Growing up, Tomasso Arditti, now 47, admired the impeccable alligator shoes worn by his Italian grandfather, an El Paso businessman. So when Arditti’s plans for law school didn’t work out, he asked a local bootmaker to teach him the craft in 1998. Arditti has become known for his high-end custom cowboy boots, making them for the likes of rocker Marilyn Manson, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Pope Francis. He specializes in the “timeless, classic” alligator leather he was drawn to as a boy, but he’s also stretched his creativity to extremes; one $25,000 style features shafts hand-gilded in 23.5-karat gold. “If I had become a lawyer, I wouldn’t get to design, dream, and create every day,” he says.