These Boots Were Made for Walkin’
This continues our series of shots from our trip to Fort Worth, Texas. This was inside one of the largest Western Apparel stores in the area, Cavenders. You may recall a previous post of the Ford Pickup outside, well this is inside. I personally, have never seen such an amazingly enormous selection of Boots ranging from the run of the mill pointy toed ones (We called them Shit Kickers in Canada), through to supple Ostrich Skin beauties. These are Ladies Boots, and they seemed to go on for ever, row after row. The store was packed and Folks were testing the fit left and right. The most popular boots only have the right foot out and one must ask for the left from the employees. They said, “They tend to walk out of the store otherwise”
Naturally, Kathleen and I equipped ourselves with new boots. I passed on the Ostrich skinned ones (they were great but did not fit my Hobbit-like feet) and went for comfort. Kathleen found a superb pair as well. They will take a while to break in, but afterwards (or so is said), they will be the most comfortable and enduring footwear ever. People love their boots so much that after many years wear and tear, they have them re-soled!
Warning: Do Not wear new boots on an airplane! Your feet will swell during the high altitude flight causing you to jump out of your seat and try to yank them off due to, well, pain. If you did not bring your boot fork (don’t know what they are really called, but you put your boot’s heel into it and pull), then you may look somewhat weird to fellow passengers as you gesticulate in the aisle, tugging, cursing and apologizing. Then, departing the plane in socks, carrying your treasures in hand (The aircraft’s Stewards smiled with a knowing grin and mentioned their own woes with shoes at 28,00 ft).
The modern-day cowboy boot is one of the most recognizable facets of American culture, and is dominated by the big five companies-Justin, Tony Lama, Nocona, Hyer, and Acme. Cattle ranching in the United States existed as early as 1767 in California, but did not begin until the 1820s in Texas. However, what most people think of when they picture the legendary cowboy lifestyle of the “hard-working man,” did not begin until 1867 with the construction of the transcontinental railroad.
The look of the nineteenth-century cowboy boot has three important components: the high heel, the below-the-knee cut, and the side seams on the legs. Justin cowboy boots have had a strong hold in the market as the true leader because of their reputation for quality craftsmanship and materials and their uniquely superb appearance. H.J. “joe” Justin, who was born in Layfayette, Indiana in 1859, moved to Texas in 1879, having established himself at Spanish Fort. While working at a barber shop, he learned how to repair boots and soon after he completed his first pair at home. He then opened a shoe repair and boot shop in which cowboys passing though town could place orders and pick
Joe’s new wife, Annie Allen, created the made-to-measure boot mail-order kit, a brand new idea for this market. The kit included a twenty-inch ruler, a chart diagramming foot and boot parts and a hand-written letter stating the prices of the few leathers that were available at that time: black calf, retan, and kangaroo. The business began to boom after the Justin family moved it to Nocona, Texas, whereupon Joe added his two sons John and Earl as partners in 1908, creating H.J. Justin & Sons. In 1910, the real growth began, with Justin boots being sold in 26 states, Canada, Mexico, and Cuba for $11 a pair.
“Boots grow on you. They are habit-forming. I tell people, that if they don’t want to become addicted, they’d better not wear them” – John Justin, quoted at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas