Steve Pinker’s new boots

February 21, 2020 • 10:30 am

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.

47 thoughts on “Steve Pinker’s new boots

    1. 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.

        1. 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.

  1. 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?


    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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!

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 🙂

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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

Leave a Reply to deacjackCancel reply