In the postwar years of the last century, Red Wing Shoe
Company introduced a 9-inch lace-up boot for sportsmen—
bird and deer hunters who spent autumn days in the woods
and marshes of North America. The boot, called the Style No.
954, made use of leather tanned with the bark of sequoia trees
that gave it a distinctive deep reddish-orange color known as
“Oro Russet”. It was so similar to the coat of a certain breed of
hunting dog that it was given the name, “Irish Setter” in our
1950 catalog and it quickly became a popular boot.
In 1952, the Irish Setter evolved further, taking on a form
that has come to be synonymous with Red Wing ever since.
Retaining the distinctive moc toe of the 954, the new 8-inch
Style No. 877 replaced its predecessor’s heel with a wedge sole
made from a white crepe rubber that promised to be quiet
underfoot in the woods. This sole had been used on shoes
before but the No. 877 Irish Setter was the first to use it on a
tall hunting boot. In addition to its benefits for the stalking
hunter, its comfort also found favor on the job site and soon
the Irish Setter was seen in the factories and on the scaffolds
of a growing America.
Since the 1950s, the Irish Setter changed little from its origins.
A 6-inch version and a few other colors were introduced,
as well as some subtle new construction techniques but
otherwise it remained the same boot that was ceremonially
presented to President Eisenhower in 1960. By the 1990s, the
original No. 877 became simply known as the “Classic Work
Boot”, while the Irish Setter name branched off for an entire
family of hunting boots made by Red Wing.
A few years ago, we embarked on a project to recreate the
iconic Irish Setter boot, as close to its original form as
possible, for our Japanese market, where Red Wing has long
enjoyed a loyal following. It was an ambitious undertaking.
We dusted off old machines at our Minnesota factory, called
in help from retired workers, and experimented with tanning
methods that could recreate the original Oro Russet color
but adhere to modern environmental practices. Finally, after
three years, the boot made its debut. And now we’re bringing
it back to the American market.
The new limited series Irish Setter appears as if out of a time
machine from 1952. In addition to its matched color, which
we’re now calling “Gold Russet Sequoia”, the boot has all the
exacting details of its historic forebear. The “Red Wing” name
is embossed on the inside quarter of the boot, the moc toe is
finished with a distinctive rectangular bar-tack stitch, and
the backstay chain-stitch is once again done on our ancient
Puritan Stitch machine, which has its origins in the 1890s. We
use the same mahogany and sage thread of the original, the
top band is double-stitched, and the laces are leather instead
of Taslan. All of these features are subtle differences from our
standard No. 877 Classic Work Boot but they add up to an Irish
Setter that is both unique and true to its name. Finally, to
finish it off, we’ve added the traditional woven “Irish Setter”
label inside the tongue and the boots come in a box that
features the original logo and text from the 1950s.