Hand Crafted Boots Take Time
It takes me 80 to 160 hours to hand craft a pair of boots depending on how complex the design is. Current orders are scheduled to be currently completed in at least 48 months from the time of measurement.
Time, materials, supplies and overhead all contribute to the cost of custom boots. Prices at my shop range from $2200 to $3600.
Measuring Your Feet
I take 26 measurements on each foot and leg to ensure a proper fit on your custom boots including tracings, ink impressions and profile contours. Some measurements are made seated with the foot relaxed and some are made standing. Pressure points and abnormalities are noted. Discussions with the customer about any foot problems or preferences for tightness of the desired fit are part of the process.
People from as far away as Germany have asked me if they could measure their own feet for a pair of custom boots. My answer is a qualified “no”. There are too many variables whose difference could quickly add up to a poor fit. How tight should you pull the tape measure? Are you finding the correct bones to measure from? How will you make the ink impressions? Are you holding the tracing pencil at the correct angle, etc.? I guarantee the fit of my boots provided I take the measurements.
Some folks have told me that they wear a certain size boot and asked if I could make them a boot in that size. Every factory uses their own lasts to make their boots. The fit of a size 10 D on a Justin last will not be the same as a 10 D Tony Lama last. Most people’s feet are at least one shoe size width wider in the forepart of the foot than the heel part. It is also rare to see two feet of the same person that are the same size. Factory lasts don’t accommodate this. I’ve found from my measurements of many people’s feet, that the shoe size they like to wear is one or two sizes larger than needed in order to fit at the balls of the feet, leaving a slopy fit at the heel. This might not be a problem for lace-up footwear but will result in a poor fitting cowboy boot. I select a last that will be the correct length and fits at the heel and usually have to build up the ball. So, the answer to the question of whether I could make a boot in a certain size is, technically, “no”.
Things to Think About Before Ordering Your Boots
Boot height: This is measured from the floor to the place on your calf that you would like the top of the boot to be. Common boot heights are 10 and 12 inches. 8” -10” are called “shorties”. Below “8” are “peewees”. Shorties an peewees were common on vintage boots of the first half of the last century.
Scallop or stovepipe: The scallop is the “vee” cut into the front and rear of the boot top and is meant to make it easier to tuck your pants into the boot. I’ve found that it can also cause the top of the boot to rub less on your shin when worn under the pants. The scallop can be anywhere from 1-1/2” to 3-1/2” inches deep. “Stovepipes” are boots that are cut straight across the top.
Collar: This is an overlay of leather at the top of the boot, usually in a contrasting leather from the shaft. The collar itself can have stitching as well as leather inlays and/or overlays.
Stitching: The fancy stitching that you are familiar with on most boot tops is actually functional. It serves to mechanically bond the outer layer of the boot shaft to its lining and stiffens the shaft to minimize sagging. Inlays and overlays will also help to stiffen the shaft. If no stitching or inlays/overlays are wanted, stiffer leathers can be glued between the outer leather and the lining.
Inlays and overlays: Inlays are created by cutting out and removing a patterned piece of leather then adding a different piece of leather from behind to fill the patterned void. It is then stitched around the perimeter to fasten it. Overlays are shapes of leather stitched to the outside of another piece of leather. Inlays and overlays can be combined for different effect.
Toe wrinkle: These are the raised ribbed stitches you see on the top of the vamp in the instep or waist area. They are created by sewing parallel lines through the vamp and a thin lining. A cord is then pulled between the vamp and lining in between the lines of stitching. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, it functions to help keep the snug waist area of the vamp from stretching. Some customer prefer to keep the top of the vamp plaine.
Toe bug: Also known as the “toe flower”. This is purely aesthetic and it is your choice to have it or not.
Wing tip: This is an overlay at the toe of the boot and can extend back to the toe wrinkles. Wing tips often match the collar.
