-Memorialized by Tyler Moe-Slepica, his grandson-
“My grandfather was my hero. Ambros R. Johnson, or “Amby” as he was known, was a gentle spirit who remained humble and steadfast in his care for his family and craft. He put his heart and soul into everything he did. The son of immigrants from Iceland and Norway, he gained his passion for carpentry from his father Magnus, a stern but fair man who spent his life as a contractor in Minneota, MN.
A kind, hardworking and truly remarkable man.
Amby enlisted in the U.S. Navy after high school and was placed into the prestigious Construction Battalion that built airfields in Korea, Japan and the Philippine Islands during the Korean War. After his brave service, he returned to Minnesota and worked for Wangsted Brothers in Minneapolis as a carpenter.
Next, Amby worked as head carpenter for IDS Properties, which managed the skyscraper that remains the jewel of the Minneapolis skyline to this day. Building tenants affectionately called him “Bros the Carpenter,” and I’m reminded of him every time that shimmering tower comes into view.
My grandfather was a 50-year member of Carpenters Union Local 1644 and was a Cub Scout Master and Boy Scout Leader, receiving the Silver Beaver Award, scouting’s highest leadership recognition.
He was always very active in his community, serving on the Champlin city planning commission and city council. In 1976, he was the inaugural recipient of the Father Hennepin Award for his tireless service to the Champlin area. He also served as commander of the Champlin American Legion Post 600 and as a Minnesota delegate.
At home, Amby had an impressive green thumb and tended masterful vegetable and flower gardens every summer. He was also a true craftsman and built many of the furnishings in his home, as well as having constructed our cherished family cabin on Tame Fish Lake in northern Minnesota.
Amby was famous among us for his power naps. He’d rest for 10 minutes and then it was on to the next project. Busy as he was, I fondly remember his willingness to always stop, bring over an interested grandchild or two to explain what we was working on, and find a way to make us part of the project. He taught me how to swing a hammer and what doing quality work is all about.
My grandfather passed his clean heart and strong work ethic to all his children, and he shared his vocation with his sons and grandson who grew up to become an engineer, contractor, and carpenter, extending his passion for the trades to the fourth generation. He recognized quality when he saw it and he wore the same style of Red Wings his entire working life. Every new pair he proclaimed would be his last. Amby passed away in 2014, and many of his family members now proudly wear their Red Wings to honor and emulate him.
My grandfather is the greatest man I will ever know — and now that I’m a brand-new father, I miss him more than ever. He would be so thrilled to meet his great-granddaughter. I will try my best to raise her with values just like his.”
to Ambros "Amby"
“I’ve worked in factories most my life, and have worn Red Wing boots for the past 22 years. I tried saving money with other work boot brands. They felt great when I tried them on, but they were starting to wear and my legs, back and knees were killing me after just a couple weeks. I replaced those boots with my first pair of Red Wings and I immediately felt the difference.
These boots helped make us safer on the road.
The past 16 years I have been in fleet maintenance for trucking businesses, and right now I’m with one of the world’s largest delivery companies. I work with coolants, oils, solvents, mineral spirits and chassis grease. We even power-wash our own trucks. I also do a lot of welding, cutting with torches and all mechanicals, and I’m constantly walking on bolts, screws and hot metal. My Red Wings protect me through it all.
My dad was a forklift mechanic and truck driver, and we always made repairs whenever something broke down. From those experiences I feel like I can fix and make almost anything. When I know an off-the-shelf tool isn’t the best fit for something I’m doing, I just fire up the welder and create one of my own. I’ve fabricated dozens of tools from scratch over the years, and many of them are in my toolbox today. I’ve even submitted a few of my best ideas to the big tool manufacturers.
My buddies in the shop laugh at me at first for making my own tools. But more often than not, those same people end up asking for one of what I made for themselves.
I take great pride in knowing that what we do in this shop makes everyone on the road safer. I treat every truck I work on as if my family will be following right behind it on the highway. It is satisfying to hear that we are known for our quality, and others in this shop seek me out in when a problem requires getting creative.
I love my job, I love my shop and I love my Red Wings. If I weren’t limited to 40 hours a week, I’d be at work even more.”
“I never planned on operating cranes for a living, but it’s in my blood. I’ve been at this for 35 years now and am about to retire. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I do the heavy lifting.
Doing this job takes practice, and it comes naturally to some people. When you have ironworkers high in the air and are bringing a piece to them, you have to guide it in slowly and smoothly, so that they can safely get a spud wrench in and take over from there. I seemed to have a good feel for this right away.
My dad, who I call ‘Pops,’ was also a crane operator during his working years. He is my idol and best friend, and was even Best Man at my wedding. He wore Red Wings his whole career, which is yet another way I’m following in his footsteps.
Pops seemed larger than life when I was growing up. He was as strong as Superman and could fix anything. My mom says that when I was very young, I used to chase his pickup down the road when he left for work and cuss when I couldn’t catch him.
My father and grandfather both worked out of the IUOE Local 49 in Minneapolis, as I do now. That makes me a third-generation 49er.
Pops raised me to practice the golden rule and treat people with respect. He also taught me to take pride in doing a day’s work for a day’s pay. When he retired, he gave me the spud wrench that he used on the job. It hasn’t left my toolbelt since.
My first big project was at the Sherco generating facility in Becker, Minnesota, a plant that has boilers over 200 feet tall. I operated cranes at the Flint Hills oil refinery in Rosemount and the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, where I manned a 70-ton machine from what is now center ice.
I’ve also worked on many bridges, including the big bridges over the river in Hastings, Stillwater and currently Red Wing, Minnesota. On the Stillwater bridge, I walked in and set a 200,037-lb. load with one crane. For the Red Wing project, we did one pick that required four cranes working in sync to get each bridge beam in place.
My most unique job by far was when the Minnesota Zoo hired us to transfer a sick dolphin from the pool it lived in to a different tank containing medication. It was the only time I was ever involved in using a crane to move a living thing.
I live just a short drive from the Red Wing bridge, so I’ve had a chance to get all three of my grandsons out to the jobsite and into my seat. I even let them run the ball up and down a bit — just letting some future 49ers get in some early practice.
I will use the Red Wing bridge regularly when I’m retired. And every trip across will be extra special for me, because I’m one of the few people who can say he built it.”
“I always knew I wanted to be a homebuilder and my grandfather was the inspiration. He put hammers, saws and chisels in my hand at a young age, and I would spend entire days in his shop. I started doing the stick framing for his homes when I was 15.
These boots helped design and build remarkable homes.
I knew I wanted to go directly into the trades after high school, but my father convinced me I should have an academic career to fall back on. I entered the four-year program at The Cooper Union, a prestigious college in New York City, and majored in architecture, because I saw this as a way to learn more about the drawing that occurs prior to building. I studied under great mentors in Italy and Germany. And the day after I earned my degree, I was back doing construction.
Over the last three decades, I’ve worked somewhere in the intersection between architecture and construction. I now run a small design-build firm just outside Bozeman, Montana. We like to take on jobs that are on the cutting edge of green design, which often means doing something that hasn’t been done before.
One of our recent projects involved building a net-zero-energy home for a couple that runs a fly-fishing lodge a 1.5-hour drive away in the Ruby Valley. To conserve fossil fuels by avoiding long daily trips to and from the jobsite, we prefabricated the home on a lot near my office before taking it apart, making the drive and reassembling onsite. The end result was incredible. There was nothing prefab looking about that house.
One highlight for that home is the slatted screens we made from reclaimed Douglas fir to control the afternoon sun. We added built-in hydraulic cylinders to move the screens over the deck, which were made from old excavator and tractor parts.
Back in my teens, the older carpenters urged me go buy a pair of Red Wings. I’ve always been the guy they send up 30 feet to walk the beams, and that flat crepe sole with no heel has been key to keeping my footing all these years.
Now that I’m mentoring the next generation, I find great satisfaction in helping to remove the stigma that the trades are somehow inferior to other careers. I also take my eight-year-old twin sons to jobsites whenever I can, just like my grandfather did with me.
