Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nigel Cabourn x Red Wing Shoes >>> The Munson Boot

The Munson Boot, the first collaboration between Nigel Cabourn and Red Wing Shoes. Here comes the full story:

It all began when Nigel came across some vintage British Army combat boots from World War I. The boots were in excellent condition - it was hard to believe that they were almost 100 years old - and they captivated him. He felt an intense desire to replicate those boots, carefully made to exacting quality standards in order to withstand the punishment they would endure, in today’s boots. 

When he thought about which shoemaker could create the boots, carrying on and maximizing the aesthetic virtues of those combat boots, one company came immediately to his mind: Red Wing Shoes. Red Wing stands for using traditional methods to manufacture high quality shoes for American work sites, offering extraordinary durability paired with excellent comfort. 

Although working in different fields, both Nigel and Red Wing have delved into the heritage of their respective fields for many years, shining a light on them, and paying particular attention to both detail and overall quality. Sharing this common approach, they felt deep respect for each other. This mutual respect has led to a close relationship between them, with both brands for example sharing some sales networks and showrooms in Europe. However, due to Red Wing’s flagship product based strategy, it never blossomed into a collaboration until now! Nigel’s passion about this project led Red Wing to engage in a joint collaboration of an unprecedented level for the shoemaker. 

The most notable feature of the Munson Boot, produced as a collaboration between Nigel Cabourn and Red Wing, is the shoe last. These boots are made using Munson Lasts, which haven’t been used by Red Wing since the late 1960s. 

While Professor of Military Hygiene at the Army Service School in Washington in 1912, Dr. Munson designed a last for infantry boots, known as the “Munson Last.” Over the course of 4 years, he studied the feet of some two thousand soldiers, and the fitting of many thousands of pairs of shoes. The result was the Munson Last. It was adopted as the official last of military boots for many years thereafter, and is still used today for some military boots

The most prominent feature of the Munson Last is the shape of its toe, which is built to follow the line of the tips of the toes. This last produces a spacious area from the center of the toes to the big toe, avoiding the tight squeezing of the toes. This shape prevents problems caused by incorrect shoe fits, such as bunions or hammer toes.
Furthermore, the Munson Last minimized the toe length as much as possible to eliminate dead space, as this would require an extra sole, inner sole, and upper leather material. Eliminating dead space resulted in reduced shoe weight. Rather than striving for aesthetic appeal, the Munson Last was carefully designed with the goal of protecting soldiers’ feet, and offering overall the needed functionality.

Red Wing, which manufactured military boots in World Wars I & II, had its own Munson Last factory, and used these lasts for its work boots as well. For both work boots and military boots, the priority is the protection of the wearer’s feet. This is why military boot Munson Lasts were widely accepted by workers, and used in many work boots. In Red Wing’s 1928 catalog, over half of its work boots were made using Munson Lasts, including the long selling Red Wing classic Billy Boots. However, by the end of the 1960s, the Munson Last was no longer being used in boot manufacturing. This collaboration with Nigel marks the first time that the Munson Last has been used in Red Wing’s factories in over five decades. The use of the Munson Last is an extremely important aspect of this collaboration, prompting Nigel and Red Wing to decide to call these boots “Munson Boots”.

The Munson Boot has other unique features, in addition to their lasts. They feature army green Harris tweed lining selected by Nigel himself. Harris tweed has some extremely well-defined characteristics, evaluated highly the world over, but unfortunately often only its appearance is discussed. One of the key traits of this fabric is that kemp is intentionally woven into it. Some articles state that this is to give it a “coarse feel”, but that isn’t, strictly speaking, the case. True, it does lend the fabric a rustic appearance, but ‘beautility’ came after the fact. The main reason kemp is woven in, is for durability. Kemp is difficult to dye, and resistant to fulling. This prevents piling, and the fiber drop-out it causes. 

The nature of the blackface wool and kemp’s special characteristics work in tandem to dramatically increase abrasion resistance, making the fabric itself durable. They are responsible for the durability that lets clothes made with Harris tweed last through generations. This is one of the reasons that traditional British Harris tweed was chosen for the lining, which experiences even more wear than the garment

The midsoles use full vegetable-tanned leather for outsoles. This has been combined with Red Wing’s original chemigum cork sole in a sturdy, two-layer outsole construction.
Red Wing’s subsidiary tanner has created the upper leather used in the boots, to be as close as possible to the actual vintage British Army boots Nigel owns. The leather is an oiled roughout leather. Roughout leather is a leather which is used with the flesh side facing out. Switching the direction of the leather ensures that even if the rough exterior is scratched, the grain will remain unbroken, which results in superior waterproofing. The choice to use roughout leather came not from an aesthetic design standpoint, but from consideration of the heavy duty outdoor use the boots would see. 

Army green was also selected for the eyelets. The eyelets are the largest of those normally used by Red Wing. This is because they must accommodate especially thick shoelaces. The deep green leather shoelaces, which match both the lining and eyelets, are thick and sturdy, and have passed Red Wing’s work site durability test.

These durability tests demand far greater levels of durability than those offered by natural materials such as leather and cotton, and normally can only be passed by synthetic fibers such as nylon. Nonetheless, amazingly, the extrathick leather shoelaces selected by Nigel passed these tests. However, this means that it takes some time to break in the shoelaces so that they can be easily tied. (The boots are delivered with two pairs of laces, one as described from leather, the other ones are the regular round Red Wing Shoe laces.)

With the Munson Boot, a fusion of Nigel’s deep knowledge of the military, work, and outdoor fields, and Red Wing’s over 100 year old heritage, Nigel has truly brought out Red Wing’s full potential. 

In closing, here is a small digression. Doctor Munson was dispatched to Japan as the leader of the American medical relief unit after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The efforts of his team in the devastated Tokyo area resulted in the rescue of countless survivors. In recognition of these accomplishments, he was decorated with the Order of the Red Cross by the Japanese government. He continued on to create a great legacy during World War II, and was decorated by the British Army as well. 

Watch the you tube video with Gabor Magyar (Red Wing Heritage) and Nigel Cabourn with many further details about the Munson boot:

The Munson Boots from Red Wing Shoes in collaboration with Nigel Cabourn are limited to 2.200 pairs worldwide.

Available in US size 8 - 12.

RWS Munson Boot 04618D, chocolate, price: 499,90 Euro
RWS Munson Boot 04619D, hawthorne, price: 499,90 Euro

You are welcome to order by phone or E-mail. Please don't hesitate to contact us with individual requests or if you have any questions regarding availability or sizes.

+49 (0)30 280 40 514

Mon. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 08 p.m.

Delivery via UPS.
Shipping only within the European Union.

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