Pulls: These are the loops at the top of the boot shaft that you use to pull your boot on. They are usually made of leather and looped from inside the shaft, over the top and down the outside. They can also be made of a thick cotton twill attached to the inside only. The cotton twill pulls are more common on vintage styles or stovepipe shafts. “Mule Ears” are long pulls hanging down the outside of the shaft, often ending at the sole of the boot. They can be grabbed to pull your boots on without having to bend over too much. They can be highly decorated as well.
Heel: Heel height and shape are a preference you should give particular attention to. Higher or lower? Higher heels tend to give your arches better support. How much do you want them to be underslung (angled down toward the front)? Refer to the chart below for options.
Toe shape: This is an aesthetic choice. Note that a pointier toe does not mean that your toes will be squeezed more. Your toes will have no less room than you would with a square toe or a rounded toe. Depending on the shape of your foot, it may mean that the boot might be ½” to ¾” longer with a more pointed toe. Refer to the chart below for options.
What to Expect From Your New Boots
Without laces to adjust any variations between the boot and your foot, a custom cowboy boot fit may feel different at first than what you have been used to.
You might experience more resistance than you are used to when pulling them on. I recommend that you put the shaft of the boot over your foot while seated, then stand up and pull with the loops to seat the heel. You should pop into to the heel seat with a characteristic pop or thud. Removing them might be easier if you use a boot jack. They often get easier to pull on and off as you break them in.
There are places on the boot that might feel a little snug at first. The instep at the top of your foot and the waist area will be “hugged” by the leather to help keep your foot in place. Make sure you are not wearing socks thicker than the ones you were measured in. This can make a big difference. On the other hand, you might want to wear thinner socks if it makes breaking in more comfortable.
Your heel may slip up and down from 1/2” to 1” when walking at first. This is normal and the slippage will lessen as you break in your soles.
If your ankles are rubbing on the boots, you can try pushing the sides out behind the side seam by hand. You can also rub leather conditioner into the ankle area to speed up the softening of the leather there.
The insoles (the part of the boot the bottoms of your feet are contacting) are made from a specially tanned belly portion of a cow hide. They will, over time, partially mold to the bottoms of your feet.
Keep in mind that it may take up to 2 weeks to break in your new boots. Old boot makers have told me that some cowboys would put on their new boots and go stand in a water trough till the boots soaked through, then wear them till they dried to get them molded to their feet faster. I don’t recommend doing this but your custom boots will withstand the abuse just fine should you choose to do so. Remember that the thickness of your socks will make a difference in the fit. Some leathers stretch more than others. If, over time, you find your boots fitting looser than you’d like them to, try inserting a cushioned insole.
Care for Your Boots
Your boots have been made with high quality leathers. With a little care, they can be made to last a lifetime. Unlike today’s factory made boots, there is no paper, cardboard or plastic in your boots. They are made with traditional welted construction with stitched and pegged soles. This means they can be re-soled many times over.
Part of the joy of owning a pair of custom boots is watching them develop character over time but taking a little care to maintain them can make them an heirloom.
Use a brush to remove dried muck or mud from your boots and wipe with a wet rag.
You can use saddle soap to clean them but be sure to wash it all off before letting the boots dry. Saddle soap will remove moisture from the leather and, over time, will make it dry and crack unless you re-moisturize it.
An occasional application of leather conditioner will help to keep any leather moisturized and make it feel softer.
Glazed (shiny finished) leathers can be polished with a neutral shoe wax. Oil tanned (waxy, oily matte finish) will benefit from an application of mink or neatsfoot oils twice a year or more for hard use.
Otter Wax is a soft waxy product that can be rubbed onto the surface of the leather to help make it water resistant if you work in a wet environment.
Rough out or suede should be brushed occasionally. There are products on the market that will help make them resist water but you should choose one with all-natural ingredients that is not silicon based.
I hope you enjoy wearing your new custom-made boots. If for any reason you have a problem or question, please contact me for a speedy resolution. Thank you and enjoy!