There are not very many places where I can think of particular souvenirs I aim to bring home. I prefer to stumble across my sentimental items such as saving corks from special bottles of wine in Italy or prayer scarf from a student in India. But there was one thing I knew I wanted from Texas before I even stepped off the plane: BOOTS.
I love boots. I’m not much of a shoe girl…but I DO love me a nice pair of boots and a nice pair of dancing shoes. They’re just so practical and when you find the right pair you wear them often and forever. So…what better place to get cowboy boots than Texas? Turns out, getting a decent pair became a much more involved affair than originally thought. So here are some simple tips for you if you plan on embarking on this adventure anytime in your lifetime.
1. They ain’t cheap. Seriously. I was expecting a nice pair would run along $200…however…more often than not, the ones I really wanted were in the $400-$600 range…you should’ve seen my jaw hit the ground when I flipped over the pricetags. So be prepared to spend a pretty penny, unless you want to find something more manufactured or less authentic. A way to beat the high price tag is to shop around in the bajllion vintage stores all over Texas…but even in Austin, they weren’t as plentiful as thought. We drove all over Austin checking out different vintage shops, but most of the boots were either not my style or too worn for the price. We ended up at Allen’s Boots…the first store we went to. haha. But Allen’s offers a variety of quality boots, and with that a variety of prices. But it’s a great stop, and fair priced when compared to other shops.
2. What’s your style? This is pretty important. Otherwise you will end up like me staring at isles and isles of boots and trying everything on. Ok I really only tried on 3 or 4 pairs..but even getting to narrow down my choices to try on was a bit ridiculous. Things you want to think about:
- Toe cut – Do you want a point toe or a round toe? Round toes are much more casual, while pointy toes make a dramatic statement, and historically, cowboy shoes were made to be pointed so they were easier to get into the stirrups when mounting a horse.
- Skin type – Do want leather? Crocodile skin? Ostrich skin? The ostrich skin was something new to me this trip. I didn’t take a picture of one but I’m borrowing one here to the right from www.toughweld.com. You can tell when something is ostrich skin because the little “dot” markings, which shows were the feathers were extracted. Pretty awesome in my opinion. Unfortunately, beyong the regular leather, crocodile or aligator or ostrich skin will cost you a bit. I couldn’t find a single ostrich skin boot under $500.
- Style – Color, Plain, embroidered, color embroidering? – The choices are endless really. But I had no idea how intricate the designs would get. Most of the higher quality boots are made with hand embroidering… I found this rdiculously pretty pretty of feathers etched onto a boot…they were $500.
3. How should it fit? Now that you’ve finally found some you want to try on..please be sure to try them on. They’re expensive and you want to make sure they fit. Keep in mind that over time the leather will stretch, but you want to make sure the boot hugs, not pinches the widest part of your foot between your heels and toes. Your heel should be able to move slightly inside of the boot because boots were made this way to help easily remove them. However, the boot shouldn’t shift around when standing still in the boot. So if it’s too tight, go a size up or go a size down. Be sure to try all sizes on too. I found that sometimes certain styles fit me better in one size than another, and even a pair that were made by the same place in the same style in the same size can have a different fit. The reason for this is because most of these boots are handmade, so sometimes the sizes can be just a tiny bit off depending on the leather.
4. What’s authentic quality? According to my Texas born and raised friend Bill, there are some simple signs to look for when buying a quality boot.
- Leather sole – Makes for a slippery time for the poor traction they get (we’ll see how mine survive in the wet Seattle streets). But the reason for these Western style is to help the rider slide in and out of the stirrups faster. They won’t last as long as rubber soles in wet conditions, but personally, I love the extra touch of a fully leather boot. It’s just romantic. Check for brass nailing on the sole, which also indicates a higher quality. They’re much more expensive than rubber soles, but I still love them.
- Made in Mexico – Check the “Made in” print – Inside every boot, the origin of manufacturing is printed. Forget the made in China or even USA prints. Real cowboy boots are made in Mexico. According to Bill. More often than not he was right.
So which ones did I buy?
A pair of Tony Lama’s. Leather, simple embroidering with a hint of blue, with WICKED toes. They were a pretty good value as far as unique style and quality for $200. They’re pretty awesome, and I feel like a million bucks when I wear them. Ready for some dancing in these babies!