Tag Archives: field trip

“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: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

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.”

Cavender’s Boot City (& Raffle)

This time of year I tend to look backwards as much as forward. Thinking about the things I plan… and then the things that happen anyway.

One such surprise was my visit last summer to Cavender’s Boot City in Houston, TX. I’ve got plenty of bootmakers to visit when I’m in Texas, so usually I blast right by all the chain stores… BUT I got a tip (from Mr. Cavender, himself) that there were some swell boots inside.

It turns out, Cavender’s is a Houston hideout for vintage cowboy boots. They are not for sale, but part of an impressive Cavender collection… available for viewing during store hours.

My favorites were the larger-than-life “display boots.” I don’t know, maybe it’s my unending fondness for roadside attractions, or maybe it’s because my everyday boots are so small… these big boots just crack me up.

Go see for yourself

2505 S Loop West 610
Houston, TX
(713) 664-8999

P.S. Hey! Send me an email at jenn@dimlights.com with “I want 2 hats” in the subject line. E-mail me before noon, Saturday January 31 PST. A winner will be picked randomly, and I’ll mail ’em these two hats. Woo hoo! (Free domestic U.S. shipping only.)

Travel Tip


I love driving through Texas visiting boot shops, but I know I’m in trouble when I hear…

“Turn at the second dirt road on your right”

“Look for a brown fence with some horses.”

“We’re on the left, down the driveway…back a-ways. The shop’s behind the house.”

Yeah, right. Sure thing.

Here’s my travel tip… forget GPS. At times like this, I find my way with DQ.

What’s “DQ”…you ask?

After you get lost, drive back to town, and park at the Dairy Queen. Then you call the shop with your cel phone. The bootmaker will either give you more detailed directions (usually having to do with the color of the mailbox, the spots on the horses, or maybe the truck parked out front) …OR if you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear these wonderful words…

“Just wait there. I’ll come and get you.” (Yay!)

These are some photos I took when I visited Tom Smith in Aspermont, Texas. Tom makes a beautiful sturdy cowboy boot. Sometimes I think hard working cowboys pick such bright punchy colors, so at least some of the color can manage to fight its way through all the dust and muck.

Tom’s shop looks small on the outside, but feels big on the inside…I’m not sure how that works.

Tom Smith Custom Boots
PO Box 482
Aspermont, TX 79502
(940) 989-3385