Perhaps in the local toe-up, babenalysis of Ryan Gosling that surrounded his summer in Iceland, what many truly became inspired by (or infatuated with) were his feet. It is not with a great deal of pride that I write about Ryan Gosling’s feet. I don’t know whether, journalistically, musing over his shoes is a low-point or a projection of some unfounded loyalty to my home state of Minnesota (the land of Bob Dylan and Prince!). It’s probably both. But those pups he brought to Reykjavik traveled over 100-years, both World Wars and 4,796 kilometers from Minnesota to become kind of cool here.
Gosling glided through Reykjavik on Red Wing’s, or rather, Red Wing Shoes. Red Wing, Minnesota, where the shoes are made, is a small, river town in the Upper Midwest of the United States and around 16,000 people live there. In Minnesota, Red Wing Shoes were traditionally for farmers, iron ore workers, loggers and men who wore flannel and grew beards out of necessity against the cold. Red Wing shoes would last you a lifetime of slogging through mud, dung, fields and forests. They were the primary boots worn by American soldiers in WWI and WWII and to this day are still handmade. Given the durability and craftsmanship with which they are created, the price tag for these boots in the U.S. comes in somewhere between $200-$250 USD (24,405 – 30,506 ISK).
But in Reykjavik, I started noticing these boots tripping pavement down Laugavegur, on the feet of men as quaffed as Gosling. Their flannels were pressed and branded; their beards were trim and tame. They looked as likely as Gosling to have stomped out of a forest or to have been working with animals. Admittedly, he isn’t the only Hollywood type to have been spotted wearing them. Other hunks like David Beckham and Orlando Bloom have been spotted riding and/or posing next to motorcycles with the boots on. But he is the first to have spent a significant amount of time in Iceland wearing them. Now stores like Geysir and Kickstart are selling them for double or more than the U.S. retail price. The style popularized by Gosling, the tall, leather, thick-soled ‘875 Moc Toe Original’ is selling for 49,000 ISK at Geysir and 64,980 ISK at Kickstart. It’s hard to imagine a young man working in an iron mine near Lake Superior shelling out nearly $500 USD for boots, let alone to wear in a city that has little more than leaves and the stray wad of gum peppering the ground.
These boots are beautiful and I understand the commercial appeal, especially in light of vintage and work boot trends of the past few autumns. I am, however, boggled about anyone in Iceland entertaining the idea of dropping $500 USD on a pair of boots that some rural American farmer is hoeing in. Red Wing Shoes in Reykjavik may be as close as many get to walking in Gosling’s shoes though – if you’re not tripped up on their humble origins and not-so-humble price tag.