I wrote last week about Lee Miller, one of the best bespoke cowboy-boot makers in the US. Other than the man himself, my prime interest in talking to Lee was the similarities with bespoke dress shoes. The process, I learnt, is largely the same but with a few marked differences.
Second difference: bespoke boots rarely have a fitting. Lee has worked with several Japanese and Italian makers in his workshop over the years, and is familiar with fitting techniques such as cutting open a shoe made in waste leather. At a recent meeting with 60 cowboy-boot makers from across the US, Lee discussed the value of such fittings. But the US system has always worked on the basis of producing a single, finished product.
Fourth difference: a 40-penny nail is used for the shank. The ends are heated and flattened, and then it is beaten to the shape of the sole, before being encased in layers of leather.
In fact, the use of layers of leather is a key differentiator elsewhere on the boot. The toe has to be built up more to get that extended look with sufficient rigidity, and putting the heel together is an art in itself. You get different heights of heel, partly depending on whether the boot will be used more for riding or walking, but all are higher than a dress shoe. And of course with an extreme pitch.
|Heel stacks waiting to be made|
The leather is generally thicker as well, which can make things easier or harder. It is tougher to work with but can take more punishment. The insole is often pretty thick – a spongy slab of Rendenbach leather – which then moulds more to the customer’s foot. Given the thickness of the surrounding hide, a cowboy boot can get away with this.
|Lee inspects my Cleverleys. Don’t worry George, he liked them|
Just heard about pegged shoes for the first time after being in the shoe trade for 25 yrs and love the fact that they are still being used in Cowboy boots (not very common in England).
I am coming down to Marfa for a creative workshop next month for Clarks and would live the chance to see this process.
Is there anywhere nearby you can suggest visiting?
If you haven’t checked out DW Frommer’s boots, I highly recommend them. One of his claims to fame is a two-pice boot. They’re works of art. His boots go for about double the price of Miller’s though. Here’s his site: