About the Blacksmith Model
The Blacksmith is a fairly new model released by Red Wing Heritage and from what I have read, is meant to take the place of the much beloved Beckman. Both models are made on the popular No. 8 Last and are plain toe. One key difference is the Vibram 430 Mini-Lug on the Blacksmiths versus the Roccia Sole on the Beckman. The Beckman is known as more of a "dressy" boot while the Blacksmith is more for casual wear.
From the Red Wing Heritage Website:
Versatile and reliable, this style of shoe was originally used in farm fields and blacksmith workshops during the day before being cleaned and shined up for a night out on the town. The extra height of this 6-inch style, which would have protected feet and ankles from hot cinders at the forge, still keeps out snow in the winter and dirt in the summer, and its last-built construction keeps feet comfortable even after long hours of work.
Impressions After Two Months of Wear
I love this boot! It was love at first sight when I saw these at my local Red Wing Store. The employee told me they only had one pair... In my size! So I immediately got it (along with some Moc-Toe 3371s for the lady) and have been wearing them religiously for the past couple of months.
The main attraction to the 3345s was the tea-core leather. Tea-core leather is dyed twice. For the Black Prairie Leather, S.B. Foot Tanning Co. dyes the leather brown and then puts a layer of black dye on the top of the hide (I probably way oversimplified the process but you get the gist). As the leather ages, the black starts to wear away revealing the boots "true" color. The Beckman 9060s, which are made of Klondike Leather, are well known for this feature and are one of the more sought after Red Wing Heritage Boots. However, the model is uncommon in the States so I was thrilled to find a boot with similar characteristics in the Blacksmith 3345s. Having not handled the Klondike Leather in person, I cannot tell you the differences I see between that and the Black Prairie Leather. It seems, according to others, that the Klondike Leather has more of a shine and polished look compared to the Black Prairie.
Unlike my Iron Ranger 8085s, the Blacksmiths really did not have much of a break-in period. I found that to be odd as both models are built using the same last and have the same insole/midsole/steel shank/outsole combination. However, the "Smooth-Finished Leather"on the Blacksmith is much more supple than the 8085s' "Rough & Tough Oil-Tanned Leather" and conformed to my feet easily. Also, the backstay and counter of the Blacksmiths aren't reinforced with additional leather like the Iron Rangers and feature a nice, smooth cuff at the top. The result is a a boot that hugs the ankle nicely and, in my opinion, provides more stability and a better overall fit.
My 3345s (right) had no break-in period unlike my 8085s (left)
As it has only be a couple months and they have not be worn everyday, I cannot speak on the longevity of the boots. I can tell you that in snow and rain, the boots seems to hold up quite well and I have never had any dampness or moisture issues. The construction is top notch with the 270 degree Goodyear Welt and there have not been any stitching problems. The hardware is a dull brass color which is beautiful and I love the speed hooks! Honestly there is not much to complain about; they have even creased rather nicely! The shock absorption isn't the greatest but that could also be because I rotate these with Thorogoods which have amazing shock absorption, no break-in, and are basically built for comfort! Besides that little critique, I would say the Blacksmith is very near a perfect boot for me!
Great in Wet Conditions
Like all my Product Spotlights, I will be doing updates and the boots age. I am curious to see how these hold up compared to some of my other plain toe boots such as the Thorogood Beloits, and my Chippewa Service Boots. Only time will tell!
The 3345s can be purchased at your local Red Wing Store, on the Red Wing Heritage Website, and at boutique stores such as Franklin & Poe.
About the Beloit Model:
Here it is, the other pair I got from the Thorogood 1892 Collection: the Indigo Dyed CXL Beloit 814-9011s. After talking with Clint Greendeer over at Context Clothing (Interview with Clint on the Thorogood Janesville Product Spotlight) and about his favorite 1892 Boots, I had to get another pair! I was torn between the Beloits and the Tomahawk Lodan Green 814-7011s. What made me ultimately go with the Beloits was the indigo dyed Chromexcel Leather and the fact that the 6" service style boots just look better on me than taller models.
The Beloit Boots are inspired by the hardworking farmers at the turn of the 20th century, these handcrafted Beloit boots help today’s growers of art, technology, and manufacturing get the job done in style. Just like their Janesville Moc-Toe cousin, the boots are named after a small town in Wisconsin. According to Thorogood, the town of Beloit is known as "the Gateway to Wisconsin" and is the birthplace of the speedometer. The bit of history that goes along with the 1892 Collection is the cherry on top for me. I love heritage boots and the story behind them!
Beloits with Other Indigo Dyed Things: Corter Leather Passport Wallet, Pigeon Tree Crafting Quick Release Belt, & 3sixteen's ST-120x Jeans
Pigeon Tree Crafting Feature Page
Corter Leather Indigo Dyed Passport Wallet Product Spotlight
3sixteen St-120x Product Spotlight
Once you get the boots out of the box, admire the craftsmanship and beautiful leather, you will be presented with two styles of laces: leather and waxed cotton. Personally, leather laces make boots much tighter on my feet and break very easily, so I tossed those aside. The regular laces are just par-for-the-course for me; useable, but nothing special. Luckily, I have a bunch of Pisgah Range LTD Laces and found the Maroon pair to be the perfect contrasting mate for the boots.
Once getting them on my feet, they were quite comfortable. The Beloits use the same No. 60 last as my Janesville and the only difference between the two is that the Beloits were a bit tighter towards the front of of my feet at the beginning. However, after a couple of wears, the Chromexcel leather formed to my feet and I am able to spend all day in them. Hardly a tough break-in!
