Millennials Take On the Boot World

I have noted, as many of you have, that over the last few years, youngin’ of the Millennial generation have been getting into the boot retail business.

I have observed that young men in their late 20s and early 30s have been leaving Wall Street financial firms and …

… stating that they were tired of that life and wanted to do something different.

I don’t blame ’em. Who wants to always have to dress up in suits, dress shoes, and slave long hours in the Wall Street world? Not me, that’s for sure. I don’t care if they throw lots of money at you for putting up with that. There is more to life than yuppiedom.

My observations of this trend began with Tecovas Boots where its young founder identified bootmaking capacity in the World’s #1 bootmaking capital: León, Mexico. He arranged for various styles of basic boots — leather, ostrich, lizard, caiman, and suede — to be made in two heights (10″ roper, 12″ traditional) for both men and women.

He and his marketing team have done exceptionally well in saturating the ad market. I see their ads everywhere on-line, especially in social media. With videos like this: (this is a link–click it) showing normal men wearing normal clothing with pants over boots in an urban environment — Tecovas Boots has done an awesome job re-introducing the classic cowboy boot for urban professional style. Great going, Paul!

Not to be outdone, Thursday Boot Company was formed by three young men from New York City who wanted to wear boots that, to them, were stylish but would work (for them) in a highly urban environment. Young’uns with active nightlife social activities want to “dress down” (their words) and wear boots, rather than dorky dress shoes like the urban clone.

Thursday Boots got started in 2014 and has also tried to take on marketing through prominent ad buys on social media platforms. I only see them on Facebook (since I don’t use Instagram or Twitter), but they are also very active on those platforms as well.

Recently, Thursday Boots went over to the dark side and began making dress shoes, but I’ll forgive them. After all, they realize that there are still urban men who won’t think of wearing boots — even stylish dress boots — with a suit to an office. (Pity them for they know not how to be their own man and avoid peer pressure to adopt the clone-look.)

One thing: These kids are trying to establish a style trend: rolling up your pants to wear with these boots. I think that looks silly, but who is this old fart Baby Boomer to judge?

Another New York City upstart is Jack Erwin. This company was started in 2013 by two NYC-based millennials as well. Their story is similar to the others mentioned above. This company offers a few styles of boots, too many styles of dorky shoes, but all are made in Spain by quality bootcrafters. I bought a pair of Jack Erwin boots on sale. They’re okay. Kinda hard to break in and not that comfortable, but they’ll do.

And these are not all for New York City. I recently became aware of Paul Evans, yet again another duo of former Wall Street yuppies finding a shoemaker in Naples, Italy, to work with. This company makes high-quality boots and dorky dress shoes. Marketing appeals to the “high-end” buyers make the price point of this company’s products about US$125 more per pair than their comparative millennial boot/shoe-making brothers listed above.

I have been to Naples, Italy, several times and have seen the high-quality work that their old-line shoemakers do. Their craftsmanship is superb. I think this company can justify the higher cost of their products for the quality of the source materials and careful manufacturing.

There are two more Utah-based millennial upstarts about which I became aware — again via social media: Taft Boots and Wilcox.

Taft Boots got started in 2013 by a young couple from Provo, Utah. They identified a quality shoemaker to work with in Spain, and had lines of short dress boots with unique styles and combinations of leathers and/or durable fabrics made. (They also offer shoes — ho hum.) I do not own any of their boots so I cannot comment on their quality or comfort. I commend them, though, on going after social media marketing as their primary advertising platform (see video here). Good luck to them.

Another Utah-based millennial got Wilcox Boots started in 2014 by a guy who got stranded in León, Mexico. He observed — as I have done — that León is a very magical place when it comes to watching bootmaking artisans do their job. So when this company’s founder returned to his home in Salt Lake City, Utah, he started his company and contracted with a bootmaker with capacity to have basic work-boot-looking short boots made.

I bought a pair of these boots and have worn them some. They’re okay. A bit clunky and far from the claim of being “the most comfortable boots in the world.” But they’ll do. (See my review, here.)

Finally, one of the oldest millennial upstarts (started in 2012) gets a tip of my Stetson: Ranch Road Boots. This company was started by a veteran of the U.S. Marines, Sarah Ford. She worked very hard to have a line of boots made that fit her memories of West Texas traditions, where she grew up.

Ranch Road boots are also made in Spain by quality bootmakers. I have a pair and like them (see my review). These boots are very well-made, wear well, are comfortable, and look good with basic jeans, or even dress clothes in the office.

Summary

Cutting out the “middleman” seems to be the theme of all of these boot-making companies begun by upstart millennials. They do not use the traditional brick-and-mortar method of retailing their products. They all aggressively advertise on social media platforms where their prime audience resides.

They offer a limited line of products via very well-designed and functional websites. They also usually arrange direct shipment from the manufacturer (sometimes via a U.S.-based supply warehouse) to the customer in relatively short delivery time (3 – 6 days for ground shipments.)

Personally, I am glad to see that younger people are taking on boot retailing. They combine the great traditions of employing high-quality bootcrafters and manufacturers in the longest-tradition locations (León, Mexico, Spain, and Naples, Italy) with active marketing on platforms that younger people use most often. They also avoid the price mark-up by offering direct-to-consumer sales via a website so they can offer their products at a lower price point while still making a profit.

Life is short: celebrate millennials who done good!