October boots

It’s chilly, and so it’s time to deep-six the flip flops—and their annoying propensity to blow out when stepping on pop-tops—for boots.  Here’s a custom pair made for me by the estimable Tex Robin of Abilene, Texas. It was a real trip to go to that West Texas town, have my feet measured (that takes a long time, as they make a proper last for the boot based on the measurements), and meet the irascible but immensely skilled Robin.

These are calf, and I like the slanted box toes and stitching on the vamps (footpiece). These are, of course, made completely by hand.

Tex Robin boots

Here are Tex and I in his shop when I was measured for the boots several years ago. He’s holding one of his prize productions:

JAC. Tex Robin~

Photo by Jim Bull

55 Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 4:43 am | Permalink

    Those Re some fine looking boots! I rarely wear shoes. It is boots or sandals but all my stuff ends up scuffed. I’d love to get custom boots as I wear orthotics because one of my ancestors had bad feet; my mom remembers he always wore customers boots. I can never remember if that was the French guy or the Welsh guy but I’m already ticked at the French guy for my stupid white bourgeois skin.

    Anyway awesome boots!

    • Posted October 17, 2013 at 4:55 am | Permalink

      Everyone should take care of their shoes and boots; they’ll last a lot longer and look good. Most of the time I use Bick 4 leather conditioner, and, if there’s a scuff, Meltonian Boot Cream, which comes in different colors.

      It is a weakness of character to not keep your shoes in good nick! :-)

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:08 am | Permalink

        I know…I’m a bad person. I blame driving standard and the clutch wrecking havoc. I have lots of leather conditioner too, yet I don’t use it. It seems like an existential condition. :)

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          I hear ya.

      • Matt G
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:15 am | Permalink

        I use Meltonian myself. I also have a neetsfoot oil which claims to be non-darkening. I really worry about white stitching on dark boots. How do you treat the leather without ruining the color of the thread?

        • Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:24 am | Permalink

          Well, Meltonian makes a colorless (“neutral”) boot cream that won’t hurt the stitching, but I’d recommend Bick 4 conditioner, which is colorless. I almost never put colored polish on boots, which does ruin the stitching, unless they’re scuffed, and in that case I apply the color very carefully, avoiding the threads.

      • Linda Grilli Calhoun
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:26 am | Permalink

        “It is a weakness of character to not keep your shoes in good nick!”

        Said the guy who lives on pavement. L

        • Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

          Even cowboys who step in manure can clean their boots in the evening!

          • Linda Grilli Calhoun
            Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:46 am | Permalink

            That’s assuming they HAVE a free evening.

            But, if there’s a sick or in labor animal, the hay has to be brought in before it gets rained on, essential repairs need to be made, or just plain exhaustion takes over…

            But, at least in the case of exhaustion, you wouldn’t still be wearing them. L

  2. kenneth sanders
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Dr. C….U certainly are well heeled.

  3. JBlilie
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    Smell those shrimp, they’re beginning to boil … :)

  4. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    Very nice, and seasonal. The stitching is reminiscent of oak leaves.

  5. Wolfkiller
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    Aren’t your poor toes cramped in those things? They look so narrow at the tip!

    • Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

      No, because the boot narrows only when it’s beyond your toes.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      A well made pair of boots are very comfortable. And those are definitely well made.

      I’ve had / have boots that are comfortable enough that I prefer not to wear socks with them.

  6. John K.
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    As much credibility as all the posts about the Beatles has earned, the Jimmy Buffet reference has caused a significant slip.

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

      It is a very good thing to be a parrothead! :)

  7. Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    Ummm. . . do you know the meaning of the words “humorous reference.” In fact, I have no love for the music of Jimmy Buffett (two “t”s).

  8. JBlilie
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    “made completely by hand”

    This is always an area for debate. I make musical instruments and I use some power tools in their construction, where it makes sense and it improves the end result. And also where it prevents injury to me, especially repetitive motion injury. This also allows me to do more work. And “doing a lot of work” is the only way to master a fine/artistic skill.

    Some purists say that you may only use hand tools. (No power tools at all, though most of themn will allow for power drills.)

