Going Global

Even before Sweasy became president, he understood the importance of the oil and gas industry to the American labor force, and to the work boot business. Red Wing’s “Oil King” and “Driller” boots were popular with domestic oil field workers. Sweasy travelled through the southern United States in 1948 to see these boots in action and to learn more about the needs of oil production workers.

Photo: Oil derrick in Arkansas, 1948; photo and annotation by Bill Sweasy.

When oil was discovered in North Africa, Sweasy travelled to Libya to explore how to best meet the safety needs of workers in this emerging market. In 1961, Sweasy took the bold step of shipping product directly to Libya.

In an imaginative export venture, [Red Wing Shoes] also is serving the 20,000 Americans now living in Libya,primarily in connection with oil drilling. Red Wing Shoes has two stores in Tripoli now—selling about one-third to Libyans—and is opening a third store in Benghazi.
*Red Wing Daily Republican Eagle, August 23, 1963.

In 1963, Sweasy installed the first Red Wing Shoe Company employee in Beirut to build relationships in the Middle East. This
employee was none other than Harold Packwood, the Salt Lake City warehouse employee who began the Red Wing Shoe Store
success story a decade earlier.

Sweasy trusted Packwood and his team to adapt the standard distribution model to meet the needs of global business. By fostering long-term partnerships with American suppliers and overseas distributors, Red Wing Shoe Company became a single purchasing source for customers in the oil and gas business all over the world—a business strategy that the company continues to follow 60 years later.