CONNECTION_ERROR Western Boot Construction

Western Boot Construction

When was the last time you looked at what a cowboy boot was made of? Never? Well here is your chance.

Many folks ask me what makes up a Cowboy boot. Below is a description of the components of a typical western boot. The main differences between a manufactured boot and a custom made western boot is the quality of materials, the unique stitching or tooling, and the fit of the boot. Granted on small run manufactured boots the differences can be less.

What you see below is a typical manufactured boot diagram. However custom boots will have many of the same components. Watch out for plastic shanks, paper rands, plastic in the heels and inferior leather lining in manufactured boots.

Among custom bootmakers you will find differences as well based on personal style and technique preferences or a desire to adhere to the techniques of a specific time period in bootmaking. A good custom boot maker will not use nails to attach the heel.

western boot diagram

1. Beading
2. Scallops
3. Pull Straps
4. Lining
5. Front Quarter
6. Back Quarter
7. Side Welt
8. Top Stitch
9. Vamp Fitting Stitch
10. Vamp
11. Wrinkle Stitch
12. Toe Box
13. Counter
14. Goodyear Welt
15. Insole
16. Steel Shank
17. Rand
18. Outsole
19. Outsole Stitching
20. Heel Base
21. Heel Cap
22. Heel Pad

Old Cattle Trails and BootMaking

It is gone like a thousand yesterdays. Really it is. That tactile connection to the past.

In today’s world if you ask someone where their steak comes from they are likely to say the store…now they might be joking or then again they might not. In a world where we don’t even “see” the endless/seamless running of trains that deliver our produce, cattle, cars and everything else to trucks that then take them to stores of all different flavors; who could blame someone for being so disconnected to how their food gets to their table each day?

About 130 years ago it was a monumental feat to get steak to New York City from the back country of Texas. There was a railroad but it didn’t go everywhere. There were some roads but not that many. There were still hostile Native Americans, uncertain paths, outlaws, rustlers and of course lots of rattlesnakes.

Cowboys were in high demand and so were Bootmakers. It wasn’t enough to fatten your cattle up. You needed to fatten them up and then drive them a thousand miles to get on a train as well. Cowboys had to do it. The “cattle drive” a moment captured in many western movies and songs over the years sounds romantic, but you know it was hard work. You needed a good pair of boots to get you through. Custom Bootmakers  sprung up all along these trails. One of these trails started in my hometown San Angel0 or Fort Concho or Santa Angela as the Spanish called it. The Goodnight-Loving trail was a well worn path for many a “steak” and many a cowboy. San Angelo was a hub of activity for the cattle business and all that supported it. It still is today.

The famed M.L. Leddy Bootmakers started in San Angelo and still make their custom boots out of there. One of our cousins J.L. Mercer had a shop there and still does today.  Working cowboys knew the value of a well constructed boot. They might have liked a little fancy stitching up top for variety but what they were looking for the most was quality workmanship, durable materials, and a perfect fit*. Bootmakers of the cattle drive days made their reputations on these three aspects of bootmaking. Many of the custom bootmakers that are still left cluster around the remnants of these old cattle trails.

Boot companies today owe a little bit of their success to the methods and processes developed all those years ago along the old cattle trails serving a need for solid boots by the working cowboy. Those cowboy boots we wear may not be made off of a cattle trail town in Texas, but they are a product of that era when we figured out what mattered in a western boot and codified it.

Today we have all manner of choices in leather, stitching, inlays, embroidering, and other additions to style.  Yet all of that would not matter without the basic western boot foundation coming out of the cattle drive and all that it yielded.


Cattle Trails



*While most manufactured boots today give a decent fit; a custom boot is made just for your feet. A Bootmaker will tell you that each foot is a little different and when you are fitted for a custom boot that is how they are treated…. individually. If you wear boots everyday fit makes a real difference.

Remember Dublin Dr Pepper

Do you remember Dublin Dr. Pepper? Ever even heard of it much less tasted it? Well too late because it is gone and has been for a few years now. Dublin, Texas Dr. Pepper Bottling story is a great one. You can find detailed versions around the web, but in summary, Dublin Dr. Pepper used the original recipe for Dr. Pepper invented in Waco. In fact this small bottler was the first franchisee I believe. While they could have chosen a huge territory, they just didn’t want to grow too big. Ultimately 120 years later they became the smallest bottler in the huge Dr. Pepper conglomerate’s empire. They were also the only bottler to stick with Pure Cane sugar and the original recipe.
This distinction and a “gentlemen’s” agreement that allowed them to sell outside their territory for many years even extending to the internet when it came along; caused Dublin Dr. Pepper to be known the world around. Ultimately “Corporate” wanted to get into pure cane sugar DP and forced ole Dublin Dr. Pepper to shut down. Almost killing the little town along with it and adding to the cliche of big business crushing the little guy.
In fact, the battle for Dublin DP caused a mini uproar, spawning facebook pages like as well as comment wars with the DP Corporate FB page going on for weeks.

