Category Archives: Featured Bootshops

Cowboy Boot Photo Glossary – Inlay


Shapes are cut out of a boot top, and layers of colorful leather are placed underneath. The inlays are held in place with one or more rows of stitching.

A simple, wonderful pair vintage boots. The the red hearts and the white flashes are inlay …bordered by 2 rows of yellow stitches.

Inlay can be crude, like it was pounded out with a cookie cutter. In the 1950’s, the factory makers of kids cowboy boots were clever at this—simple punchy shapes like pistols, stars, longhorns and ponies. Yee haw!

Inlay can be fancy. Here is a special “behind the scenes” look at leather inlay. The cowboy boots made by Texas Traditions (Austin, TX) have an undeniably elegant look… this photo essay teaches you a few of the shop secrets. Even their simple designs get a fine touch. The shapes are cut into the boot tops using a sharpened blade fashioned from a sewing machine needle. The leather inlay pieces are thinned down at their edges with a sharp knife (“skived.”) And, the rows of stitched are placed one at a time. Beautiful.

You can see more finished boots made by Lee Miller, here.
Unfortunately, the shop is no longer accepting new customers.

Photo by Marty Snortum.

“Houston” by Wheeler Boot Co. (Part 2)

Here’s a recap. The photo on the left is “before” …on the right, “after.”

“After” Dave Wheeler spent 200+ hours drawing, cutting, piecing, stitching and hammering.

I am intrigued by this class of cowboy boot, the “wowie-zowie” or “killer” cowboy. The cowboy boot that is more decorated than not. The boot that holds your attention for a very very long time.

It takes a special bootmaker paired with a unique customer to build a boot like this. The bootmaker needs to be on top of their game… with a special eye for color and symmetry. Creativity only counts for something if you have the stitchwork to pull it off.

AND… this same bootmaker needs to keep the shop’s other customer orders moving along, even as this landmark boot gets built piece by piece. A true talent. Dave estimated he put in 10-12 hours, every 2 weeks, for more than 8 months… and then each and every weekend nearing the rodeo deadline on his “Houston” boots.

The customer needs a heart-felt passion for the project, unwavering confidence in their bootmaker… and a credit card.

Tips on building your “killer” cowboy boot…

  • Become your bootmaker’s favorite customer. I’m COMPLETELY serious…. you need to be ordering matching belts, sending Christmas cards, and bringing in boot orders from your friends.
  • Try and convince your maker to enter a contest or competition. Most folks order plain boots, your boots  represents a unique chance for the bootmaker to show-off.
  • Resist the urge to micro-manage. You are paying the bootmaker for their expertise, let ’em use it. Besides, no bootmaker is gonna want to spend 200 hours on what feels like a paint-by-number project. If you’re hovering over the stitches and thread color, you’ve gone too far.
  • Don’t even think about ordering these “for Christmas” …or worse, a wedding. No way.

“Houston” by Wheeler Boot Co. (Part 1)



Get the flash player here:

When I call a cowboy boot a piece of art, I mean it …before I say it out loud, it’s something I argue back and forth in my brain. I take these things very seriously.

These “Houston Boots” by Dave Wheeler are a work of art. Layer upon layer of tiny leather inlay and overlay in 11 shades of green, 9 of blue, 6 of tan, 5 of red and 3 of pink. Colored thread sewn and knotted, in some places every 2 or 3 stitches. Amazing.

(Here is a bigger photo.)

Give these boots a quick look and you might mistake these leather tops for Peter Main’s carved leather or some new-fangled laser printing. But no, every leather piece was hand cut, hand skived, hand pieced, placed and stitched by Dave Wheeler… and no single piece bigger is than an inch or two.

These custom cowboy boots were made by an extraordinary bootmaker, for an extraordinary customer. For more of the story, read: For Houston boot buyer, city is his heart and sole: Local landmarks, sports teams adorn businessman’s fancy footwear, an article by Allan Turner for the Houston Chronicle.

And, let’s get something straight… these boots don’t get to be called art just because they took Dave a long time to make. I’m calling these art, because I have never seen a finer portrait of Houston, TX. When I think back upon my trip to Houston, I can picture the kind folks at Wheeler Boot Company …and then, the city I remember all around them… a dense tangle of landmarks, logos and interstate signage.

Truly… Houston leaves me baffled. I want to pick these boots up in my hands just so I say “Dave, point to where I can find breakfast.”