It’s a natural feeling to want a pair of Red Wings—a feeling certainly helped by boots from the Minnesotan maker being the most common high-quality boot to see out and about. The urge set in for me about a year ago, when I decided I needed a good workhorse service boot—something that could work with anything, and hold up to whatever obstacles I (and it) might encounter.
The thing with Red Wings though, for me, is also one of the reasons I love them so much: they’re everywhere. When it came time to choose a pair, I wanted to stretch. I understand and respect why Iron Rangers are so ubiquitous, but personally, I just needed…something else.
My prayers for Red Wing boots that subverted the form were answered when a friend at Red Wing granted me access to the company’s full catalog—and the (almost) Japan-Exclusive Red Wing 9060 Beckman Flatbox.
The Brass Tacks
Shoemaker: Red Wing Heritage
Price: $380. Normally this is a Japan-only release but you can purchase them from Grown & Sewn in the US (However, a Red Wing employee got these for me during the internal warehouse sale, for…$75. Sorry!)
Months Worn: 14
Worn How Often: On average, 2-3 times a week.
How I Cared For Them: Lightly wiped down if excessively dirty. No conditioning or shoe trees, ever.
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A Brief History of the Red Wing Beckman Flatbox
We spoke to Michiya Suzuki, former manager of Red Wing Japan and the man who personally developed the Flatbox Beckman, to get the real story on how this boot came to be.
By 2010, Michiya became interested in soft-toe boots after finding several vintage examples that dated back to the 1930s-50s. Some of these boots were Red Wings, but in the nascent heritage repro world, no one had yet reproduced this style, preferring the bulkier, more “traditional” work boot silhouettes. In wear tests, Michiya found that boots with their unstructured toe boxes broke in more comfortably and better accommodated longer feet with higher arches. Michiya pitched the Flatbox Beckman to his colleagues around this time, but it wasn’t until 2015, when other brands started producing similar soft toe boots (mostly engineer boots) that Red Wing decided the time was right.
An expert in Red Wing history, even Michiya notes the murky nature of flatbox history. They have been produced periodically since the 1920s, but usually to cut costs and not necessarily for style—he found several examples of iconic Red Wings (the 877 and 214) from the early 1960s that had been custom-made without the higher, rigid toe box. This leads him to believe that flatbox boots had been produced for Red Wing retailers as special custom orders, to cater to customers who preferred the style, even though many manufacturers asserted that one couldn’t even Goodyear welt a shoe without a structured toe box. Luckily, Michiya and Red Wing Japan obviously proved them wrong.
The Red Wing Beckman Flatbox has an undeniably great look, and its unstructured toe calls to mind some of the brand’s far more expensive competitors. I regularly encounter big Red Wing fans through my work, most of whom have guilelessly asked, “whoa, what brand are those?”
The Flatbox’s lack of toe structure makes for a slimmer profile, although as I’ve worn them in, I sometimes fret that they’re perhaps too slim. They always look perfect from above, but occasionally, when I catch a sidelong glance in a mirror, I fear they’ve become a little pointy. Regardless, this simultaneously sturdy and (from some angles) dainty silhouette means the boots pair well with all manner of bottoms, be they slim or wide-legged. The teacore leather favors dark colors like raw indigo denim and black chinos, but I’m especially fond of wearing these with an old pair of vintage Wranglers, whose light color really draws the eyes to the still-dark leather. No part of the boot screams for attention, which makes them extra adaptable.
Unlike many other Red Wings, whose bulbous silhouettes conjure an overtly workwear feel, there is a legitimate elegance to the Beckman Flatbox. The boot’s sleeker toe and vamp, paired with its classically hard-wearing heel counter and quarter, heighten this classic work boot into something more sophisticated, without becoming at all fussy.
Sizing, Fit, and Comfort
Sizing was unusually easy with these Beckmans. I took a 10.5 D, which is about the same size that I take in Converse Chuck 70s. My foot is rather wide and I have a fairly high arch and though the boots never felt narrow by any means, my arch doesn’t always feel as supported as I would like. It’s not something I notice in the moment, typically only after I’ve put on my Birkenstocks and I remember, “So this is what arch support is supposed to feel like!”
