Nothing says “Texas!” like a pair of cowboy (or cowgirl) boots – whether your roots are deep in the open range or you’re just in town for South by Southwest, Formula 1, or ACL, or to close a deal with the moguls of Austin’s tech industry.
There are, of course, plenty of places to shop for boots, but 3 stores, close enough for an easy afternoon stroll, offer the ultimate in boot selection, quality, and the cowboy experience.
Allens Boots (1522 South Congress Ave) is, they say, among the largest western boots stores in the United States. Its shelves are lined with thousands of pairs – for men, for women, and for the kids. Allens carries many brands, but the stars of the Allens show are handmade Old Gringos and Lucchese Classics, and the Lucchese 1883 line.
Allens’ sales people are friendly and eager to help … but they’ll leave you alone while you try on pair after pair to check the look and feel. If these are your first boots, be sure to them ask about fit – it’s subtly different than picking a pair of shoes.
Don’t be too surprised if you find yourself rubbing some famous elbows when you’re shopping Allens. It’s a regular stop for visiting musicians, movie and TV people and athletes, politicians and business execs, and tech industry creatives. The store is featured in a American Express small business TV commercial and a Speed Channel filmed a segment there during Formula 1 Week last fall.
Just down the street – at 1200 South Congress – is Heritage Boots, a boutique maker of high quality hand made boots for men and women. You won’t find the hectic, boot-bazaar atmosphere of Allens, but you will find boots uniquely styled and meticulously hand crafted by the Heritage experts. The selection isn’t huge and the shop is ‘intimate’ – not surprising for a boutique that hand builds only a few dozen pairs per week – but owning boots from Heritage is a luxury that few of your friends will ever experience.
Heritage and Allens sell mid and high end off-the-shelf boots, some hand crafted and some machine made. With either, the boots you buy will give you years of quality, comfort and styling distinction. Although you’ll find a few less expensive selections, expect to pay at least a few hundred buck$ (more, maybe a lot more, if you want fancy designs and exotic leathers).
If you want the ultimate cowboy boot experience, stroll a couple of blocks over to 1601 South First Street and talk to Noel at Texas Custom Boots. It may look like a run down shoe repair shop, but in that little shop, the experts at Texas Custom will help you design a pair that is uniquely ‘you’, and then they’ll hand craft your boots to fit the precise dimensions of your individual feet. Nothing quite like the comfort and distinction of wearing one-of-a-kind, hand made boots, designed and built just for you.
Just don’t expect to go 2-steppin’ in your new Texas Custom Boots tonight. Bespoke boots take time – up to a year or more, depending on the backlog and workload at the time. And they don’t come cheap. Prices vary, but they typically start well over $1000 and go up from there for intricate designs and exotic leathers.
Boot shopping is tiring, so put ‘em on and show them off while you relax with a margarita and tacos at Gueros, an iced coffee and people watching at Jo’s, or ice cream at Amy’s. Then, refreshed, cross the street to the Continental Club for fine live music and dancing.
That, my friends, is how you do Austin!