The artful and painstaking craft of making customized cowboy boots by hand has been a tradition in Texas for some 150 years, ever since the days of the great cattle drives along the Chisholm Trail, when boots were considered much more of a necessary tool of a tough trade than they are now. Collectively, today’s custom bootmakers—both familiar legends and new outfits—continue the practice with one eye on that mythic past and one on the limitless future.

The boot’s general form hasn’t changed much in all those years, but the creativity and attention paid to the finer aesthetic details has reached new heights. At El Paso’s Rocketbuster Handmade Custom Boots, the shafts of their footwear are canvases for a dizzying array of colorful and often campy designs, from samurai warriors to peacock feathers. These are not your granddaddy’s (or grandmama’s) boots.

Decorative stitching and inlays and overlays and exotic materials are not new to the bootmaking trade, of course, but the ways they’re being employed certainly are. To showcase the range, we curated a selection of recent work from some of our favorite bootmakers: classics such as M.L. Leddy’s in San Angelo and Fort Worth, Little’s Boot Company in San Antonio, and Texas Traditions in Austin, as well as pioneering newcomers such as Miron Crosby, a two-year-old fashion-forward boot company in Highland Park. These boots are, from their pulls on down to their toes, ever timeless and at the same time brand new.