Red Wing 8111 Iron Ranger Amber Harness
If you ask a workwear enthusiast for the brand of their first really good pair of boots, the answer would most likely be Red Wing. Red Wing has been a symbol of heritage American workwear since their founding in 1905. To this day they have held their position as one of America’s highest-quality boot brands. But within their extensive catalog of rough and tough workstyle boots, one seems to really shine above the rest in popularity. Sometimes known as the 8111 (when referring to the Amber Harness Leather version); the Iron Ranger is pure toughness, pure Americana, and pure workboot. Simplicity is key, and the 8111 is a perfect example of form following function. It does exactly what it says it’s going to do; endure hard use and intense environments flawlessly, all while looking sleek and stylish. It’s well known for its ruggedness, but the Iron Ranger really shines in the details, making it a truly standout model in a sea of boots. The subtle contrast between the eyelets and the rich oil-tanned leather, along with the timelessly bold design, pronounced toe cap, contrast stitching, and sheer toughness tells you straight away that you are looking at an Iron Ranger.
Originally crafted for Minnesota iron miners in the town of its namesake Red Wing, the Iron Ranger is all about ruggedness and durability. The Iron Ranger is undoubtedly defined by its toughness; as tough as the miners who wore them, and is made with thick oil-tanned full-grain leather which feels buttery to the touch and gently blushes in the sunlight. It makes for boots that look better, more distinct, and more you as they age over many years of rough wear. Another classic distinction is the four nickel eyelets and three nickel speed hooks that make up the Iron Ranger’s hardware, as well as the super thick, all-leather insole that will conform to your foot over time. It’s immediately apparent that the leather and hardware are both sturdy and of the excellent, unmistakably Red Wing standard of quality. Unlike many similar service boots, the outsole and the heel are made completely from a single piece of material. So rather than having a wooden insert as part of a stacked heel, the sole is made entirely from Vibram’s hardened rubber material and strengthened internally with a mid-sole composed of cork and a steel shank, forming the near-indestructible core of the boot.
Some might go so far as to say that this is the most American boot made by the most American boot brand. Needless to say, almost everything on this boot is made or finished in America; from the leather itself, to the construction, testing, manufacturing, and even the molds, are exclusively USA-made. The leather tanning process is done in-house by a Red Wing-owned tannery in Minnesota that meticulously crafts the leather for the 8111. The quad-stitched, bulging toe cap; the nickel eyelets and speed hooks that provide that visual pop, and the backstay that extends all the way up the rear of the boot. These and other design features have been mimicked over and over again by other boots—which is part of why Iron Rangers are seen as the gold-standard of boot design. It’s a prototype, an archetype, a perfect example of how form follows function. Featuring chrome hardware, speed hooks, Goodyear 270-degree welt construction, and triple-stitched quality, this is a piece of Americana that will last the test of time.
In terms of styling, the Iron Ranger strikes the perfect balance of work and play. It’s work enough to look and act like a work boot, but casual enough to throw on for regular outings. It can take you from the farm fields to the office seamlessly and with a high degree of comfort once they have been broken-in and molded to your feet. Its 6” size strikes a perfect balance, not too big, not too small. Raw denims are the Iron Ranger’s best friend and are quite possibly the perfect compliment as tough denim and tough leather inherently go hand in hand. Chinos and vintage military bottoms will also pair well, but the great thing about the Iron Ranger is that it fits such a diverse range of styles due to its sleek, low-profile silhouette.