The Old West still lives in custom cowboy boot maker Mickey Mussett's shop
|Dragonfly Boots, by Mickey Mussett|
What's cooler than cowboy boots? Its an American art form. There used to be 300 boot makers in Denver. Now there are about 250 in the country. It's a rare bird when you find a custom boot maker. I make boots out of leather, glue and string. And it's a fabulous art form.
When I work with people I am also taking care of their feet. I just made a pair of boots for a man who had a leg two inches shorter than the other. The challenge he gave me was that he didn't want anyone to know. And I did it, and you can't tell. He said that since he was 16 years old everyone looked at him like he was a cripple and now he can walk across an airport and no one looks at him.
What's artistic about making boots?
All of it. The fit itself -- the architecture of a custom boot is different than the architecture of any other type of boot. It took me about eight years to get the ankle of the boot the way I want it to look. They say a cowboy boot should have the shape of a woman or a coke bottle. If you get the right shape, it can be a plain boot and the architecture alone will get the attention of those around you.
The second is the colors. My boots a lot of the time are red, white, and blue. The ones I have are red wing tips. I can tell you know that I would have never thought I would wear red wing tips, but they are beautiful. It's the marriage of form and function -- even if it's the plainest boot.
People love the old West and this is a way to be a part of it. God knows how many cobblers have stood at my machines before I have. This is something that is so a part of the old West that I'm keeping that tradition alive. I couldn't dream this up. It just happened.
Our new rich in many cases, are like Bobos in Paradise, you know, that book by David Brooks? They're half bourgeois and half bohemian. Like Mark Zuckerberg. He's a guy who shows up in hoodies but he's one of the wealthiest people in the world. You have people who have the discipline to get success but the spirit that's bohemian. They want to put their feet up on a rail in the West and let their minds dream. The Western culture is that dream. People can get out and ride and have that free spirit. It's a spiritual thing. Spirits get liberated. No one puts their feet up and wishes they worked in a Steele factory.
It's a very American spirit. And whether you are wearing cowboy boots with your Levis or suits, you have a little bit of freedom on your feet.
For more information, or to contact Mussett, visit his web page.