Not your ordinary boot

April 7, 2011 • 5:22 am

These boots may not look like much, but to a collector they’re a holy grail.  They were made by the late Ray Jones of Lampasas Texas, perhaps the best bootmaker who ever lived.

Jones made boots for working cowboys, and these things are built like a tank.  They’re heavy and solid, and I can’t imagine them ever wearing out. I was fortunate to get this pair (one of three) from a collector.  They are several decades old.

Jones was a stubborn cuss who only used one stitch pattern for first-time customers.  If you bought several pairs over the years, he might eventually consider using another pattern on the top (“shafts”).  He also used white piping on the side, and his signature “toe bug” (the design stitched on the foot part or “vamp”) instantly identifies a vintage boot as a Jones:

The allure of a Jones boot is not its flashy appearance but its sheer quality.  You’d need a bandsaw to take them apart.  Custom cowboy boots have only a few ingredients: leather, glue, thread, rubber for the heel caps, a steel shank under the arch (purists use a large nail hammered flat), and lemonwood pegs to hold the sole to the insole.  These pegs are carefully hammered into holes cut in the leather, and are better than metal since they swell when they’re wet.  Another Jones trademark was the quantity of pegs he used; you can also identify his boots because he used three rows of pegs on each side of the sole instead of the usual two:

Some more Ray Jones boots photographed by Jennifer June; note that the stitching is identical to mine:

20 thoughts on “Not your ordinary boot

  1. I would not mind having a pair of those in my closet. The best I have managed so far is a pair of Luchesse, which while quite nice as boots go are just not in the same league as the boots in your collection.

  2. OK, I am not normally into cowboy boots but the sight of that line, identical but for the colouring and leathers, is speaking to the collector-of-matching-stationery-in-rainbow-order in my heart.

    Thus: WANT.

    P.S. Did you know that the nose and pads of a cat are known as its ‘leathers’ to breeders?

  3. I’m glad you’re the kind of person who wears your collectible boots instead of putting them in a glass case. Boots are meant to be worn.

    1. Here’s another fine example: Kinky Friedman ~ Singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist, politician and former columnist for Texas Monthly. He was born in 1944 in Chicago to Jewish parents & the family moved to a ranch in central Texas a few years later ~ so I reckon that qualifies him as a “city boy” ?

      On this page is a photo of Kinky’s boots, cowboy hat and cigars. These are the mud-caked boots optimistically worn by Kinky Friedman during his run for governor

      Kinky’s black leather boots, custom-made, on the front say, ‘Governor Friedman

      said Dr. Sarah Gould, guest curator for the Institute of Texan Cultures

      The Kinky boots are not my (British, urban) conception of cowboy boots ~ peculiar shape & other oddities, but what do I know ? I’m a Dr. Martens kind-of-guy

  4. Dr. Coyne,

    I assume every once in a while you have occasion to wear a tux. Do you have a black pair of boots you’re inclined to wear at such times? Unstitched smooth-toed leather, or shiny patent leather, or eelskin?

  5. Really interesting. Just like biology–the more you know about something, the more you appreciate it. Now, off to find out what lemonwood is…

  6. Not your ordinary boot …

    but an ordinary waste of my time reading this eand other WEIT emails about boots!

    The cats I can appreciate, but the boots … ??

    1. If you don’t like this website, please go elsewhere. What do you think you’re accomplishing with this remark other than hurting the feelings of the proprietor and/or trying to tell him how to run his website?

      I suggest you find another place to browse.

  7. I just picked up two pair of boots for two of my sons from Pablo Jass. They were the boys graduation gift from my mother. It was nice to see Pablo keeps making boots the way Ray Jones did. I got my first pair of Ray Jones boots from my family for graduation from high school in 1968. I have had other boot makers boots but I have to say Ray Jones was the best ever and Pablo Jass the best living boot maker. I forgot to mention, because Pablo won’t. Pablo is a decorated US Marine a veteran of the Vietnam conflict. If you want Pablo to build you a pair of boots call the Lampassas Chamber of Commerce for his new number. He recently dropped his land line and now only has his mobile phone. Simper Fi

    Blanco Texas

  8. Ray Jones was my great uncle, that is, he was my father’s uncle. He was an amazing bootmaker, and from what my father tells me, a real stubborn man (it runs in the family). Pablo Jass, Ray’s apprentice, took the business over, and I, along with my brothers and cousins, was fortunate enough to have Pablo create a pair of boots for me. From what my uncle and father have to say, Pablo’s boots are just as good as Ray’s, though, as others have mentioned, Mr. Jass will never admit to it. Pablo puts an extraordinary amount of work into his boots and it’s evident in every pair. They’re simple, understated, and incredibly well-made. Hands down, best boots ever, created by the best bootmaker alive.

    1. home was robbed a few years ago and all that was stolen were (2) pairs of Ray Jones boots from the early 1970s. The DA of Travis County just called me and he said that I could get reimbursed by the thief but I needed a way to show what those boots are worth. You wouldn’t happen to know a Collector or Dealer of Jones’ Boots that could help me estimate their value. I was thinking they were worth close to $2,000 a pair due to minimal use/wear. Thanks!!

  9. The owner of a Moffat County Saddle Shop, Elbert Conway Irick, will be thrilled at the creation of Ray Jones boots!

  10. I found the article very interceding. Would love to read more articles pertaining to cowboy bootmaking.

  11. It is not just a matter of owning a pair of these boots. you have to have Pablo make you a pair just for you for your foot. It will make your feet smiile. A functional work of art.

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