After all, they’re an American-owned brand with more than a hundred years of bootmaking experience.
You probably already know their most popular (and ubiquitous) model, the Iron Ranger.
And you may be familiar with the Blacksmith. But do you know about the Red Wing Beckman?
The History of the Red Wing Beckman
Charles H. Beckman, the founder of Red Wing, created this style as an answer to the muddy streets of Minnesota. He made a sturdy boot for himself that could be polished to complement his role as an entrepreneur. It’s a more refined take on the traditional work boot style.
The bulbous toe should be familiar (although there is a Japanese version with an unstructured toe box, we’ll get to that in a bit). The two key features that set the Beckman apart are the leather used for the uppers and the style of the sole.
Red Wing Beckman vs Iron Ranger vs Blacksmith
Here’s a breakdown of how the Beckman compares to Red Wing’s Iron Ranger and Blacksmith models.
|Uppers||Full grain oil-tanned leather||Full grain oil-tanned leather||Full grain smooth-finished leather|
|Outsoles||Vibram 430 mini-lug||Vibram 430 mini-lug||Vibram Roccia|
|Collar||Curved raw edge||Flat rolled edge||Flat rolled edge|
|Style||Rugged, Casual||Rugged, Casual||Polished, Casual & Dress|
One of the biggest differences between the Beckman and pretty much every other Red Wing style is the type of leather. The Beckman is more of a dress boot, so it features smooth-finished leather with a polished surface.
It looks really nice but requires more care to keep it that way. It’s also not water resistant. Lastly, it’s important to note that this leather is stiffer out of the box and will require a longer break-in period. It’s the biggest complaint about this style.
The other key difference is the Vibram Roccia mini lug half sole. It’s got good traction without being too beefy and adds a sophisticated ruggedness to the boot. White’s Boots uses it on their MP-Sherman. For me, this is the biggest differentiating factor.
It’s what keeps this boot from being a true dress boot, and makes it kind of an odd hybrid. Personally, I don’t have a need for a lug sole boot that can’t get wet.
The Beckman’s Demise
The Beckman was discontinued in 2018 and replaced by the Williston. It’s sad, but kind of makes sense. It was a boot designed for a very specific need. And while it served Charles Beckman well, these days most people aren’t going to be trudging along unpaved, muddy streets in their dress boots.
Your average boot shopper is looking for a work style or a dress style, not a hybrid of the two. Beckman fans love that it’s got the best of both worlds; good looks and practical traction. Unfortunately, while Beckman fans are die-hard, there must not be enough of them out there.
Another factor to consider is that the Beckman was pretty similar to a couple of other existing styles. As you can see in the comparison above, the Beckman Round is a lot like the Blacksmith. The only real difference is the type of leather and the outsole.
And the fact that the leather on the Blacksmith is more comfortable out of the box, easier to maintain, and waterproof, makes it more appealing to a lot of people.
The Beckman Flatbox, with an unstructured toe, was almost exclusively sold in Japan. It was quite popular, as it offered a sleeker silhouette than the bulbous toe of the Iron Ranger or even the Blacksmith. However, that also makes it a lot like the Williston, which uses the same high-luster leather without the rounded toe box.
Basically, Red Wing already had other models that fit people’s needs, and the Beckman became a relic of a bygone era. So they let it go. No hard feelings.
Is the Red Wing Beckman Making a Comeback?
Red Wing broke some hearts when they discontinued the Beckman. So pretty much ever since there’s been a lot of people asking if Red Wing will ever bring it back, and a lot of rumors about if and when it might happen. Unfortunately, there’s been no official communication from Red Wing, so everything is hearsay.
Most of the rumors about a potential return seem to come from store employees who may not have the best information. Some stemmed from a video by YouTuber CJ Cook, who claimed the Beckman was coming back, but made on a different last.
And even more still came from multiple cryptic posts by Redditor u/RWH_French. Even today there are rumors that the Beckman will be back in Fall 2023. Hope springs eternal.
In 2022 an unnamed Red Wing employee reported that according to Corporate, they have no plans to bring the Beckman back anytime soon. They claimed the company had received a lot of complaints from customers about the break-in period and requests for returns.
Apparently, since Red Wing Heritage doesn’t offer returns they decided to cut the line. There were talks of bringing back several old styles in 2021 and 2022 but due to economic conditions, it never happened.
As much as I’d like to confirm a rumor about the return of the Beckman, this story seems most plausible. But hey, I’d love to be proven wrong. Only time will tell.
Where to Buy Beckmans Today
But while there is no confirmed comeback for the Beckman, you can still get your hands on a pair. There are a few ways:
- Get them from Japan. There are a couple ways to do this. You can order from the Red Wing Japan site through a site like ZenMarket, since they don’t ship overseas. Or you can go to Japan. No, that’s not a joke. People do it. At the moment the website indicates they are sold out of the Beckman Round, but the Beckman Flatbox is available.
- Get them from Amsterdam. Sadly, they only ship to some countries in Europe and Africa. So unless you make a friend in the U.K. who’s willing to buy them there and ship them to you, you’re going to have to make a trip. But according to the website they’re currently sold out.
- Get them on eBay. Currently a basic search for “red wing beckman” returns over 200 results, with sizes ranging from 8–11.5. Do your homework, though, because there are things being purported as Beckmans that are definitely not Beckmans.
Anything Is Possible
To sum up, the Beckman was a boot that was very popular among boot lovers. If I had to describe it in a nutshell, I’d say it was an upgraded version of the Blacksmith, with fancier leather and a mini-lug sole.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of demand and complaints about the break-in period, the Beckman was discontinued. Since then many have hoped to see a return for the beloved style, but nothing has happened yet.
This might partly be due to the economic downturn and supply chain challenges of the past few years. So there might be hope yet for the future of the Beckman. Red Wing has brought back previously discontinued styles before, they could certainly do it again.
The Red Wing Blacksmith is very similar to the brand’s super-popular Iron Ranger boot, but it doesn’t have a cap-toe. The Black Prairie leather is gorgeous, and the Vibram sole and Goodyear welt means this boot will last for years and years.