For Houston bootmaker Zephan Parker, crafting a pair of boots is akin to creating a family heirloom.
â€œWhatâ€™s been most impressive about being in Houston and learning about the clients here, is that there are a lot of custom boot wearers who want their children or grandchildren to appreciate the product,â€ said bootmaker and owner of Parker Custom Boots, Zephan Parker, â€œThey will come in to buy their son or grandson their first pair of custom boots before they go off to college or when theyâ€™re starting some other venture.â€
Sometimes itâ€™s the other way around, with the grandson coming into the shop to buy a pair for his grandfather. Or the grandson bringing in a pair of custom boots that were handed down from his grandfather to get repaired or reformed to his foot size.
â€œItâ€™s a special occasion to have custom boots made, especially if itâ€™s given as a gift. For example, itâ€™s a unique way to treat your father to a product that is long lasting and usable. Thereâ€™s not many things you can get someone that they can incorporate as the staple of their style.â€
But buying a pair of custom boots isnâ€™t walking into a shop and picking one off the shelf. A customer goes into the shop and can talk directly to the craftsman. Because the fit is guaranteed the craftsman measures the customers foot and measures the leather accordingly.
Then the fun begins. The customer customizes their boots by picking the leather, color, and design on the uppers. The options are extensive with leather from calf, pig hide (suede), and American alligator to more exotic leather like kangaroo, ostrich, and pirarucu. Most leathers come in any and every color and so does the thread. On the uppers the customer can choose a stitch pattern or inlay work, which allows for details like initials, flowers, or more elaborate work. Luckily, the bootmaker is there to help the process not to be overwhelming.
Right now, the average wait time is three to five months for a pair of boots. Thatâ€™s because itâ€™s not a factory making the boots, but a pair of hands.
â€œThe boots are all made here in Houston, Texas in store. We donâ€™t ship any of the boots out, the boots are made here by the actual bootmaker,â€ Parker said. â€œAll the leather is hand cut and stitched together on century-old machines. Other parts of the boots are hand stitched, like the welt which attaches to the insole, keeping all of the different pieces of leather together.â€
Before venturing into Houston with his business, Parker had travelled all over Texas learning the techniques of the craft from the finest craftsman in Texas.
â€œWhen it comes to Houston made boots, Dave Wheeler was the staple for many years and Iâ€™ve been fortunate enough to be able to bounce questions and ideas off him concerning the boot world. As Wheeler eases into retirement Iâ€™m reminded that bootmakers are becoming few and far in between, and that Iâ€™m glad to have picked up a craft with so much history.â€
Parker Custom Boots has been featured on abc13, the Golf Channel, ESPN, and a few online publications. To make an appointment give them a call at 832-640-5397.