The West symbolizes rugged individualism: a land filled with hard workers and rebels, a place where dreams are made (and lost) daily. As America builds an interest in this rugged Americana of the West, people are also discovering sartorial inspiration in archives of Western shirts, hand-tooled belts and cowboy boots. The cowboy boot’s hearty construction and utilitarian style makes it both durable and versatile, and when refined, high-end models made from luxurious leathers allow it to be a perfect choice for elevated dress on a ranch, or daily wear in an urban setting.
Handmade, calfskin boots are the superlative offering in dress cowboy boots, and they’re synonymous with quality — and a steep price point. Tecovas, a relatively new boot brand from Austin, Texas, has reduced the cost of these premium boots by shipping direct-to-consumer, allowing their handmade, calfskin roper and cowboy boots to settle at prices much lower than what’s typical — $225 and $235, respectively. That price sounds almost too good to be true, so I decided to test the roper boot, The Earl, around the streets of New York City.
Though sneakers may be most people’s go-to footwear option for traversing Manhattan’s crowded streets, The Earl has minimalist styling and broken-in comfort that makes it a strong contender for daily wear. Made from supple calf leather (both finer in grain and lighter than steer leather), the boot is flexible through the vamp and easy to wear. Unlike traditional cowboy boots that feature a riding heel (taller and angled), roper boots have a shorter heel, designed to handle a day of walking. The shaft of The Earl is 10 inches long — 2 inches shorter than Tecovas’s more traditional model, The Cartwright — and fits easily under a pair of jeans. The pointed toe sets it apart from most other boots, but points at an American style distinct to the West.
Unlike traditional cowboy boots that feature a riding heel (taller and angled), roper boots have a shorter heel, designed to handle a day of walking.
Tecovas boots are made in León, Mexico, by craftsmen at a factory that specializes in classic boot construction. Over 200 steps go into making a pair of boots, from hand sewing the shaft to hand-pegging the soles. Featuring a Goodyear welt, these boots don’t compromise on quality production techniques. “I’m not here to save money,” Tecovas founder, Paul Hedrick told me. “I’m here to build good boots.”
Hedrick, who quit his business job in July of 2014 to start Tecovas, wanted to create a quality stock boot brand. While developing the Tecovas models, he opted to use methods that took more man hours, but produced a better product. “Let’s find the hard way,” he asked his team. After a year of work, he was able to launch Tecovas in November of 2015, with two styles for men available in three different colors — Bourbon, Midnight and Desert.
Western style calls to mind both self-sufficient, tough individuals and the beautiful and rugged landscapes where they worked. Though aesthetics in the United States are a melting pot of foreign and domestic trends, this is a stylish choice that — in a time when aesthetic influences from abroad permeate so much of the culture in the United States — is unique to the American West. And, for those not afraid to bring the rural into the urban, it’s one that will look as good on city streets as it does on the dusty ranches of the West.