Red Wing Blacksmith REVIEW 1 Year Later (Copper Rough and Tough Leather)
Taking a closer look at the popular Blacksmith boot from Red Wing Heritage - Mine is the 3343 in Copper Rough and Tough leather, my favorite boot leather of all-time!
After falling in love with my Red Wing Iron Rangers 8111, I was hooked, and needed some more Red Wing Heritage boots ASAP! But once again, I was reminded of that hefty price point that these boots have earned for themselves! So where to turn?
(Bottom Line: As a very style-conscious buyer, I can say these boots check all the boxes: they're rugged, durable , ethically made, expertly crafted, and built to outlast any other boot out there. Looking back I think this might be the best boot for a beginner getting into the heritage boot game. The soft leather, coupled with the low maintenance makes this a winner for any new (or seasoned) enthusiast. Check out my first impressions video here.)
I was walking around my local Nordstrom Rack as I frequently do when I was shocked to see a red and brown box with that musky leather scent that could only belong to one thing: Red Wing Boots! Sure enough they were a pair of Factory Second, Blacksmith 3343 in Copper Rough and Tough leather! I took note and came back a few weeks later when it was “Clear the rack” and got an extra 25% off. (For more information on buying Factory Seconds click here). The final price was $113 and I was ecstatic to get my hand and feet on another pair of RW boots.
After a year of wear, let’s talk about some of the pros and cons of the Blacksmiths in Copper Rough and Tough:
The fit is more comfortable for me than the Iron Ranger. Although they are made on the same 8 last, making the shape essentially identical to the Iron Ranger, these do not have the double cap toe. As a result I found there was more room in the toe section of the boot, both for my toes to wiggle, but also on each step as the cap toe somewhat restricts how that front section bends.
The leather on these is so soft and malleable straight away unlike the super stiff amber harness leather found on the 8111. These resulted in a zero break-in period as far as the leather goes. Don’t get me wrong, the break in on the 8111 is well worth it, but it came at the expense of my ankles which were scraped by the collar of the boot for weeks! But the leather is so supple on the 3343 that it requires no such break-in. Of course, these is not necessarily unique to this boot as many other models, including the Iron Ranger are available in the rough and tough.
The sole is the Vibram mini-lug which i now being used on all the Red Wing models, although my iron rangers are old enough to have Red Wing’s own nitrile cork outsole. The Vibram mini lug is very similar- a super dense rubber that should last years. It is soft enough after a few wears to provide enough traction on hard surfaces and the lugs also help a lot with slippage. Still this is not an excellent option for icy conditions- especially because the cold transfers too well through the sole to my foot. It should last 3-5 years with typical wear and tear.
After a year of wear:
Because these are factory seconds, there was in fact a defect with mine: the leather on the right boot has A LOT of loose grain. Loose grain does not affect the functionality of the boot leather but it definitely makes the boot less attractive due to its wrinkly appearance. Over time, the wrinkles did get worse. But the left boot which shows very little loose grain looks fantastic.
Patina: Yet, i think due to the dying and waxing process the boots did show a lot of age rather quickly. This also has pros and cons. On the one hand, the color is amazing; it shows a lot of variance in shade all along the upper. But on the other hand, in just a few short months, the pulling of the leather has made the ankle areas look pretty worn out. I’d say if you like your boots looking pristine, maybe this leather is not the right choice for you. But if you're someone who likes a lot of patina, this boot kicks butt.
Another perk of this leather is that it doesn't need a lot of conditioning. I used a bit of Smith’s leather balm after the summer heat had dried out some parts, but the waxy finished leather really locks in the moisture well on these, making them very easy to maintain.
Comfort: Finally, I can't say enough about how these have gotten more comfortable with each and every wear. You hear a lot of testimonials about how Red Wings will “fit like a glove” after break in, and this is definitely the case with the 3343. The leather has totally molded to the exact shape of my foot and the cork footbed has also imprinted what is essentially a 3-D negative of my foot. When i pop these on, it literally feels like these have grown into an extension of my own body, which is probably the best compliment one can say about a boot.
Bottom Line: As a very style-conscious buyer, I can say these boots check all the boxes: they're rugged, durable , ethically made, expertly crafted, and built to outlast any other boot out there. Looking back I think this might be the best boot for a beginner getting into the heritage boot game. The soft leather, coupled with the low maintenance makes this a winner for any new (or seasoned) enthusiast. I think I’d recommend getting factory firsts though because DAMN this leather would be so sweet without all that loose grain!