But I’m most proud of the strong friendships I’ve maintained with my former customers, because this is the ultimate metric for success. If you’re still proud of the work and they’re still appreciative 10 or 20 years later, then you know you built it right.
At 52, I feel like I’m just hitting the sweet spot of my career. I’m so lucky to be doing what I do.”
“I’ve walked hundreds of miles in my Red Wings over the past 47 years of my life. Before that, I had difficulty finding a comfortable and durable boot that also fit my long and narrow feet. Once those 2231s came into my life, I stuck with them. They’ve provided exactly what I needed to get the work done right.
Through hard work and high water.
My first job after my wife and I married 47 years ago was at an automotive parts warehouse, which is the same year I started working in my Red Wings. In 1989, my 22-year career with the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) began as a surveyor and construction inspector. Many of the days were spent walking over concrete, asphalt, rock, mud, bridge decks, overpasses, railroad crossings and other environments that put my feet to the test.
Even now that I’m retired from TXDOT I continue to wear my 2231s every day — including right when I get home from church on Sunday. And little did I know that some of the hardest work of my whole life was still ahead of me, when I was supposed to be done working for good.
In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey dropped 60 inches of rain on our community, and the flooding destroyed our home. When my wife and I were evacuated by airboat, the only thing I grabbed was my boots and I waded in water up to my waist to get to safety. We were taken to a temporary shelter and I was given some dry socks, so I took off my Red Wings, let them dry overnight and then put them right back on my feet.
I’m still wearing that same pair today as we are rebuilding our home and those of our friends and neighbors. It is brutal work, but we’re making good progress and slowly getting our lives back together.
My three grown sons didn’t hesitate to chip in. I’m proud of the fact that I taught them the value of hard work at a young age. They all work the trades, and I made sure to introduce them to Red Wing.”
“I have been pouring concrete walls since 1994, in all types of weather conditions: heat waves, downpours, snowstorms, even the occasional nice day.
These boots helped lay the foundation for a long career.
I don’t know many people who make a career out of concrete, because this is dirty, physically demanding and often thankless work. But I take great pride in it. I like using my hands and seeing such tangible results. And similar to the Roman aqueducts, the concrete I pour will be around for thousands of years, so this is my way of leaving a permanent mark on the world.
I’m proud of the fact that this is my 25th year working for the same concrete company in a trade that experiences very high turnover. In fact, I’m one of just three of 60 employees who’ve been here five years or more.
When I was starting out, I would buy the cheapest work boots I could find, but it cost my feet plenty. They got pruned from being wet and muddy. They got cold walking through snow and ice. My choice of poor footwear was also causing a variety of foot, knee and back problems.
Around 1999, I bought my first pair of Red Wings. When I first tried them on in the store, I remember how comfortable they felt and how I didn’t even know such high-quality boots existed. They had everything needed to protect my feet from the Missouri elements. And I’m not sure if this is a coincidence, but my foot, back and knee problems disappeared. I haven’t bought another brand—or even style—of boot since.
This is not a glamorous job. I will not receive fame or fortune from it. But the pride I feel in getting up every day to do good work and provide for my family is more than enough to keep me going. And as a foreman, I also find meaning in showing the up-and-comers how to work smart and realize their potential.”
“As a female, my Red Wing connection began with a quest to find a narrow-sized boot. As a professional landscaper, it started with a need for durability, dryness, comfort and support. Twelve-hour shifts on your feet both deserves and requires the best footwear you can find.
These boots helped cultivate a thriving small business.
After earning my Associate degree in Greenhouse Management, I worked for two landscaping companies before going out on my own and starting my own business. That was more than 21 years ago, and it has been one of the best decisions I ever made.
The landscaping environment is full of hazards. You find yourself on slippery and uneven surfaces in lawns, on driveways, on hillsides covered with ivy, and working in standing water and mud. Firm footing means everything in this line of work.
When I walked into that Red Wing store decades ago, they had boots in my size — 9AA — that is almost impossible to find. I tried them on they fit like a glove, and I’ve pretty much worn that same style ever since. Wearing those boots makes me feel strong and empowered to focus on the work. I don’t think I’d be as bold in other footwear.
At 55, I’ve slowed down a bit. So I’m simplifying things these days, keeping my crews smaller so that it’s easier to make sure that every job is done exactly right. Many landscapers have a tendency to overplant in the interest of making money, but I’ve always gone in the other direction. It’s about putting together a foundational planting that will still look good many years from now.
I try to teach those helping me not only what we’re doing, but why we’re doing it a certain way. Quality work takes more time and labor, but once workers see the big picture, they almost always want to put in the extra effort. And then we all get to step back and take pride in the finished product together.
I see this work as an opportunity to be thorough and honest as I give my very best to each project. My customers are putting their trust in me when I’m on their property, so I’m continually striving to earn their trust in return. I think this is part of the reason why I still have some of the same customers today that I had in my first year of business.”
“My father worked in sheet metal and introduced me to Red Wing. I bought my first pair of 10877s when I was 15 years old. I wore them bailing hay and driving tractors and trucks on the family farm, and they stayed on when I went to school almost every day. For 43 years, my Red Wings have been the most comfortable and longest-wearing boots I have owned.
I currently work as an inspector on commercial aircraft for the world’s largest aerospace manufacturing company. My job effectively covers every part, component and system that gets installed during the nine-day period when a tube comes in one end of the factory and ultimately rolls out the other end as a complete airplane ready for pre-flight testing.
The work involves countless miles of walking, climbing and crouching on the tarmac and in a heavy industrial factory setting. Inside, it’s all high-impact, dense concrete floors built to handle the extreme weight of the machinery. There’s an area that was previously used to build the B-29 Bomber that now has very uneven concrete, so you have to watch your step. We’re also outdoors all year round to help get the airplanes ready to fly.
The 10877s I wear now are a perfect fit for this work. They’re over two years old and just starting to show their age. The flat crepe soles provide extra cushion and solid footing, and the high ankle support comes in handy. I have no doubt these boots saved me from the foot and back problems many of my coworkers seem to have.
At any given time, the airplanes I’ve inspected are up in the air carrying tens of thousands of people around the world. I’m proud to be helping millions and millions of travelers arrive safely at their destinations.”
“These boots are made for so much more than walking. Not to say I haven’t walked thousands of miles in them over the past 24 years — through semi-arid deserts, overgrown pine forests, and ice-slick snow fields. They’ve bushwhacked through brambles, slogged through bogs and scrambled over logging slag, in temperatures over 100 degrees and well below freezing.
A career comes full circle.
I have worn these boots as a wildland firefighter at Crater Lake, Glacier and Saguaro National Parks. I climbed Mt. Shasta in them and hiked them along the beach as a Natural Heritage Steward in Virginia.
Over my career, I’ve switched many times between being a botanist savvy in firefighting and a firefighter savvy in botany. Currently, as Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Longleaf Pine Restoration Specialist, I’m basically both as I lead the prescribed fires of several hundred acres of private and public properties. My team is also working with state and federal agencies and The Nature Conservancy to bring back the unique and once widespread longleaf pine ecosystem from the brink of extinction. What was once over a million acres had dwindled to 25. In 2000, we found only 200 longleaf pines remaining.
Our department bought 3500 acres of formally ideal habitat to bring up the numbers. Starting in 2006, we extracted seeds from the remaining 25 acres, hand-seeded them to get the saplings started, and planted them back in the landscape among the 3500 acres we acquired. This year we have first evidence of the trees making it through the grass stage and the controlled low-intensity fires we start to replicate what once happened naturally. The trees now cover 3000 acres, are 30 feet tall and are beginning to produce cones. We have a long way to go to be sure, but this is good and steady progress.
Sometimes when I’m having bad day, I walk among these longleaf pines and the cones, quails, nesting birds and dragonflies among them. I see all of this as affirmation that the work I’m doing is making a difference.
