Steve Pinker’s new boots

A couple of years ago, Steve Pinker visited Austin, and I urged him to try to get Lee Miller—in my view the best custom bootmaker in America—to make him a pair of cowboy boots. Miller isn’t taking new customers because he has a backlog of several years, but he did take Pinker, perhaps because of his (metaphorical) stature. A few years before that, when the list was still closed, I got taken because I visited the shop just to meet the Master, and then sent Lee a copy of WEIT as a thank -you. Lee’s wife Carrlyn (who helps customers design the boots and runs the business side of the shop) told me that Lee would be glad to make boots for anybody who could write a book like that. I went back to Austin to get my feet measured (Matt Dillahunty was with me at the time) and waited about four years before I got the boots, which I show right below.

Mine are fancy, but made with a tough and not-too-expensive hide: Kangaroo. My name is stitched on them in “mirror writing” and there’s a pinched yellow rose—both specialities of Lee’s mentor Charlie Dunn. Lee and Carrlyn documented the making of my boots, an enormously laborious process requiring great skill, and I posted the process in a series of eleven reports called “My last pair of boots.” (I haven’t bought any since!).

Jerry’s boots, not Steve’s

Now as I’ve mentioned before, Steve is also a cowboy-boot aficionado, and always wears them to lecture or to teach. (He favors darker colors and simpler designs.) At times I’ve served as his informal boot consultant and helped him pick out some on eBay. But he wanted custom boots, and if you want the best, Lee Miller is the guy to see.

Yesterday Steve’s boots finally arrived, and I made him promise that I could post a picture of them. He actually sent two photos. The first shows the boots, which have black American alligator belly vamps and water buffalo tops. I asked him to explain the stitching, and he said this:

The stitching is red, green, and blue, which Carrlyn herself complimented. I like of the look of those three colors, especially against black; as you know, I prefer jewel colors to earth tones. Also, in color space those are the additive primaries, which harmonizes with my longstanding interest in human vision and with my major pastime, photography.

Without further ado:

On the feet. (He says they fit perfectly, as they should. Only a true boot lover knows the pleasure of slipping your metatarsals into a pair of boots made to measure.)

Note: do not carp about the use of animal skins, as both kangaroo and gator are farmed for meat and skins. Carping will lead to banning.


  1. Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Whoo-hoo! Fine-looking boots! I am appropriately envious!

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Cool kicks, man.

  3. Kevin
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Very nice! How long should a quality pair of boots last?

    • Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      For years, and you can always resole them or revamp them, so in effect they’re a lifetime investment.

      • Dominic
        Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        My brother seems to have his posh shoes for decades – I destroy footwear!

    • darrelle
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      I bought myself a pair of Lucchese in 1981. Despite some scuffing that could be repaired if I could be bothered to they are in excellent, wearable condition. And I used to wear them quite a bit, for many years. Hardly ever wear them anymore because my big toe knuckles have gotten a bit arthritic and any footwear that puts pressure on them is very uncomfortable. It’s sad. They used to fit like a glove and where more comfortable than sneakers.

      Lucchese boots from the era mine are from were considered to be among the best production boots available. But boots from legendary custom makers like Lee Miller are on a whole other level.

      • Posted February 21, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        You probably had Lucchese San Antonios, classic boots made in that town and with the name stamped on the inside. I have several of those and they were indeed classic production boots.

        • darrelle
          Posted February 21, 2020 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

          I bought them at the Lucchese facility in San Antonio. The cab driver had some trouble finding the place. I then had him wait for me as I had a flight to catch and the timing was tight.

          To top things off, we got a ticket on the way to the airport.

  4. sshort
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    red, green and blue with envy.

  5. EdwardM
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Very nice. I would look like an idiot in them but they look good on Dr Pinker.

    With regards to the skins they are made of, can they even be made from carp?


    • Simon Hayward
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Beat me to it!

    • Hempenstein
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Carp? No idea. But salmon leather claims to be tougher than cowhide, and they may cowboy boots out of the likes of <a href=<sea bass and piraucu.

    • Filippo
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      They are certainly made from eel skin. Eel doesn’t seem to be all that durable; (for perhaps that reason) I haven’t seen eel with stitching. But to my eyes (brain) they look great. Perhaps if I had several pairs I could rotate them and make them last a double-digit number of years. I confess that I do not like stitching. I confess that recently I have taken a permanent marker to the stitching on the leather shaft of my current black eel boots. I’d prefer the shaft to also be stitch-less eel. No doubt I am guilty of blasphemy.

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Fancy, and, if I might say, also schmancy.

  7. BJ
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    There are few things cooler than a genius in cowboy boots, and I say this with 100% sincerity. I with I was a genius and someone who could pull off cowboy boots (I’m neither).

  8. jedijan
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Nice looking boots fellas.
    Hope you wear them with pride.
    Ps. When you said no carping I immediately thought of those introduced European carp that have polluted the once majestic Murray River (border o f NSW and Victoria, Australia). Would be nice if they were turned into leather; there’s plenty available!

    • Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      They do make fish-skin boots, but they’re ugly and not very sturdy!

      • jedijan
        Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Didn’t know that. There’s only one enterprising fellow out there, I am aware of, that is turning the carp into fertilizer.