    I use a number of jigs that I have developed over the years. They help improve the precision and fit. Even violin makers use forms and a special platen tool to hold the top and back plates while they are carved. (The conceit for violin makling is that sand paper may not be used to form or finish any surface except the ribs. Only cutting steel edges may be used: Knives/blades, saws, chisels, gouges, planes, files, scrapers. (I always wondered: Why are files OK, but sandpaper not?))

    I figure if I build the entire things, startt to finish, from raw materials, and I use now CNC or other programmed methods, then I’m go to go for “hand made”.

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      no CNC

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

      … good to go … Really, I have to start proof-reading! (Tomorrow …)

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        Funny how I read it right both times.

        And I’m suitably impressed!

  9. JBlilie
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    And lovely boots! The one in the second photo is astonishing.

    Most of your boots (that you show here) look almost brand new. You do keep them in fine shape!

    • darrelle
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      He has so many he could wear a different pair every day and they would still last a life time!

  10. Dominic
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    Doesn’t he keep wooden lasts so you can order again?

    • Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      Yes, they save the lasts, which are no longer made of wood but of resin, I think. But my next (and perhaps last) pair will be made by Lee Miller in Austin, so I’ll have to do it all over again. I’ve been on his waiting list for three years, but now it’s time to go to Austin and get measured. It’ll be hard to choose a design, leather, color, and all the trimmings. . .

      • JBlilie
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:18 am | Permalink

        So many choices, so much fun!

      • Dominic
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        Three years! Wow…

        I am a terrible shoe destroyer. Last year I got £120 DMs which have lasted well in the past, but I walk everywhere (fast) & the leather was splitting & parting from the sole near the heal within twelve months.

        • darrelle
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

          I ride a lot rather than drive, and for day to day street riding I wear Redwing boots that cost $125 to $160 depending on if I catch them on sale or not. They are comfortable for walking and riding, sturdy and with good safety characteristics for riding, and very durable.

          In the past ten years I’ve gone through only 3 pair. The only thing that really wears them out is that one of the bikes I ride is such that the heel of the boot will often drag, at a sharp angle, when I go around corners so that eventually the surface area of the heel gets so small they become unstable to stand in. Even so the boots last longer than the foot pegs on the bike.

  11. Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Very nice

  12. Greg Esres
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Great looking boots.

    I only have one pair and didn’t know what I was doing when I bought them. I got a riding heel and I really hated walking around in those. Wish I had got a walking heel. I was told that it couldn’t be changed, so they remain in the closet.

  13. Posted October 17, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Calfskin! I’m sure of it!

    …so, what do I win for correctly guessing the hide?

    b&

  14. Michael Fisher
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Language lesson for a Brit:- How can flip flops blow out & what are pop-tops? To me “blow out” means a tyre [tire] deflating due to a puncture.

    “…flip flops—and their annoying propensity to blow out when stepping on pop-tops”

    • Matt
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      It’s a line from a famous Jimmy Buffet song called “Margaritaville.” To blow out a flip flop means to have the thong portion that goes thru your toes pull upwards thru the sole and out, rendering the flip flop unwearable. A pop top is the old pull tab that used to be on soda pop cans. People in the USA – and other parts of the world I imagine – would pull the pop top off the can and throw it on the ground. In a stroke of second bad luck, people with a blown out flip flops, now forced to walk barefoot would step on it thus cutting their foot.

      • JBlilie
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        <blockquote)
        Nibblin’ on sponge cake
        Watchin’ the sun bake
        All of those tourists covered in oil
        Strummin’ my six-string
        On my front porch swing
        Smell those shrimp hey they’re beginnin’ to boil

        Chorus:
        Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville
        Searching for my lost shaker of salt
        Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
        But I know it’s nobody’s fault

        I don’t know the reason
        I stayed here all season
        Nothin’ to show but this brand new tattoo
        But it’s a real beauty
        A Mexican cutie
        How it got here I haven’t a clue

        Chorus:
        Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville
        Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt
        Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
        Now I think
        Hell, it could be my fault

        I blew out my flip-flop
        Stepped on a pop-top
        Cut my heel had to cruise on back home

        But there’s booze in the blender
        And soon it will render
        That frozen concoction that helps me hang on

        Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville
        Searching for my lost shaker of salt
        Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
        But I know it’s my own damn fault
        Yes and some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
        And I know it’s my own damn fault
        </blockquote)