Today, I wear my Red Wings when I teach 18- to 24-year-old AmeriCorps volunteers how to become wildland firefighters (my boots are often older than they are). I’ve been blessed to have incredible mentors throughout my career, so this is my way of paying it forward. Being a mentor for younger people, especially those from nontraditional backgrounds, has been very enriching. I feel like my career has come full circle, just like the ecosystems I love so much.”
“I’ve been a builder and a cabinetmaker, and now I’m finishing up my career as a farmer. It has been a lot of hard work. But each trade has been rewarding in its own unique way.
A master of three trades.
When being a musician wasn’t paying my bills as a young man, a homebuilder friend hired me to work on houses. I learned quickly and shifted to carpentry full time around when I got married, working mostly on churches and commercial buildings.
I eventually opened Heritage Millworks, my own cabinet shop. All three of my sons grew up working at the shop during the summers. Their work ethic was strong and we quickly built a reputation for our fine custom cabinetry, specifically wood doors.
The thing I liked about carpentry was the sense of accomplishment you got from building something physical. There was a beginning and an end to every project.
Being a farmer isn’t like that. The work is circular instead of linear, with a long to-do list that starts over every morning. But you can’t beat the independence of it.
My mother’s grandfather left the farm to her when he passed. I’d driven one-way tractors and done other farm work as a boy, so I agreed to help transform those 2,400 acres to a working farm with my three sons. Our operation now includes up to 2,000 head of cattle and an annual wheat harvest of 45 bushels of per acre.
I wasn’t prepared for how many rattlesnakes are on the property — or how aggressive they’ve become. One chased my son back to his truck the other day and wouldn’t let him out. They don’t rattle anymore either, so you don’t often see them until you’re right on top of them.
I always wore the same style of Red Wing boots when I was in construction and carpentry. But with this new job hazard, I switched to a longer pull-on version with leather up to the calf.
Counting my sons, that’s four pairs of Red Wings that hit the ground running from sunup to sundown every day. It’s great to be working with this crew again.”
I started out as an ironworker in 1957 when I was 16. I fought my way up, beginning with an actual fistfight that was initiation for getting into the local union. For somebody born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, I take pride in the fact I put up every skyscraper antenna in my hometown: Sears Tower, Hancock Tower, Marina Towers, you name it. You can also see my work in skylines across the country and around the world.
These boots walked 12-inch beams 1,000 feet off the ground.
Sure, it is dangerous. To go a hundred stories up in extreme weather to install massive steel pieces with nothing to stop your fall, you need to be tough and sure on your feet. And half crazy. But the other half of you needs to be smart and aware at all times. In my thousands of jobs over the last 50 years, I’ve seen too many workers fail but I managed to only lose one finger.
I have installed parabolic dishes for NASA and worked in the middle of hurricanes. But the original Sears Tower antenna job in the 70s still stands out as one of the toughest.
It was the dead of winter and temperatures weren’t getting above zero. I was on the roof of the world’s tallest building looking out over countless small antennas that were already installed and couldn’t be moved. This meant we had to find a different way to get our antenna pieces up there than the conventional hoisting engine and gin pole approach. One good thing about this approach is that you can easily shut down operations for the day if conditions get too rough.
For this install, the City Commissioner set us up with an expert pilot manning a giant Sikorsky helicopter: a ‘crane in the sky’ built specifically for this kind of work. This meant the job had to get done regardless of the weather. The helicopter brought in all the iron piece by piece as me and my crew found the best footing in high winds and extreme cold — plus no safety belt, which nobody wore back then because it took too long to tie in.
Somehow that job got done safely. I signed my name at the base, which I would end up doing after every successful install. I would also display the American flag next to each completed job, which was my way of honoring the American workers who built this country and keep it going every day.
It doesn’t take much special gear to do what I do. Just lots of layers when it’s cold and a good pair of work boots since footing is so important, which for me have always been Red Wings. I started wearing 877s after my first couple paychecks came in, long before a picture in the Chicago Tribune would lead to Red Wing using me in one of their most famous ad campaigns.
Over the years, a lot of people have asked why I do this. The answer is simple: because it’s fun. I have always looked forward to the next job, which must mean I love what I do. Now I’m pushing 80, but I still belong to the Ironworkers 1 Local in Chicago just in case I get the call.
I started wearing Red Wings because of my Dad, the hardest-working guy I’ve ever known. As a proud member of the Communication Workers of America, he put in 35 years as a service troubleshooter and installer for Bell. He climbed poles fixing telephone lines in the rain, sleet, and snow. It was something he loved to do.
An enduring symbol of an honest day’s work.
When he was working, my Dad started and ended his days the same way: by lacing and unlacing his work boots. Come to think of it, he still does this in retirement.
Considering the time and space between my father and me, it’s surprising how much alike we are. We’re both dedicated union members who love putting in the work to keep things running like they should. And we both know that special feeling of accomplishment you get after a long day on the job.
I’m now in my 24th year at Coca-Cola Bottling. I’ve spent the last 19 years in Fountain Service, installing and servicing soda systems. And just like my father so many years before me, I start and end the day lacing and unlacing my Red Wings.
Until recently, I wore 2231s because of their ankle support. Now I wear steel-toed loggers because my job takes me into bars, restaurants, and construction areas that can be wet and slippery. These boots give me great traction. They never fail me when I need them to perform.
To me, Red Wing symbolizes the hardworking American, through and through. And I know from experience why so many workers wear only Red Wing boots.
I grew up around Red Wing boots. My dad was an industrial electrician and he wore his every day. He bought me my first pair when I turned 18, a pair of 1178s.
These boots helped launch a career.
Those boots not only got me through my summer work, they may have gotten me a jump on my career. I wore them to my first job fair out of college. The event was ‘dress casual,’ so I had some second thoughts about wearing work boots there. But I had hurt my back in a car accident, and I could walk around in my Red Wings with the least amount of pain.
Turns out I made the right call. The recruiter noticed my boots right away. He must’ve thought I was one of them, somebody who has worked the fields. Because that connection led to an interview and eventually my first job at a chemical plant outside New Orleans.
I did all kinds of different work after that. Building power plants and chemical plants. Working the oil fields and working around the clock on refinery shutdowns. Doing top-side construction for an offshore production platform that produced 50,000 barrels a day. And planning one of three deep-water oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Through it all, Red Wings have been my go-to boots. They’re really comfortable and last forever. They’re made in the USA, too. I still swear by them to this day, 20 years after they probably landed me that first job.
Whether I’m up on a powerline or trenching underground cable, I like to make sure every job gets done right. But this is about more just than the work. At the end of the day, it’s about helping people when they need it.
These boots weathered the storm.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, eight million people lost power. More than 57,000 utility workers from 30 states and Canada joined disaster relief efforts to restore the utilities. I was one of 400 volunteers from my company that went to help. There was a major shortage of hotel rooms, which meant living in a tent city for a couple weeks until rooms opened up.
The devastation was unimaginable, from streets littered with parts of houses to turned-over cars and broken electrical poles. You couldn’t step anywhere without putting your boot in standing water or muck. On the ground were nails, metal siding and many other hazards that could send you home early. But me and my crew looked out for each other and got through 25 long days. That’s when we finally had a chance to step back, take a breath, and take some satisfaction in the difference we made.
I got my first pair of Red Wing SuperSole boots a few months before Hurricane Sandy hit. I think those boots played a big part in getting me through that challenging month. Their soles are incredibly tough and versatile, with great grip. And they’re comfortable enough to get me through 16-hour days.
But more than anything, my Red Wings got me home safely. As a father of four girls, I think about my family every day. And investing a little extra in the best equipment to stay safe is a small price to pay.
I’m a carpenter by trade and am currently a senior project superintendent. I’ve worked in commercial construction for 40 years, in 10 states, building everything from hotels and casinos to athletic facilities and housing projects.
These boots made it to the big screen.
My work also includes several medical facilities and hospitals such as the Shriners Hospital for Children at the University of Minnesota. I’m most proud of the work I did on that project, because I know lives are literally being saved in that building.
While on a jobsite early in my career, I complained that my feet hurt. My foreman, a seasoned carpenter, recommended Red Wing boots. I’ve been wearing them ever since.
I’ve tried several brands over the years, but find I always come back to Red Wing. I now own approximately 10 pairs of boots for work, hunting and motorcycling. When traveling, I wear slip-on Red Wing shoes for going through airport security.
I prefer the Red Wing 877 boots with the crepe wedge sole for work. I always buy two pairs and rotate them. They’re easy to break in and easy on my back since they don’t have heels. I wear them all day at work and occasionally on the weekends.
A local store that sells Red Wing boots filmed a commercial at one of my jobsites in 2010 and I was asked to participate in filming. The commercial ran at Minnesota Twins baseball games one season. I never saw the commercial myself. However, my family and friends said it looked great up on the Jumbotron.
I am a 60-year-old American worker. I started out as a boilermaker and then got into ironworking, specializing in metal buildings, oilrigs and hospitals.
These boots saved 10 toes.
I bought my first pair of Red Wings for construction on the Ballpark at Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers baseball team, in the early 90s. Those boots felt right on my feet that whole job. I hooked up cranes and did lots of welding, working way up high. Everyone who did construction signed a metal beam that now hangs above a main entrance. I didn’t follow the Rangers before that job, but I’m a fan now.
I also did construction and ironworking for two massive roller coasters at Six Flags Over Texas: Mr. Freeze and Titan. The whole crew gave it 110 percent for six days a week until the job was done. We were thanked for our work with a day of endless rides on Titan before it opened to the public. My son got in at least 15, but four was enough for me.
But those rides were nothing compared to what happened to me about two years ago. I was doing welding work on a 1350-lb. metal curved yoke when it suddenly fell off the table, bounced off the concrete floor and landed on both my feet. It took a crane to get that yoke off them.
Luckily my Red Wings had both steel toes and metal guards over the top of my feet. I thought I was going to lose my toes, but I’m walking today. And to my amazement, my boots were no worse for the wear.
This story starts with my father. He was a living example of someone who puts in a hard day’s work. He stood tall in the eyes of his son, the first man I ever knew who could fill a pair of Red Wing boots.
History made, history repeated.
Back in the 80s, Dad worked as a drilling consultant on Parker Oil rig 201 in western Oklahoma. It was one of the world’s largest land rigs at the time. But the oil eventually dried up at that location, and the rig moved somewhere else.
I also learned the oil trade. After I got good at guiding a tool thousands of feet into the ground, I took my skills and saw the world. I worked jobs in Canada, England, Vietnam, Africa, Qatar and all across the USA. Also like my father, I did it all in Red Wings — 2231s for me, because they offer great traction and are good in the mud, rain and snow. I got a lot of wear out of every pair.
Twenty years into it, I got called to a rig in western Wyoming to help with pumping cement down a well to create a permanent hole to work from. I’d done this procedure many times. But for this job, we were going to use a new reverse-circulating method. If it worked, we would set a new world record for the deepest hole ever cemented this way.
When I stepped on that rig, it didn’t take long to hit me. The name and paint job were different, but sure enough: number 201. This was the same rig my father worked on years ago in Oklahoma. Dad was no longer with us, but I know he was watching. And I made extra sure we set the world record to make him proud.
At the last industry downturn, I got reassigned at my company and started climbing wind turbines. I needed a boot that weighed less and had more stability, so I retired my 2231s and wore Red Wing 6674s.
I’m up 300 feet on a typical day. This is a challenge in itself, and it’s even harder when you have a fear of heights like me. But I do okay by never looking down and staying focused on the work. And I think of my daughter, who faces a lifelong health issue with incredible courage and grit. If she can handle what’s on her plate, I think, then I can do this. And I do.
I’ve done a lot of different work over the years. I put my back and heart into all of it, always in Red Wing boots. I now own 18 pairs.
These boots lived in a very crowded closet.
I started out on the farm in eight-inch lace-ups. Then I worked in machining, trucking, welding, maintenance and line work. The lace-ups weren’t the best fit for all it, so I got some pull-on boots. And my Red Wing collection grew from there.
The way I see it, deciding which boots to wear each day is like choosing the right tool for a job. I’m now with a municipality that needs me to do a variety of work. If I know I’m going to spend the day in a backhoe, I wear my pull-ons. If I’ll be doing electrician work indoors, I go for comfort. And If I’m going to be outside on a ladder, I wear the stiffest and toughest Red Wings I’ve got.
I rotate through eight pairs for work. Some guys wear one pair until they’re trashed, but I only wear the same boots for two days max and then switch off. You get more life from them that way, and it keeps the wear even across all my boots. It also gives them time to dry out, which makes them last longer.
It’s hard for me to part with all these Red Wings, because we’ve been through a lot together and each banged-up pair tells part of my story.
I never set the world on fire. But I think I’ve made a good and steady burn by doing what I can to keep things working. I need to keep working, too, but not for much longer. And you can bet I’ll still be in Red Wings long after I retire.
This pair of Red Wings has been hanging in our pump house for decades. They belonged to my grandfather Conley, who built our current milking parlor, one of the first in the area. He started out farming with horses and planted fruit trees that are still producing today.
One pair of boots. Seven generations of hard work.
My great-great grandfather Peter Olson Tilderquist came from Sweden and bought the land originally. The deed is from 1856, two years before Minnesota became a U.S. state.
Farming is in our blood. We have 155 Holsteins, a double-eight parlor, and 300 acres of corn and beans. I lace up my Red Wings before sunrise and they usually don’t come off until 16 hours later. I wear them during planting in spring, in the heat of summer, for harvest, and all winter long.
My Red Wings are 953s. I like the smooth sole because I can get my rubbers over them easily. I wear my boots until they’re barely holding together. They’re the only ones that can handle this work. And they’re always available in my size: 11½, EEE width.
My boots walk miles to fix broken fences, carry newborn calves to safety, and comfort sick animals while we’re trying to save them. I was wearing them in 1998 during the worst storm I’ve ever seen. Straight-line winds and tornados. The boots kept me safe and sure-footed during the whole cleanup.
My 9-year-old son just got his first pair of Red Wings and they didn’t just make his day… they made his life. He’s so proud of them because they’re just like dad’s. We bought them a little big so he can grow into them. Counting him, that makes seven generations of Tilderquist farmers.
My Red Wings have protected my feet through every condition imaginable. They’ve been through snow, sludge, mud, muck, water and fresh concrete. They’ve kept my feet dry and comfortable through it all.
Building a better country.
I started out with a pair of 963s. Now I grind away in 2414s and get about two years out of them. I work excavation, road and utility construction. I’m walking miles behind asphalt pavers, on surfaces hotter than 300 degrees. I’m up on icy bridge decks and abutments and down in the trenches on sanitary sewer installs.
I worked for the railroad in North Dakota for a couple years, too. One summer, we did tie inspection across the entire state, walking upwards of 12 miles a day on uneven, jagged rock.
I was there in 2011 to witness the devastating 500-year flood in Minot, North Dakota. We worked tirelessly seven days a week for nearly a month to rebuild damaged track and get trains moving again. I was on a crew assigned to cut out sections of washed-out track — track literally hanging by the rails as floodwaters blew out and eroded the earth embankment below.
I piloted a johnboat through flooded fields and downtown roadways to get my partner to these washout locations to cut away the suspended rail sections. One time, we got caught up in a strong current near a bridge and our motor got overpowered. We were stuck there awhile, holding on to a tree and trying to come up with a game plan. I was convinced we would need a National Guard helicopter rescue team to get us out, but we eventually managed to elude the current and escape.
I wear Red Wing boots because I see them as symbols of quality and value. I take great pride knowing that when I buy these boots, I’m supporting American workers who live and work just 90 miles away from me.
I wear my Red Wings all the time. The 903s are my favorite. On good days, I can walk more than 20,000 steps. On average, I take more than 10,000 steps in my boots each day, in all kinds of weather. I like to say we have six seasons here: sun, rain, mud, sleet, snow, and ice.
Come rain, shine, mud, sleet, snow, or ice.
By day, I’m a land surveyor and civil engineer, working for an earthwork contractor. I’m typically field-staking construction projects, tromping through high wet grass and mud, across plowed fields and dirt roads. You can sprain an ankle easily, but I never have in these boots. And they’re comfortable enough to wear around the office, when I’m drafting the topographic surveys and designing the site plans and runoff control.
Evenings and weekends, I’m tending my Christmas tree farm in those same boots. It’s a lot of hard work I do myself with help from my daughter and my dad. We’re mowing, spraying and shearing constantly. We plant 500 trees every year, along with acres of pumpkins, gourds and corn.
It is always so rewarding after we harvest to see those smiling faces purchasing pumpkins for carving, gourds and straw bales for decorating, and fresh-cut Christmas trees for celebrating the season. My insulated Red Wing boots are with me on the Christmas tree lot to keep my feet warm while selling trees, wreaths, swags, garland and boughs.
I also cut and stack nearly 30 cord of wood in my Red Wings to heat our house every winter. Same goes for when I’m plowing snow and maintaining the equipment. And they’re perfect for all the hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and ATV riding I do.
I don’t sit down very often, but when I do, I’m still wearing these boots. You can’t beat the craftsmanship or the comfort. Thank God for America and the hardworking people in this great country.
I started working as a laborer at 16, on a concrete job. I needed boots, so I went and bought a pair — not the worst, not the best. Then I found out how concrete treats leather and soles, and those boots fell apart fast. They weren’t a perfect fit either, because I have very long and narrow feet and they didn’t come in my exact size.
Standing tall through oversized work demands.
I started asking around about how to get more life out of my next pair. Almost everybody recommended Red Wings.
So I went down to the store in town that carries the brand. When I told the guy in the store I needed size 15s —15B to be exact — we got out the catalog. The lace-ups with steel toe immediately caught my eye. And they could be ordered in my exact size.
A few days later, those Red Wings showed up and went right to work. I couldn’t believe the difference. When you have a boot that actually fits and is well built, it makes you less likely to roll an ankle and you feel more protected and sure on your feet. I had more clarity to focus on the work at hand.
Those boots took in more sun and lime than a Key West margarita that first summer. And that was only the beginning of the abuse my Red Wings would take over the next 18 years. They’ve been in extreme hot and cold, heavy rain and blizzards. They’ve been driven over, axed, bitten and clawed. They’ve walked over chemicals and stomped out red-hot fires. I’ve even had to use my steel toe as a makeshift anvil. And they took it all in stride.
I wore those boots for work up until June of last year. That’s over half of my life spent in one pair of Red Wings. I’m so honored these boots made the wall. I feel like one day they should be bronzed, too.
Construction has been my passion for 25 years. I grew up in a hardworking New York family, joined the military out of high school, and then got started in the trades. I’m proud to say that years later, I’m now the General Superintendent of Construction. (I guess that makes the boss, coming from humble beginnings.) But my proudest moment—and greatest source of humility—was when I served our country by helping cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center site after 9/11.
This pair of boots saved two lives.
I was hired to oversee 1,000 workers doing recovery and cleanup for the South Tower site, working the 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift six days a week for the next eight months. It was brutal, both physically and emotionally.
I walked all 16 acres of the jobsite every shift. I started out wearing the free work boots a manufacturer donated to us, but was burning through a pair every four days. One night, a coworker talked me into upgrading to Red Wings. He told me they cost more, but with that you get better comfort, more protection, and a much longer life. I didn’t yet realize how true that last part would be. I bought my first pair of 2292s the next morning, and could feel the difference right away.
A few days later, while walking back from my usual 2 a.m. “lunch break” trip to a nearby deli, I heard a sizzling sound. I looked down, saw I was standing on a metal grate, and then looked up to see a flash of light. Next, I was blown 10 feet into the air and landed on top of a police van parked across the street. I was bruised up, but not badly hurt. I looked around and saw that an electrical transformer had caught fire and exploded.
A growing cloud of dark black smoke had drifted down the street and engulfed the emergency vehicle I had radioed in. The driver wasn’t wearing a respirator, and he passed out from smoke inhalation as the truck rolled into the flames. I threw on my mask and rushed to carry the driver to safety. Then my mask broke, I breathed in the black smoke and was unconscious, too.
Fortunately, other emergency personnel had arrived on the scene by this time. I woke up in the hospital. Both the driver and I made a full recovery.
When I was back at work three days later, I found out that the grate I stood on that night was lit up with 1,480 amps — 4,000 volts — of electricity. Just 1/8 of an amp can cause a heart attack. Luckily, my 2292s offered electrical hazard protection up to 20,000 volts.
‘Happy you bought those Red Wings?’ my coworker asked me. ‘They literally saved your life.’ Yes, they did. Mine and someone else’s. They would also end up lasting 15 times longer than any other boots I wore at that jobsite.
I am now on my 35th pair of Red Wing 2292s. I buy two pairs a year whether I need them or not.
Someday I would love to come to your factory, find someone who worked there 17 years ago, and shake that guy’s hand for taking so much pride in his work. Because that is what this country is about. And without that quality, none of what I have today would even exist—because I don’t exist. These are the guys who keep America going.
I have three brothers and we’re all tradesman. One is a mechanic, one is a welder, and one is a farmer. I’ve been a carpenter since 1982. That’s 36 years and counting.
I always knew I’d go into the trades. I love working with my hands and the feeling of accomplishing something at the end of the day.
Hard work runs deep.
And then there are my kids. I’ve been in business for myself for 19 years, and I now work with two of my sons trimming and installing cabinets in new houses. This year alone, we did the interior trim and cabinet work for more than 100 houses. Since 1998 when I moved to Colorado, we’ve worked on close to 1,000 houses.
Working with my kids gives me an opportunity to teach them right while spending quality time together. I take great pride in seeing how much pride they take in their work. I will have full confidence when the day comes to let them take over.
Red Wing boots also runs in this family. My Dad bought me my first pair when I was a kid working on our family dairy farm. Today my Dad, my three brothers, and my three sons all wear Red Wings.
I wear 606s because I like the lace-up style with a rounded toe. Being on my feet all day is tough and other footwear just doesn’t hold up.
When I start something, I always finish it. And this applies as much to my projects as it does my career. I started out as a carpenter, and it’s looking like I’m going to retire as one, too.
My father bought his first pair of Red Wings in 1952. He liked brands with longevity and only spent money on products that last.
He kept that first pair of 854 lace-ups for 50 years. The local newspaper found out about this and wrote up a story, and the local Red Wing store put his boots on display. As far as I know, they’re still there.
Three generations, 90 years and counting.
I wear 877s for work, hunting and hiking, which are similar to my father’s 854s. They’re great on rocky surfaces. Originally, I worked in roofing and the flat sole of the Red Wings really stuck to the metal surface of the sloped roof. Other guys were slipping and sliding as I walked right past them.
I’ve been wearing Red Wings for 30 years now. I’ve worn lace-ups, slip-ons, and steel-toe boots. All of them are comfortable. I worked at Mercedes-Benz for 20 years. Now I’m with a different company that makes specialty insulation for temperature-sensitive medical products.
My 26-year-old son only wears Red Wings now, too, and he’s already put in 10 years. That’s three generations… and counting. I say that because it won’t be long before my grandson is old enough for his own pair.
My grandmother gave me money to buy work boots when I graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy in 2012. I bought a pair of 2211s, and she insisted on wrapping up the box and having me open it. Inside the box were the boots and a note. ‘Make us proud,’ it read.
These boots traveled the world.
That summer I worked the tugs in New York Harbor. In these boots, I took in the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson River, and the New York City skyline for the first time.
I was really glad I had those Red Wings on three years later. I was working on an 80-foot aluminum ferry in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, that day before a hurricane was due to hit. An anchor broke free and sent me flying. The steel toe of my boot caught the railing long enough for another deck hand to keep me from going headfirst into the 15-foot waves.