Inside the boot, you will find a pair of removable Thorogood insoles that the company provides in most, if not all, their models. The one issue I can see with the sole is more cosmetic as the Vibram heel is lighter in color than the black sole. Personally, I don't mind it but I understand why it would bother others.
Currently, the Beloits, and the rest of the 1892 Collection by Thorogood, are on sale at stores such as Context Clothing and Milworks. I read a rumor that the 1892 Line is going on hiatus in May because of Thorogood's new business partnership but I cannot confirm this statement first hand. Regardless, the sale won't last forever and these boots are already hard to find as it is!
The Thorogood 1892 Janesville Natural Nantucket Boots 814-3781: First Impressions: Featuring the Boot's Designer, Clint Greendeer!
About Thorogood and the Janesville Model:
Thorogood (Weinbrenner Shoe Company) has been making boots since 1892. The company was started, and still run to this day, in Wisconsin. It is employee owned and unionized, a rarity in today's fashion world! Thorogood's bestselling boots come from the American Heritage Moc-Toe Line. The 6" Moc-Toe Work Boots in Tobacco in particular are a favorite among Thorogood followers!
The Janesville Boot is a similarly designed moc-toe boot that is part of Thorogood's 1892 Collection. All of the boots in this series are named after towns in Wisconsin. The other boots from this line are pictured below:
*All Photos in the Above Gallery from Thorogood
Get to Know Clint Greendeer:
*Photos from Clint Greendeer
How did you get involved with Thorogood?
I (Clint) became familiar with Thorogood while working at Context Clothing. Ryan and Sam (of Context Clothing) met with Thorogood to discuss new styles for the 1892 Collection. They asked me what my ideal Thorogood boot would be, so I started to research vintage Thorogood‘s to gain inspiration. Ryan and Sam pitched Thorogood my concept of a new boot, and I’m honored that Thorogood put the Janesville in Natural Nantucket 814-3781 into production.
What about the moc-toe style do you love?
I love the workwear aesthetic, especially when pairing Moc-Toe style boots with selvedge denim.
Why go with the natural, vegetable tanned leather? What about it drew you to it over other leathers?
I went with natural leather because of the high contrast patina it develops. It’s cool to see how the light leather gets darker over time and with more wear.
What first got you into vintage items and heritage clothing?
Levi’s 501 denim was my first calling to heritage clothing. The 501 Jean is a versatile garment that has been worn by many people in so many ways. I like the approach of soaking a pair of unsanforized 501’s then breaking them in. The 501s are very versatile! I believe that adds to the non-verbal expression of how we decide to dress ourselves.
What cleaning/conditioning/polishing products do you recommend you use with the 814-3781s?
I recommend a horsehair brush on them every 2-3 wears. When it comes time for boot care, apply Obenauf’s LP evenly on the boot. I like to add Obenauf’s to the leather laces so they become more flexible and it holds the knot better.
I had been looking into getting a pair of moc-toe boots for sometime now. However, the overall boot style made me worry that a pair would like like clown shoes on my feet. I had even tried on competitors' boots and were still unsure. What struck me first about these boots is the beautiful, Natural Nantucket Leather. It was hard to find much information about this type of leather. The other Janesville models are made from Horween's famous Chromexcel Leather, a favorite among boot makers and collectors. The Natural Nantucket is different though and can best be described by Mitchell Leather in the video below:
I love a good patina and the idea of wearing these boots and watching them slowly get a rich, dark brown is something I am very excited about! So I decided that I would try out the moc-toe style and got the Janesville Natural Nantucket- 814-3781.
The Janesville is more simplistic in terms of design compared to their Thorogood Moc-Toe brethren; less stitching and branding, no steel toe etc... While the Heritage Line boots are made for manual labor, the 1892 Collection is more fashion focused. That doesn't mean that the 1892 boots aren't meant to get beat up, no, they are tough! However, I believe these would not pass many regulations for footwear in different industries compared to the Heritage Boots.
That being said these boots hold up well in less than ideal conditions. I trudged them through a muddy hill (which was a bad idea for those pretty white soles) about a week after I got them and they held up (And held me up!) well (although they got really dirty). The ground has been very wet because of constant rain and melting snow. I have had no problems with water getting into the boot. In fact, I ran them once under the faucet after the trip through the mud and not one drop got in. Just working for that patina!
Quality is Top Notch!
In terms of quality of construction, the boot is very well made. The Storm Welt is perfect and the upper is stitched to perfection. There were one or two loose threads (which I have read can be a problem with some Thorogood Boots), however, nothing alarming that will effect the everyday wear of the boots. I feel people tend to nitpick over the smallest details and forget that products such as these boots are handmade. Minor cosmetic flaws that are barely visible cause me no concern and makes the pair I own unique to me.
I prefer the slimmer profile of the Janesville compared to Thorogood's Heritage moc-toe models. Like Clint, I think they look great with selvedge denim (if you couldn't tell from the pictures). Getting to know the man behind this particular design, and the fact that Thorogood is a company that's located one state north of me, puts a stamp of 'authentic heritage' on these boots for me. I not only own a product from a brand with a rich American history, I also got to put a face to the person who had a hand in the product's creation!
I will post updates as these boots continue to patina and get beat up! Special thanks to Clint Greendeer for taking his time to answer questions for this Product Spotlight!
Additional Links and Information
Purchase the Janesville Natural Nantucket 814-3781 from Context Clothing
Address: 113 King St.Madison, WI 53703
All My Heritage Boots Have American Made Pisgah Range LTD Laces! Check Out Pisgah Range LTD Laces Feature Page
The Best Belt Pair: Janesville With a Carmine Jack Leather Natural Oak Tan Belt
The Thorogood 1892 Collection Look Boot (Download the PDF Below the Slideshow):