  9. Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Some day when you or Pinker are in Los Angeles, I highly recommend getting a custom pair from Pascal Davyat (hollywoodriffraf on instagram). He’s a true character, a wild frenchman who most famously made boots for Lemmy of the band Motörhead. I have a pair of his boots and they’re magnificent. His normal style is more rock n’ roll than traditional western but, he can make traditional styles as well as the more aggressive blunt-toe style Lemmy favored. He’s also a brilliant and funny man who can entertain with stories for hours. I can easily see you or Pinker in a pair of his boots.

    Personally, I need to get on Lee’s waiting list, if I can, because both your and Pinker’s boots, pictured, and incredible and I want both pairs.

  10. Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Typo in your note, Jerry: meat and skins.

  11. Posted February 21, 2020 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    For any of you Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fans:

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink


    • darrelle
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      I’ll take a pair of those.

  12. Mark R.
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Ooh and Aah. RGB thread is indeed striking on the black background.

  13. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I never had or even wore cowboy boots. There appears to be a whole culture around it. After all this, guess I’ll have to add it to my ‘bucket list’.

    Mark, does RBG wear cowboy boots? Are you sure? But one never knows with these tough old aunties. 🙂

  14. darrelle
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous boots. I am partial to black.

  15. Posted February 21, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I will never be a boot man, but I love looking at the pictures posted here on WEIT. Thanks for posting such wonderful expressions of art and craftsmanship.

  16. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Now that I’m in my late seventies, my “black cherry” Lucchese’s are the only heels I dare totter on anymore.

  17. KD
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Sure, it wasn’t enough to have to envy his hair, now we have to envy his boots too!

  18. Peter Gardner
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never heard of kangaroos being farmed but they exist in plague proportions in many parts of this country and it’s perfectly sensible to kill them for leather or meat. They taste OK but I’ve had to overcome a childhood prejudice against eating them: it was always regarded as a sign of real poverty when I was growing up.

  19. Posted February 21, 2020 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    These are gorgeous. Do these boot makers ever make belts to match?

  20. max blancke
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I have to disagree over who makes the best boots. My Dad got me into good boots, and I tried a bunch of them before I settled on Paul Wheeler as my bootmaker. His son runs the shop now, but he is still upholding the family standard.

    To address some of the other questions raised here- good boots (and hats) last a lifetime, or longer. You keep them clean and waxed, and get them resoled when necessary, and they just keep getting softer and better on your feet.
    Exotic leathers usually do not hold up as well as traditional calf, with elephant being one exception I know of.

    In the circles I move in, boots can be worn with anything, including formal wear. But a considerable part of the process is convincing yourself that you can get away with wearing them. Then you should get a good hat. I suggest Texas Hatters

    If you want to go hardcore, you can take the final step and start wearing custom western shirts. I go with Manuel Cuevas in Nashville.
    I love that these people are artists. They interview and measure you, then they make something unique that may be completely different than what you expect, and better than you or I would likely come up with.

    • max blancke
      Posted February 22, 2020 at 3:57 am | Permalink

      On reflection, I don’t like the tone of my post. Dr. Pinker looks good in those boots, and it is great that he got them from one of the top bootmakers. And I like the mirror writing on Dr. Coyne’s boots. I hope he wears them often.

      Those of us who wear such boots are part of a brotherhood of sorts. Anyone can join, as long as they can talk themselves onto the list. But I notice men (or women) with good boots tend to share a nod or possibly a conversation at public events, sort of the way vintage motorcycle riders acknowledge each other.

  21. Posted February 22, 2020 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    The trouble with a good pair of boots is that you can’t navigate the streets of Ankh Morpork by feeling the cobbles through their soles.

  22. chrism
    Posted February 22, 2020 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    My short, wide and high-arched feet (I know, making myself sound so attractive here!) don’t like cowboy boots, but properly made low-heeled boots are just the ticket for me. Some Derby wingtips with just the right amount of broguing in tan leather do it for me. I’ve always been fascinated by proper cobbling, perhaps because we actually had a cobbler in my rural Wiltshire village in the 1950’s. My toddler nose disliked the smell (I think he must have been using some proper tanning materials out the back, or maybe it was the glues of the era made from cow hooves), but the deft craftsmanship was something to behold.
    Congrats to Steve and Jerry for their splendid footwear.

  23. Posted February 22, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Those are exceptional boots! I am a great fan of gator belly as a leather for its style and contribution to the “line” of the boot. And for yours Jerry, that combination of burnt orange and blue looks incredible. It’s a little tricky to get those two colors in the right shades to be
    so complementary. I’m glad the craft continues to have ardent supporters.

  24. Posted February 22, 2020 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Do cowboys’feet become pointy because they wear those boots?
    Or do bootmakers have to make pointy boots because cowboys are *born* with pointy feet?

  25. Posted February 24, 2020 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Now to find a horse to compliment the purchase… 😜🙄😁

    • Filippo
      Posted February 29, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      A Palomino? A Paint? A Chestnut Mare? I always enjoyed watching Ben Cartwright and Sons riding toward me on those magnificent equines.

%d bloggers like this: