Chippewa (est. 1901) and Red Wing (est. 1905) are two boot companies with deep, Midwestern American roots. Each company has their own "Heritage" Line that pay homage to the work boots of old while still remaining fashionable today. The two models, the Service Boot (Chippewa Model 1901M27) and the Blacksmith (Red Wing Model 3345), that will be going up against each other are similar in price and aesthetics. However, there are many differences to be had when you break them down.
Both the Service Boot and the Blacksmith are Goodyear Welted and can be worn in inclement weather. The 360 degree welt on the Service Boot adds a little more water resistance compared to the Blacksmith's 270 degree welt but in my opinion, it is more of an aesthetics preference. I have never had any moisture or water issues in any of my Goodyear Welted Boots, regardless of the degree of the welt. The 270 degree welt just provides an overall slimmer profile and requires the heel to be nailed on.
Moving up to the midsoles there are more differences. While both boots contain a steel shank for stability, the Blacksmiths footbed is cork, which will mold to your foot overtime, while the Service Boots have foam. The first couple of wears make the Chippewa seem like the more comfortable boot but as both pairs of boots break in, the Blacksmiths seem to emerge the winner in terms of longevity as other synthetic midsoles have a tendency to breakdown more than cork.
The Service Boots has a Slimmer Toe
So is the Blacksmith the far superior boot? Well, not necessarily. For one, the Blacksmith has that bulbous toe box that some people hate while the Chippewa sports a sleeker, plain toe. Other people also do not like speed hooks on the Blacksmith (I am not one of those people) which are meant to make it easier to get boots on and off. The downside to the speed hooks is that they often get snagged on your pants and have a tendency to break off. The lack of speed hooks on the Service Boot also makes them a little more formal.
Price can play a factor in your decision despite pretty even in that regard. The Red Wing Blacksmith retails at $299 while the Chippewa Service Boot goes for $279.95 ($20 can go along way!). However, both brands have factory seconds, sales etc... and you can easily get both models for way cheaper (Nordstrom Rack and Sierra Trading Post come to mind...)
The Black Prairie Leather on the Red Wings is much different the Chippewa suede. Black Prairie is meant to change drastically as it ages. The leather is originally dyed brown and then just the top is dyed black. The result is the black wearing away and the natural brown leather showing through the more you use them. I find this aspect of the 3345s to be quit the catch while others, wanting a black boot to stay black, will be out of luck when it comes to the Red Wing Blacksmith Line. Currently, there is not just a plain black model and you would have to look at the more expensive models that Red Wing offers to find one (like the 8084 Iron Rangers).
Both Boots with Denim
Overall, the Blacksmiths are becoming one of my favorite pairs of boots both in style and comfort. The Service Boot? Well it is in my rotation and they do look better than the Blacksmiths when it comes to being worn with slimmer jeans and dressier situations. I also don't mind using them to get beat up more since they are waxed. If I had to pick one, I would definitely go with the Blacksmiths. However, the Chippewa Service Boot is a solid add to any boot collection and a great introduction to the world of Heritage Boots.
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