It’s not very often that you get a sneak peek of what is going on behind closed factory doors. However, on occasion, the planets and stars align and you are provided with an opportunity to see first hand how something is made. The something, in this case, is the fantastic and popular Lucchese Boots and the place is Luccheses Bootmakers in El Paso, Texas.
This is one of those instances where being a travel writer is a bonus since factory tours aren’t open to the public. Lucchese was generous enough to make an exception and took me around the production floor to show me how their custom boots are made.
It’s a bonus for me and for you since I can share all I saw and learned with you here. I did put together a brief video if you want a glimpse of the action and noise at Lucchese.
Sam Lucchese started making boot in San Antonio, Texas in 1883. He started with Cavalry boots for the U.S. Army and, not long after, started crafting some of the best cowboy boots in the country.
Forty years ago Lucchese decided to move their company headquarters and production facility to El Paso due to the large textile industry and skilled labor that was in the area. El Paso has been their home ever since and they have helped make El Paso the Boot Making Capital of the World.
It takes 180 hands-on steps to make a single pair of Lucchese boots. There is no automation included in the making of boots with the exception of boots that are sold to big box stores at a fraction of the price. The custom made, hand-crafted boots that Lucchese is so well known for are all sold in advance. Lucchese makes boots that are sold; they don’t make them in hopes of selling them. I like that sales plan.
There sales policy means that each pair of boots is handcrafted exactly how the customer wants them. It starts with having quality material and Lucchese Boots has that in spades. Approximately 3 million dollars in leather line the shelves waiting to be turned into works of art. Everything from cowhide to python to stingray is available.
You can even bring your own custom leather to Lucchese and have it turned into boots but you better make sure that your leather isn’t of the illegal sort because that is a big no-go here. It’s also important to note that about 80% of all leather used by Lucchese is a byproduct of the meat industry.
Frank, leather room manager, showing off a piece of unique leather
I think the most interesting leathers were ostrich (said to be the softest), beaver tail (weird), pirarucu fish from the Amazon River (who knew) and stingray (I mean, really, stingray?). Each pair of boots has to have similar markings so matching the leathers is one of the first steps. After it’s matched to have enough to make a pair they cut 10 pieces out of the leather for each pair of boots. It’s a lot easier making sure you have enough leather if the boots are a size 4 (smallest size available) then if they are a 15 (largest size available).
Once the leather is cut and ready to go it starts the long process of stitching, shaping, coloring and passing rigorous quality control checks along the way.
Some of the sewing and shaping machines used at Lucchese are around 100 years old. Newer machines have been tried but the experienced boot makers always ask to go back to the old machines. There is definitely something to be said about quality in older equipment.
The tour of Lucchese was fantastic and I loved watching the boots start as pieces of material and turn into amazing pairs of boots. My hope is that Lucchese is around many, many more centuries. However, one of the biggest problems they face is finding a younger workforce that is interested in working with their hands. My fingers are crossed that their handcrafted boots never go out of style and that there are some up and coming young boot makers willing to settle in at Lucchese to continue the legacy.
Be sure to watch the video above to get a better sense of how Lucchese boots are made.
***PIN LUCCHESE BOOTS***
Of course, I had to have a pair of boots. There are ready-made boots available at the retail shop that I stopped in to find a pair to bring home. I mean, I would be remiss if I visited the Cowboy Boot Making Capital of the world and didn’t bring home boots. So happy I did as these boots are incredibly comfy and have become my go-to footwear.
Disclaimer: I’d like to thank Mario Vega for taking the time to show me how Lucchese boots are made and I’d like to thank Lucchese for making sure I went home with a fantastic pair of boots!