Now I see the world when I look at these boots, because these boots have seen the world with me. From the North Sea to the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, and walking throughout Europe. I see the ships I called home. The tugs, the ferries, the barges. The hard work. I see the people who helped me when I needed it, and the people I helped in return.
I also see my grandmother. She may have passed on, but I feel like she was right there with me on every step of my journey. And I hope I made her proud.
I started volunteering with the Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity affiliated in 2004. When you hand the keys to a new homeowner: that is a feeling that money can’t buy. The joy you get from making such a huge difference for a family is in a category all its own.
These boots build hope. Lots of it.
I bought my first pair of Red Wings in 2007. These boots have gone everywhere with me and I am on the third sole. They are still as comfortable as when I got them. I wear them every weekend I work with Habitat, in all kinds of weather for every kind of task on a house — from framing the first day of the build to landscaping on the last day.
My Red Wings are perfect for what I do. As a house leader, I am all over the build site, up and down ladders and walking over uneven surfaces to make sure everyone stays on task. The flat soles are easy on shingles when I am on the roof but have plenty of traction to avoid slipping.
I also do volunteer construction work with church. My boots have made several trips to Brazil for construction projects ranging from working on church buildings and maintenance projects to my favorite work: building pews for new churches. Most of the projects are completed on concrete floors, so after eight hours of walking and moving material, a durable and comfortable pair of boots makes all the difference in the world.
I also participate in the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project (CWP) with Habitat for Humanity International. My Red Wings have gone on multiple domestic and international builds with CWP. Those included building with cement blocks in Thailand, along with two trips to Haiti where we built more than 200 homes.
The 2017 CWP was in Canada, where they have strict requirements for steel toes and puncture-resistant soles. So I had to leave my original boots at home and invested in a second pair. Now I have great memories tied to both pairs.
I try to stay in touch with the people we build for and the groups that I build with. It’s a good feeling to do good things for good people with good people.
Some people think demo work is as simple as showing up somewhere and knocking something over. There’s way more to it than that.
These boots helped clear the way for recovery.
I think of demolition as reverse-engineering somebody else’s construction project. Building happens from the ground up, but we work from the top down. There’s always one best way to take each structure apart, but you don’t know the answer at the start. It reveals itself as you go.
The work is dangerous and each job is unique. You’re always deciding what can and can’t be taken down at any moment. Even removing the wrong window at the wrong time could cause everything to crumble.
One job that has stuck with me was work I did on the 35W bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed in 2007. It is always hard to demolish a structure, but the fact that this was a tragedy made it even harder. We put in 15-hour days until everything was cleared away. Emergency response personnel worked alongside us for part of the project, due to the good chance we’d find casualties.
We cut the bridge apart all the way to the river bottom and loaded the pieces onto barges with cranes. It was physically and emotionally draining, but we got the work done right. And I did my part in my Red Wing pull-on boots.
I used to think all work boots were the same before a coworker talked sense into me. My Red Wings have been a game changer ever since. They keep me safe and sure on my feet, and they make long workdays a lot less painful.
Now I buy a new pair of 2405s every two years. I also signed up to test out new Red Wing products on the job. I figure if they can handle the punishment I dish out, they’re probably ready for everyone else.
I’ve been a tree man for 43 years. I started after high school with Davey Tree Service in Florida. Then I moved to North Carolina in 1983, went into business for myself, and have been at it ever since.
These boots got one man’s career off the ground.
Emergency storm cleanup is some of the hardest work I’ve done. For instance, one time I did a 19-hour shift clearing lines after a tornado cut off power to a hospital. It was still very windy, but we tied ourselves in and got the job done anyway.
The day-to-day work can be just as dangerous. When you’re 40 feet up and working right next to a ‘hot’ power line, you need to keep safety at the top of your mind at all times.
The younger guys now use ropes to get into the canopy, but I’m old school and still climb the trunk like I was taught. This takes a good set of spurs and the toughest boots you can find to protect your legs and feet.
I’m thankful that the first company I worked for issued Red Wings. Because it taught me from the start that work boots are as important to my safety as harnesses and gaffs. That’s why Red Wing is the only brand I’ve ever worn on the job.
And these boots can take a beating. In fact, I bought the pair I’m wearing now in 1990! I’m starting to wonder whether my Red Wings will outlast me.
I leave you with this final thought:
One day these boots and I will have climbed our last.
Then we’ll look back and say, ‘Boy, that went fast!’
So, whatever you are called in this life to do,
Give it your all ‘til the day that you’re through.
I’m a fourth-generation tradesman in an extended family full of people in the trades. And although I’m only 19 years old, I’m picking up more tricks of the trade every day working alongside my father. I’ve been helping him out with his carpentry business for five years now.
Building on tradition.
Dad and I do everything from framing to finishing, just the two of us. We mostly work on kitchen, bathroom and basement remodels. In my opinion, remodels are way harder than new constructions. With a 100-year-old house, for example, things will be out of whack and there’s going to be workarounds. You have to really get creative and rely on your skills to deliver an end result that looks better than the original.
I’ve got a hammer in my hand every day of the week, and I’m always thinking about how to get better. In my spare time, I love to watch YouTube videos of expert carpenters and blacksmiths, which have taught me all kinds of new approaches to things that I’m putting to use.
Since day one, Dad has worn Red Wing boots. He taught me that work boots are a tool just like my hammer, saw and level. He says it doesn’t make sense to skimp on any of this equipment.
We both wear 4200 steel-toe lace-ups. Mine work as hard as I do, and they’ve really held up after taking a beating. My boots have also saved my feet from nails and falling drywall. Without them, I would’ve definitely broken bones.
Even though my feet are bigger than my father’s, I know I will have very large shoes to fill many years from now when I take over this business. In the meantime, I feel lucky to be learning from the best—and to already be doing what I love for a living at such a young age.
On the average day, my boots walk 18,500 steps and climb 85 flights of stairs. They get caked in dirt, concrete, sludge, floods and spills of all kinds. The leather is dinged up, the steel toes dented. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Because we’re at our best when the going is the toughest.
If these boots could talk.
I worked construction through high school and was hired into an apprenticeship program through the carpenters union local at 21. I spent the next decade learning everything from foundations and exterior framing to ceiling tile. Now I’m a general foreman for large-scale projects, where I’m often in charge of 100 people. We recently did the HaborCenter sports complex in downtown Buffalo, along with the UB School of Medicine nearby, which is 10 stories high and covers almost 12 city blocks.
Here’s something else I’ve learned: you can tell a lot about someone by looking at their feet. How hard they work, how smart they work, how much pride they take in what they do. It’s all written on those boots.
Me, I’m all Red Wing. My first pair was a gift from my mom 10 years ago. I wore other brands before that and was surprised how fast they fell apart and how much they hurt my feet. Then Red Wings came into my life and I never looked back.
I wear insulated 9-inch loggers for the extra arch and ankle support. They saved me when an 80-pound drywall sheet decided to crack in two and land on my feet. I’ve also walked over rebar with all my weight and kept right on walking, because my Red Wings took the punishment. When it looks like I’m going to be in the muck or chemicals for the day, I switch over to Injex polyurethane boots.
Here’s one more tip: a boot dryer. No matter how wet my boots get by quitting time, they’re bone-dry and ready to go the next morning. But most of all, invest in good work boots. They make all the difference when the hours get extra long and work extra demanding. They also say a lot about who you are.
I was working at a truss factory for 10 hours a day on a concrete floor. I wore old tennis shoes for the job, and my feet were killing me. My brother-in-law recommended Red Wing boots, so I bought a pair. The difference was unbelievable. The pain in my feet and calves disappeared instantly.
Thirty-five years of hard work and no pain.
That was 35 years ago, and I still have that first pair. I’ve had many other Red Wings over the years, but I couldn’t part with these originals. The soles are still in pretty good shape and they still fit like a glove.
After I left the truss factory, I got a degree in safety science and spent 27 years at two oil refineries, with every step taken in Red Wing boots. Now I work for an alternative energy startup, where we’re building a one-megawatt power plant that will be twice as efficient as a coal-fired plant.