        A 1970s pop classic

        • JBlilie
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          html fail

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        And I learned (at over 40) that people don’t say “thong” in Canada/US (though I swear we did when I was growing up); it means the undies. This is what happens when your mom is from New Zealand.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

          Nah, that was a meaning change that happened here, too.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

            Oh good. I’m glad people weren’t just tolerating me while whispering behind my back that I was odd.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted October 17, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

              Here in NZ, thongs are called ‘jandals’ (= japanese sandals apparently, I had to Google that). A diabolical form of footwear which I flatly refuse to wear, if I have to wear something I wear proper sandals. In the tropics, for walking on the reef, I use tennis shoes / plimsolls, since bare feet are inadvisable, though the locals wear jandals. I was once loaned a pair of jandals, the first coral head I stood on, my foot slipped sideways jamming the side of my foot into jagged coral while the thong tried to twist my toe off. How anyone can control the things on an uneven surface I cannot imagine. I felt safer on the reef barefoot.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 4:42 am | Permalink

                I can’t wear them anymore because of my foot issues (caused by wobbly ankles). I have instant pain in bare feet or flip flops so I wear sandals that will accommodate an orthotic or if I wear fancy shoes, it’s not for a long time or if I’ll be walking much.

        • JBlilie
          Posted October 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

          They called flip flops thongs when I was a young kid (1960s and 1970s) in the US. Thong as racy underwear came in in the 1980s.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffett

  15. jcook@napanet.net
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Hey Jerry, My flipflops come from an outfit in Honolulu called Island Slipper. They are absolutely blowout proof. I’ve worn them for nearly forty years and probably 40 pairs. Never has a strap pulled out. Wandering around in E. Africa I had a whistling thorn run through the the sandal and through the fleshy part of my heel. The only time they have failed me. They have the best arch support available. I buy them a size smaller than my boot size. Try ‘em. What did your hand made boots run you? Thanks for the article on scientology; my brother was scammed by them.

  16. Diane G.
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    ” Abilene, Texas. It was a real trip to go to that West Texas town…”

    Prettiest town that I’ve ever seen…

    (Arrgh, earworm!)

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      Great song!

  17. Diane G.
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    WTF, WordPress, fooling with the subscription process again?!

  18. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    I have a confession to make. Although I agree with our host about kittehs and g*d and most music, I’m a complete dedicated footwear atheist. Which is to say, I wear shoes (the cheapest I can buy) to the office, and sandals when I’m shopping or going out in company; and the rest of the time like at home or driving or walking, I wear feet.

    By the way, ring pulls (pop tops) are just not a hazard here, I don’t now why since I never thought of Kiwis as being particularly careful, nor is broken glass since most bottles went to plastic. The biggest hazard are those officious busybodies (who I mentally consign to the nethermost reaches of hell), who spread gravel a.k.a smashed rock splinters on otherwise perfectly good if slightly muddy walking tracks.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 4:36 am | Permalink

      I once saw a bunch of kids playing outside in bare feet in winter in Auckland in the rain! I was thinking how cold that was for them. My feet are swaddled as soon as it’s about 20C.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 4:49 am | Permalink

        As you may have guessed, I grew up in Auckland. Probably how I got my liking for bare feet. It never gets really cold in Auckland (i.e. frosts are confined to a few days a year) and the weather is so changeable you get occasional nice days even in winter (and crappy days in summer, of course).

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 18, 2013 at 4:59 am | Permalink

          I couldn’t stand the rainy cold weather. That is like our Autumn in Ontario (Canada). I’d trade winters but the chilliness was hard for me since there weren’t many places that were heated by central heating. People of course thought I was nuts because I came from a country with cold winters but that’s because we heat the crap out of our homes. :)

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

            I will admit to having been cold at many parties because %#$&^% people would smoke inside and open all the windows to let the smoke out. I’d rather have put up with the smoke. And also many barbecues where I would stand around shivering nursing a beer and holding a piece of stringy steak that was burned outside (is burnt meat carcinogenic?) and raw inside while looking for a discreet place to jettison it and wishing I could sneak indoors and read a book. Those practices seem designed to emphasise the very worst of the Auckland weather.

          • JBlilie
            Posted October 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

            I love that cool, marine climate! But lack of central heating is just silly.


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