This unfair complaint that my Red Wings don’t feel like orthopedic shoes might seem like a stretch, but that’s because there’s really nothing wrong here. During the break-in, the flatter toe box would grate on my toes, but this resolved itself as the upper softened, leaving me with nothing really to criticize.
As with my other Red Wings, there is definitely a break-in period. Looking back now, I can hardly remember it, but on certain long days spent on my feet, I know I wished I’d brought a change of shoes. A month of frequent wear got the worst of the break-in out of the way and made them comfortable enough to wear for a whole day. Certain tasks that involved kneeling could feel unpleasant on my back foot, as the leather would dig into the top of my foot at the crease, but even this resolved itself.
Certainly by the six month mark, I was grabbing them out of my closet without thinking, instinctively gravitating towards the boots I liked most. The leather insole was probably the most stubborn piece of the puzzle, but certainly by the second or third month, felt like it was supporting my feet in all the right places.
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Leather and Care
As much as I might like the overall design of these boots, the leather is the real star of the show here. The Flat Box Beckman 9060 uses Red Wing’s famous if little-used (in the US) Black Klondike leather from Red Wing’s own SB Foot tannery: a teacore leather with a helluva lot of character. The more you wear and scuff ‘em, the more the black outer layer of leather wears away to reveal the vegetable-tanned core underneath. It’s for this reason that I’ve been hesitant to condition or polish the leather—I kind of love the way they’re scuffing, and because I live in LA, there’s no real inclement weather to deal with that might otherwise compromise the integrity of the boots.
I really wanted a black boot, but I’d been reticent because I absolutely love the way that richer, more colorful leathers age. Thanks to the teacore quality of the Black Klondike, I get the best of both worlds and as someone who loves to beat stuff up and watch the patina come through, this was truly the perfect leather for my lifestyle.
The Gro-Cord outsole on the Red Wing 9060 is very interesting and a fun departure from your run-of-the-mill Vibram stuff. Apparently known for having a famously quiet step, the Gro-Cord doesn’t help me much on my house’s hardwood floors, so there’s still a chance you could wake up your roommates if you’re stomping around in the wee hours of the morning. Though the sole offered fantastic grip, I’ve worn through it much faster than any other rubber outsole I’ve had.
I am on my feet a lot at work and tend to be fairly active in these boots, but I think I’ll need a resole on these in at least a year if I want to maintain the grip I’d like from my boots. Though this lower-profile sole means I’ll undoubtedly wear through it faster than usual, it also lends the boot that overall slim profile that I enjoy. A thicker lugged sole might last longer, but may have spoiled the overall feeling of this elegant boot.
Construction and Durability
As a fairly detail-obsessed person, I have yet to identify any major flaws in the construction of these boots, even after a year-and-change of wear. They were technically factory seconds, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Every stitch on the upper seems perfectly in its place and though the welt on the inside of the left foot near the heel isn’t exactly perfect, that’s only a flaw I could detect during this review, when I looked over my boots with an especially fine-toothed boot-comb.
Like poly-core stitching on good raw denim jeans allows the denim to organically age without the jeans themselves falling apart, the construction of this boot lets me abuse the Black Klondike without any fear for the overall integrity of the piece. And if you ask me, they look way better now than they did out of the box.
Also important: while most Red Wing Heritage boots do not feature one, the Red Wing Beckman Flatbox is built with a leather midsole, an notable addition that’s found in many high-end boots and shoes alike, and allows for a more complete and comfortable break-in and better long-term performance and durability.
Even at full price, which is definitely above standard Red Wing pricing, the value for these bad boys is excellent. You get the peace of mind that comes from a respected brand like Red Wing, while getting to enjoy materials and styling reminiscent of far more expensive boots. There are no surprises with this hard-wearing work boot, and you can just set to wearing them in. For a refined take on a classic work boot with a really great leather, the Red Wing 9060 is pretty damn hard to beat.
The Stitchdown Final Take
The Red Wing 9060 is a boot that evades easy categorization, but that works in its favor. Its not-quite-workboot, not-quite-dress-boot charm, paired with its “are those Red Wings?” factor, add up to make a boot that stands out in all the right ways. They punch above their price class and could easily worm their way into any rotation, whether tightly curated or loaded with Red Wing’s far more expensive competitors.
Final Rating: 8.7/10