I set up the entire safety program myself — and since I know firsthand what a difference the right work boots will make, you guessed it. I made sure our whole team got fitted for Red Wings.
When I needed my first pair of work boots, I went straight to the local Red Wing store. That’s what my father has always worn, so I knew exactly where to go.
These boots were hard to stop wearing.
I wore my first pair of 2203s almost three years as diesel mechanic at a waste facility in Bishop, CA. I climbed up, down and inside of trucks all day long, often while handling hydraulic rams and other very heavy parts. Next, I worked as a shop laborer for BNSF Railroad, and was on my feet all day again.
Three years is a long time to wear the same boots. But once my Red Wings got broken in, they fit like an old baseball glove. They just felt right every time I put them on, so I probably wore them longer than I should have.
My second pair has seen the same mileage as the first in just seven months. Last summer, I helped an Army buddy with his solar panel business. We cleaned the panels and installed bird netting, which involved lots of walking up and down from hot roofs. The roof tiles would get up to 160 degrees. I often sat cross-legged to install the netting, and the thick leather kept my ankles from getting burned.
Now I’m back with the railroad as a conductor, often walking long hours on large, sharp rock ballast. My current Red Wings are about to give out, but they’re so comfortable that I keep putting them on for another day of work. And another.
The kind of painting I do is hard and dangerous work. But it is also rewarding. It usually has you high up in the air in a harness, as you work in the wind and weather to blast away old layers of a structure to give it new life.
These boots kept our infrastructure looking like new.
I’ve had a chance to work on many amazing jobs that I will remember forever. One was when I helped repaint the Claiborne Pell Bridge in Newport, Rhode Island. The bridge is almost two miles long, so it took five years to get it blasted and repainted. I’m very proud of the end result.
I also painted America’s first offshore wind farm, which is four miles out to sea from the town of Black Island, Rhode Island. We lived on a lift boat for months during that job, painting each wind turbine section as it came together. On top of keeping ourselves safe, we contained the whole area to make sure we protected the ocean below from pollution.
On a typical day, my work has me walking through chemicals, debris and other hazards. One common hazard is the steel shot that ricochets down at your feet when you blast away old paint. My work boots really take a beating, and that’s why I wear Red Wings.
I have a coworker to thank for this, because he let me try his backup pair one day when I complained about sore feet. He said I could keep those old Red Wings, but I gave them back. They were so comfortable and tough that I got my own pair the next day. And Red Wing is the only boot I’ve worn since.
I feel humbled to work alongside so many great people who work such long hours to keep this country going. The trades have been good to me, and so has Red Wing. I am a customer for life.
My mom worked at a diner when I was a kid, so Dad took me with him to the shop where he worked as an auto mechanic. At first, he kept me busy with oil changes and cleanup, but over time I showed an eagerness to learn and took on harder jobs.
These boots kept a seaside community running.
Now I’m a diesel mechanic for a resort town where the local population swells from 5,000 to 250,000 people in the summer. There is no time for downtime, especially during the busy season. It is my job to keep all the equipment running across all four seasons — everything from police, fire and EMS vehicles to every public works vehicle that operates in town, on the beach and on the water.
I take great pride in putting taxpayer dollars to good use by keeping our fleet well-maintained and performing like new, so that we can get the longest life out of it. I treat every piece of equipment like it’s my own. I expect the best from both the vehicles and myself.
The same goes for all the tools of my trade, including what I wear on my body and my feet. My dad only wears Red Wing boots, which is a habit he picked up from his father, an aircraft mechanic. So I spent my first paycheck on my first pair of Traction Tred 10875s. That was 15 years ago. These 10875s and insulated 1441s are the only two styles I’ve worn since. And just like the vehicles I maintain, you’ll get a long life out of these boots if you take good care of them.
I will always be loyal to Red Wing, because I know from experience that the quality will be there. My boots haven’t let me down yet, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
The power plants I now work in produce 1300 megawatts of electricity, enough for about a million homes. Basically, when anyone in the city of Savannah flips on a light, I’m at the other end of it.
I was in the U.S. Navy for 10 years doing power generation work. After that I worked for General Electric, and I’ve been with Georgia Power since 2004. And my Red Wings have been with me at every step.
When I started working at my first power plant, everyone said Red Wing was the brand to get. I’ve been buying the same style since 2001, and I bought my current pair 11 years ago. I recently had them resoled and reconditioned. Now they look like they could last another decade.
In my latest job, I do whatever work needs to be done to operate and maintain these plants. I’m climbing stairs and ladders on structures that are up to 150 feet high. It’s hot in the summer and there’s ice in the winter. It’s a heavy industrial environment, so there is also a lot of oil and grease. My boots give me great footing for all of this. And at end of the day, my feet still feel good.
My son will graduate from tech school soon, and he already has a maintenance job lined up with a transformer manufacturing plant. He recently bought his first pair of Red Wings. He let me know they won’t be his last pair, either, so the tradition continues.
I was two years old in 1954 when my father started working as an electrical lineman. Every morning I watched him put on his Red Wings, and every night I watched him take them off after work.
Like father, like son, like son.
By the time I was five, I knew I would be a lineman, too. I started my first job in 1970 with my first pair of Red Wings, just like Dad.
One of the toughest jobs these boots got me through was the ice storm of 1976. I drove 14 hours to Saginaw, Michigan. The ice was so thick on the poles I had to chip it off with my hook every step I took. I remember one alley-arm pole in particular. It wasn’t really safe, but Saginaw was counting on us. So I climbed out there and my crew pulled the wire. I was just hanging there, see-sawing.
We worked 100 hours in five days. The first night we ate dinner at the only restaurant open on the interstate. Everyone got up and let us eat first, they were so grateful to have us there helping. That’s a treasured memory from that job. So is the time an elderly widow asked for help turning her breaker box back on. She had been staying warm with quilts and a Coleman heater for weeks.
When I went to the basement to find the box and found three feet of standing water, the woman let me borrow her late husband’s hip waders. His feet were size 9 and mine are size 12. But I somehow managed to squeeze into them and get to the breaker. It made both our days when the lights came on and the sump pump kicked in. Getting out of those waders was another story. It was like skinning a squirrel.
This is the real source of joy I’ve gotten from this line of work. It is all about helping people.
In 1998, my son became a lineman. That’s three generations of Windell lineman, all in Red Wings. I’m so glad I followed in my dad’s footsteps, and that my son chose to follow in mine.
I’ve been in telecommunications for 18 years. I’ve spent the last dozen years working outside, specializing in copper telephone repair and fiber optic installation and maintenance. More women like me are now doing this kind of work. The most important piece of equipment I use every day are my Red Wing boots.
Answering the call of public service.
They keep my feet comfortable, safe, and dry. Red Wing is the only brand I’ve worn in all my years as an outside tech. These boots are the only reason I’m able to work the hours I do. I’m up on ladders, down in manholes, digging, walking. If you don’t get high-quality footwear, you’re going to be miserable. I’ve seen it firsthand with my coworkers.
I usually wear steel toe lace-ups. I see the same salesperson every time I need a new pair. She’s great. She knows me by name and already has information on file about my sizing and what styles I bought in the past. You just don’t get that kind of experience from other stores.
My Red Wing boots have traveled the country with me from Florida to California to Virginia and back again. They were with me in 2012, when I volunteered to help with disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy. My team was working 95 hours a week restoring service. Being from Florida, I had never seen a basement before. But on Long Island, every house had one. We were up and down the stairs all day.
I tell this to everyone I can: When you’re taking care of others, you need boots that take care of you. Especially in my line of work. What you wear on your feet isn’t an expense. It’s an investment, plain and simple.
I’ve been wearing Red Wing boots throughout my 27 years in construction and as a volunteer fireman. My first pair were pull-ons and I went through three sets of soles. I just couldn’t let them go.
These boots went all the way to the South Pole and back.
