroad conductors right now.

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3 comments
  1. cam said:

    Jake,
    I have enjoyed following you this year and appreciate your point of view- less thematic, more eclectic! Will you be at Pitti? Would love to connect before Market.
    Be cool,
    cam

    • Thanks for the kind words, unfortunately I won’t be at Pitti but shoot me an email if you wish.
      Jake

  2. well written im currently wearing my union made pecos. i picked em up the day they released with a little bit of unsettling nervousness that 1 feels b4 making a big purchase of something non ‘traditional’ or should i say unconventional for mainstream america never the less i bit the $300+ bullet and bought a pair.shortly after compliments and inquiries followed and as i currently backpack through Korea in the dead of winter heading to the land of the raising son at dawn I look back at this addition to my wardrobe with no regrets and hope you feel the same once your arrive.

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