Fast forward a few years later and you can still find some premium prices on amazon for a “Dublin”. Although I wouldn’t drink them if it was me! Dublin Dr. Pepper bottling has re-branded and moved on as a boutique bottler focused on bottling real sugar based drinks developed by others plus a few of their own recipes. You can find Dublin Bottling Works and order a case of some really good Texas root beer if you want. You won’t find any Dublin DP gear or drinks or anything else Corporate DP made sure of that. I am not sure if the Dublin Dr. Pepper Days held every summer attracting thousands to that little town continues( Corporate didn’t kill that), but Old Doc’s soda shop is still there and you can still take a tour of the old school bottling operation if you are ever out that way.

Recently a documentary on the whole Dublin Dr. Pepper story, the battle with Corporate DP, and the ultimate death and re-birth in Dublin Texas has been made. You can stream it on Amazon now and it certainly does the story justice. click on over and watch the trailer if nothing else

Bottled Up: The Battle Over Dublin Dr. Pepper

Distinctive Smooth Ostrich Leg Boots

When most people think Ostrich they think Ostrich leather with a quill pattern, not smooth Ostrich. For many years that is all there really was out on the retail market. The custom market was first to recognize the Ostrich Leg as a good leather to work with. First in tops and accents, then full vamps. Today there are several good choices available off the shelf known as smooth Ostrich. Smooth Ostrich is certainly smoother than full quill Ostrich but it is not really smooth. Depending on the cut, Ostrich leg styling can be subtle or more pronounced either way it is distinctive.

Look at these choices

Lucchese Handcrafted 1883 Ostrich Leg Cowboy Boots – Snip Toe

Smooth Ostrich Sheplers

texas boots

Ostrich Leg Cowboy Bootssmooth-ostrich-leg-top-view

Lucchese Handcrafted 1883 Ostrich Leg Western Cowboy Boots – Round Toe

Ostrich Leg Sheplers

texas boots

ostrich legostrich-leg-round


Amazon has a competitive selection right now as well

Texan State of Mind and Cowboy Boots

Texas, a land rich in culture and history, the land of the individual, the land of the cowboy!

One image consistently comes to mind when one thinks of Texas. The Texas Cowboy with his boots, hat, lasso, and trusted horse. He may be herding mustangs; enjoying some coffee around a camp fire; or kicking up his heels on a Saturday night.

working cowboys

Or maybe you think of fierce individualists willing to stand up for what they believe, even when the odds are against them, as in the Battle of the Alamo over 150 years ago. Texas Boots Alamo San Antonio

Either way Texas carries a unique history and outlook. Today it is sometimes said that Texas is a state of mind and maybe it is!

Straightforward, friendly, pragmatic, with a touch of flair are some of the more aspiring qualities that come up for me when thinking about that Texan state of mind. Aspiring and useful too when you think about it whether you are trying to wrangle a little cattle or drive the Dallas “high-five” mix master.

dallas texas high five

Sure you can come up with other descriptions of Texans like brash, loud, or  “quick on the draw”…..well we will take those too I guess. What you ask does any of this have to do with western wear? Everything really. When you think about it there is a boot for every Texan you can be…..whether it is a solid working boot or functional hunting boot to satisfy your straightforward and pragmatic side; maybe it is a boot with a fancy top  or exotic leather vamp to satisfy the louder, brasher you. Regardless you can find the combination that fits in today’s market

I remember growing up my Granddad had 2 pairs of custom boots at any one time. One pair  for work and another pair for dress. Both pairs would be made over at J.L. Mercer or M.L. Leddy(mostly JL Mercer though)  in San Angelo each year. You can still find both shops still in business. J.L has changed hands and most of Leddy’s business is in Ft. Worth..although I believe the boots are still made out Angelo way.

Today one could have several pairs of boots targeted for different activities, but I agree with my Granddad, 2 pair to start is the best choice.