Ever wondered how those magically stylish yet functional boots of foot art are made? Well today’s your lucky day!
Western boots (commonly known as cowboy or cowgirl boots) come in all styles, shapes, cuts & sizes. They range from beautifully basic & functional to sassy, stylish & fashionable. Either option are wonderfully comfortable & there are some great companies out there making some stunning boots!
So here is how these babies are made!
Depending on style, shape & size there can be up to sixteen (yes, 16) square feet of leather used in making one pair of boots. Once the leather is cut there is anywhere from 100 to 150 steps taken to complete your cherished western boots. Depending on the style of boot you pick, all the boots show incredible craftsmanship, workmanship pride & use of quality materials.
Natural raw leather is hand selected and cut to accommodate the boot height and foot size.
Once the pieces are cut – a craftsman cements (it looks like a glue paste of sorts) the piping at the tops of the boot pieces. The inside lining pieces are cemented to the outside leather tops. This helps hold everything together while another craftsman stitches together the linings to the exterior and trims off any excess.
The boots are then sent off to the next step for top stitching. This is the lovely intricate stitching details along the top half of the boot. Can you believe this used to be done by hand back in the day? Today it is done by machines & still looks just as delicate and beautiful.
Next is something called counter stitching where the stitched top is attached to the rear quarter (where your heel goes).
Moving along now is the where the vamp gets stitched on to the front quarter of the boot. The vamp is the front part of the boot.
Now these next few steps is where you can see the boot really come together. The front and back are sown together – this is also called a side seam stitch and the tops are turned right side out. Now you can see the leather that wraps around your leg & goes over & around your foot and all the wonderful details.
The tops are then perforated so pull straps can be added/inserted and tagged.
Now that the uppers are complete, craftsman begin working on shaping the boot into its final three-dimensional form. They are almost ready to be placed on your feet! I feel like Cinderella waiting for her glass slipper, don’t you?
Freeze form molding shapes the heel counter (where you heel sits in the boot) before it heads over to a craftsman to do something called lasting. Lasting is where the leather insole is nailed to a polyethylene last which is placed inside the boot upper. This takes time & skill as the leather is hand pulled and hand nailed by individual craftsmen.
Now I thought the process would continually add to the boot to make the final product but the vamp lining has to be removed from the vamp in order to apply the box toe (this is the where your toes rest in the boot). It is wet when applied but turns hard when dry. Craftsmen use copper wire to get all the wrinkles out of the leather all around the lower part of the boot where your foot goes. This is also where the box toe gets it final shape (square, snip, rounded, tapered etc).
In-seaming is next – this provides a medium on which the insole can be attached to the outer sole or base of the boot. This also allows for resoling the boot if needed.
After the insole nails are taken out (because I know some of you got a bit worried about the thought of walking on nails), the excess leather is trimmed off & the bottom of the boots is prepared for the metal shank. This shank gives boots extra arch support. Not all boots have them but most do.
Next the out-soles are heated so that the bond applied is activated and when put under pressure in a sole pressing machine, it will bond the bottom of the soles to the bottom of the boots (believe it or not this is NOT the part the makes contact with the ground).
Using the shape of the boot as a guide, the craftsmen trim any additional excess leather and then move on to out-sole stitching. This is where the out-sole (the part that comes in contact with the ground) is sown to the bottom of the boot or also known as the welt.
Pegging is then a hand-finished, skillful process that involves a row of brass nails and a row of wooden pegs are used to secure and hold the out-sole between the welt and the heel because of the way the out-sole is rolled to hold the shank.
Next the heels are attached, trimmed ever so carefully and shaped. Every boot craftsman know the heel specifications to each individual shape that goes with each boot style. It’s like you are getting your own custom made boots fit just for you every time! A dream come true!
Now depending on which boot company you talk to or buy from the heels are then inked and varnished. Once dry the boots are technically ready to wear BUT perfection knows no bounds SO the boots are then washed, top formed, go for hand dressing, final finishing and polishing so they are more than ready to look PERFECT on your feet.
Wow! That was a ton of steps and that was me summarizing! Maybe one day we can go to the factory itself, go behind the scenes and get a nitty gritty, up close and personal look at how some of your favourite boots are made. What is your go-to brand? Do you like Justin, Corral, Ferrini, Dan Post, Ariat, Tony Lama? Please comment below! I want to hear all about what kind of boot you strut your stuff in or work your butt off in!
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