I joined the IBEW electrical workers’ union at 19 and did low-voltage electrical work for 10 years. After that, I wired several hospitals, including the VA and Kaiser Hospitals in California. I also did a number of high-rise buildings in Denver after I left IBEW. I wore that first pair of Red Wings for all of this work. They lasted me 15 years.
One of the most interesting jobs over my career was when I installed a fire alarm system at the NSF Research Facility at the South Pole. I was issued other boots for my time outdoors, but I wore my Red Wings for all the indoor work and travel time.
In addition to my technician work, I now volunteer as a fireman on nights and weekends. For this work, I bought a pair of lace-up Red Wing Loggers. I chose these boots because of their high ankle support and Vibram soles that keep me sure on my feet. This is critical because I live in the mountains and the calls often take me to rocky and uneven surfaces throughout the community.
I also wear Red Wings because I’m big on integrity. I expect this not only from myself, but from the products and the people I surround myself with on the job. These boots may not be the cheapest around, but you definitely get what you pay for.
When people are experiencing tough moments in their life, I feel honored to be helping them however I can.
I’ve been a firefighter at this location for 13 years. Every time the alarm rings, the first thing you hear is all of our boots zipping up. Most of us wear Red Wings, just like me.
Every scar tells a story.
Our firehouse is in the heart of this city, near a lot of busy freeways and the refineries. On many shifts we are up all night responding to ambulance calls, fires, car accidents, even explosions. I’ve seen every part of life doing this — including when it gets taken too soon. When we get back in the rack at the station, it’s somehow comforting to see all our boots lined up and motionless, waiting to spring into action again when the next call comes in. And we know one will.
My Red Wings are a salty pair. Everything about them tells a story. There are divots all over the leather. Scars from bouncing off the fire engine tailboard. And my soles are worn uneven from slouching at the end of a 24-hour shift.
It’s no coincidence my dad wore Red Wings, too. He was a welder for 30 years. His boots were part of him, with the burn marks to prove it. For me, they became a symbol of the pride he took in working so hard at his job. I know he’d be proud that I turned out the same.
I’ve worn Red Wings for 15 years. As a Local 250 union steamfitter, I believe in buying American-made.
A marathon every other day. For three years.
I tried some other brands, but they just don’t compare. These are tough, tough boots. I’ve worn them through miles of mud. I’ve had hot slag from welded pipe drip on them, and fresh asphalt stick to the soles. I’ve had screws stuck in the heels. My feet have always stayed safe.
I’ve worked all over L.A., from USC and UCLA to the second-largest crime lab at Cal State L.A.
But out of all my jobs, I’m proudest of the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. It’s a six-story facility with thousands of feet of pipe. We ran water lines and steam lines. We did brazed copper. And we even helped set the cooling towers in place. I walked 20,000 steps a day, easy, for three and a half years. That’s one marathon every two days, all on stairs. I’m a foreman and I have to be everywhere at once.
Extra attention was paid to make everything perfect, just like it should be. It was really rewarding. I see the hospital all the time. When I drive by, I look at it and think, I helped build that. And they are saving kids’ lives every day.
I’ve been on the oilfield for 15 years and worked my way up to driller. My schedule is usually 14 days on, followed by 14 days off. It’s hard to be away from my wife and five kids like that, but providing for them is what gets me through those longs days, which can easily go 16 hours.
Long hours, grueling work. These boots know the drill.
Rig 391 has become my home away from home. It is my job to follow it and get it producing wherever it ends up. I’ve gotten to know this rig very well. Like all on them, 391 sings its own tune when it’s running like it should. I can tell by ear if the song is out of sync in any way.
I supervise six people, a great group of guys. This is one of the most dangerous industries you can work in, so you have keep your head on a swivel and look out for one another at all times. We’re like a second family.
In this line of work, every day is different. Some are rougher than others. But at the end of each day, my feet are protected and in good shape because I only wear boots from Red Wing. Same goes for the rest of my crew. We always have lots to talk about when a shift is over, but none of us complain about our feet, even when the conditions were brutal.
Whenever a new guy shows up in low-quality work boots, I tell him that the best thing he can do is go with Red Wing. You might pay a bit more, I say, but you get what you pay for. Which is having one less thing to worry about when you’re doing a job that is hard enough already
Three feet below what is now center ice at Xcel Center in downtown St. Paul, Tom McCarthy’s last pair of Red Wing boots rest in a time capsule. He said it was probably the 45th pair of Red Wings he owned.
A fitting tribute from a remarkable man.
Tom took those same Red Wings on a hiking trip to Ireland in 1991. He planned to retire the boots in some meaningful way when he got back to Minnesota, as a tribute to his 45-year career as a steamfitter-pipefitter and all the hardworking people he met in the trades.
Back home, Tom mentioned his plans to his son-in-law, a tradesman who was working construction for the new hockey arena being built for the Minnesota Wild NHL team. Tom, a longtime sports fan and avid supporter of local tradesman, knew right away he had found the place to retire his boots.
On August 8, 1999, Tom walked to the center of the construction site and buried a cardboard box containing his Red Wings and retirement card from the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Sprinkler Fitters. The box is labeled “Big Mac’s Boots,” with the interment date written immediately beneath those words.
Tom’s craft was in his blood. He was a self-described “third-generation Irish blue-collar worker,” a devoted leader and tireless advocate for the people of the Local 455. Tom followed in the footsteps of his father (also named Tom McCarthy) and Uncle Gerald O’Donnell. All three men were journeymen pipefitters, Minnesota advocates and elected officials of Local 455. He passed down his passion for hard work to his nine children, 21 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, many of whom now work in the trades.
During his career, Tom worked on projects ranging from the World Trade Center in St. Paul to several nuclear power plants throughout Minnesota. He was also an apprentice trainer for 23 years, developing a reputation as a tough but fair instructor who saw to it that young people learned the trades the right way.
Tom had a favorite motto: “Know where your head, hands and heart are.” He always knew where his boots were, too. When he took them off after work, he would lace them back up with care and set them in the exact same location. His 877s were as much a part of his uniform as his thermos and lunchbox.
Tom proudly paid his union dues right up to the day he passed. His wish was to be cremated. His son, also a pipefitter, built him an urn out of pipes that was fit for a king.
I’ve had one pair of Red Wings for almost 20 years. They’ve been with me on cement trucks and when I was a diesel mechanic. Over the last 14 years, I’ve really put them to the test working with terrazzo.
These boots are caked with a hard day’s work.
Terrazzo is flooring made from colored marble, glass or synthetic chips on top of a cement or epoxy base. It is poured, ground, and polished to a shine that basically lasts forever.
I’ll be first to admit this is really hard work that not many people like doing. But the work has to get done, and I’ve gotten good at it. Plus, the finished results look incredible.
To me, this has never been just about getting a paycheck. It has always been about the satisfaction that comes from getting the job done right.
That’s why I’m so proud of the awards I’ve helped my company win from the National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association. I may be proudest of the “Job of the Year” award we took home for a complex project at the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells, where we finished a 9,600-square-foot floor on a tight schedule that included 41 different colors of tinted resin.
I’ve worked with a lot of people who won’t spend money on a good pair of boots, but I’m the opposite. Since I’m on my feet for 10 hours or more every day with my boots soaking in epoxy, cement and water, I consider my boots one of the smartest investments I’ve ever made.
Wall of Honor
For years, workers from across the trades have shared their stories and sent us their old boots. This was their way of paying tribute to the long hours, close friendships, and deep satisfaction from work done right that those boots represent. It was also the inspiration to build the Wall of Honor.
This wall is our effort to preserve the stories behind the boots forever, as we pay tribute to the great men and women who build everything around us and keep it running, day in and day out. We are honored to be part of their stories and share them with you.
For years workers from across the trades have shared their stories and sent us their old boots. This was their way of paying tribute to the long hours, close friendships and rewarding work those boots represent.
It is also the inspiration behind the Red Wing Wall of Honor—our tribute to the men and women who build everything around us and keep it running. We’re honored to be part of their stories and share them with you.