well heeled

The sole of the Railroad Revival Tour: Helm designs limited-edition workwear inspired boot

The sole of the Railroad Revival Tour: Helm designs limited-edition workwear inspired boot

Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_RRT Helm_Aug 2012_boot on desk
Railroad Revival Tour boot by Helm Photo by Chris Bilheimer
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_RRT Helm_Aug 2012_boot on truck
Railroad Revival Tour boot by Helm Photo by Chris Bilheimer
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_RRT Helm_Aug 2012_black and white
Railroad workwear Courtesy of The Fedora Lounge
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_RRT Helm_Aug 2012_RRT 2011
The 2011 RRT crew outside of a vintage railcar Courtesy of Railroad Revival Tour
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_RRT Helm_Aug 2012_boot on desk
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_RRT Helm_Aug 2012_boot on truck
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_RRT Helm_Aug 2012_black and white
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_RRT Helm_Aug 2012_RRT 2011

The Railroad Revival Tour is a lot more than a clever interpretation of a rock ‘n roll road show; it’s full of intention and soul. In its second year, the tour-of-bands-by-train concept drew in Austin’s HELM as a partner that would further the overall historically-hip vibe of the production by designing — what else — a limited edition railroad workman boot paying homage to American heritage.

Dave Conway, founder of the RRT, connected with Joshua Bingaman of Helm over what they adorably call a “dads’ soccer league.” The creative relationship hatched when Bingaman serendipitously shifted his company’s focus towards U.S. manufacturing at the same time Conway was mulling over partnerships that would easily blend with the aesthetic of a music tour steeped in American history.

“For me, it’s been unintentional that [American workwear] has come somewhat of a fashion trend, because there’s always been a lot of people in Austin, I find, who have more of a classic style,” says Bingaman of the denim-and-boots look that currently proliferates fashion spreads — as well as formerly outfitted the men laying railroad tracks across the U.S.
 
 “For us, [the style] is almost this acknowledgment of our ‘working class hero’ grandfathers and fathers.” - Joshua Bingaman
“For us, [the style] is almost this acknowledgment of our ‘working class hero’ grandfathers and fathers,” Bingaman continues. 
 
“Dave and I both have families, we’re raising kids. I care about fashion and tying that into our history, and he cares about the music and tying that into our history.”

The RRT, whose mission is to “glorify the historical romance between music and trains under the setting of the great American landscape,” will take Willie Nelson, Band of Horses, Jamey Johnson and John Reilly & Friends to eight different stops across the western United States by vintage rail car this October.
 
At every step along the way, attendees are encouraged to revel in history as much as music, with the boot being just one point of homage.

“There are so many great musical events out there, but there’s not a whole lot of legacy to them besides the fact that they’ve had every great band play over the past 12 to 15 years,” Conway says.
 
“No one thinks about trains anymore. That history is kind of being lost in a way, so it’s exciting to me to create an event that travels around the country and opens the door to some history that’s a defining aspect of this country.”
 
 "There are so many great musical events out there, but there’s not a whole lot of legacy to them." - Dave Conway
 
Conway and Bingaman studied turn-of-the-century black and white photos of railroad workers to nail down the design specifics that would make this shoe historically accurate and relevant to the tour, all the way down to the eyelets.
 
“We wanted this classic Americana heritage in the boot, and that even included a tapered roper heel. We’ve never done anything like that — it really differentiated it from other HELM boots,” Bingaman explains.

The tongue and inside of the boot feature a RRT logo, while the bottom proudly declares “HELM: Made in the U.S.A.” The limited run of 400 pair are being handcrafted in Maine from U.S.-sourced leathers and materials, featuring a hard-wearing upper made from Horween leather, an American company which has produced all the leather used in NFL and NBA balls since the 1950s.
 
Other features include that aforementioned logger heel with leather lug sole, six brass eyelet boot shaft, leather lined interior, waxed cotton laces and Blake Rapid Stitch construction.

The boot will debut as an integral part of HELM’s fall 2012 line, indicating plans for a long-term relationship with the RRT. “We’re already discussing the boot for the next Railroad Revival Tour,” Bingaman reveals.

“We don’t want to forget where we came from,” Bingaman says of the inspiration for a boot that draws as much from classic Americana style as it does from the men who wore it. “That sense of working hard, getting something done and sweating to get there — that can’t be lost. That’s what we’re founded on.”

“And even think about the bands and how hard they work. [The RRT] is not going to go and partner with Converse — it just doesn’t fit. No pun intended,” Conway ends with a laugh.

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The RRT boot is available online at HELM. The boots will hit the ground the last week of September. Tickets for the RRT can be purchased here.