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What Every Texan Should Know About . . .

No. 2 Looking Like a Texan

How to buy custom boots.

Illustration by Abi Daniel

There are few Texas clichés more crystallized than how we dress: ten-gallon hats, cowboy boots, pressed Wranglers—in short, a sartorial personification of the cowboy stereotype. But damn if it don’t look good. The first, ahem, step to dressing like a Texan? Buying custom boots.

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Leather

Your quest begins with the leather. The most traditional option is calfskin. Need tough work boots? Elephant, shark, or bull offers durability. Dress boots? Go with lizard, ostrich, or crocodile. And then there’s kangaroo. “The cashmere of leathers,” says Nevena Christi, the co-owner of Rocketbuster Boots, in El Paso, the Boot Capital of the World. “Soft, sturdy—and expensive.”

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Determine the height of the shaft. Cowgirls might prefer short-tops, known as “peewees,” which typically come in at ten or eleven inches—all the better to show off those stems—while “buckaroos,” measuring up to twenty inches, protect a working cowboy from brush and bramble. Unless you actually own a horse, stick to the standard: twelve to fourteen inches.

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Pulls

Jennifer June, the author of Cowboy Boots: The Art & Sole, will tell you that pulls come in four basic varieties: outside pulls (visible when you lift your cuff), inside pulls (which sit within the boot), mule ears (extra-long decorative loops), or just plain holes. The pulls are practical, but they’re also a place for flair. “Add color, a Texas flag, or your initials,” she suggests.

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Design

Stitching is the most common design feature. Request inlays and overlays—colorful cutouts beneath or on top of the leather—or tooling, a luxury option. Customizing can cost $2,500 or more (turnaround time ranges from six weeks to a year), so if you’re spending the money, get fancy with foxing (overlays on the toe or heel), a collar (decorative leather along the top of the boot), or brightly colored piping.

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Heel

The average heel comes in at around one and a half inches. But conventions are for ignoring, especially by the fairer sex, who can pull off up to three inches. Most boots are made with underslung heels. “The sharper the angle, the more dramatic your look,” says Scott Wayne Emmerich, the co-founder of the Tres Outlaws Boot Company, in El Paso. Prefer the walking-friendly kind? Get a roper. 

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Toe

The toe says everything. Pointy is the province of fashionistas and Hollywood; real ranchers gravitate toward a round look. There’s also the box toe and the squared-off French style. But above all, consider your image. Mosey into your local honky-tonk with round toes and you say, “I just broke the new palomino.” Opt for ultra-tapered ends and you probably pronounce “rodeo” “ro-day-o.”

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