It’s an unlikely story – an Italian immigrant becomes a Western icon. But that’s what began in 1883 when a boot maker from Sicily came to Texas and made such a well-crafted product that orders soon came from military bases, ranches, Hollywood sets, concerts halls and the Oval Office.
It started when Sam Lucchese set up shop using his old-world art in San Antonio. He wasn’t alone in his endeavor, as the Texas town was a major cowboy-outfitting hub with some 60 other boot makers vying for the same customers.
His unparalleled craftsmanship, quality and unique design began to set Lucchese apart. He made his boots with a tighter inseam to resist leaks, created a signature last (the wood form that’s used in the construction process to give the boot its shape), and constructed the product with a variety of exotic skins and visual details. Lucchese soon became the main purveyor for the United States Army, and by 1919, word of Lucchese boots began spreading beyond San Antonio. From Johnny Cash to Lyndon B. Johnson to John Wayne – Lucchese boots became the standard bearer.
Today, the 130-year-old company still makes high-quality, ready-made and custom boots for anyone (when you visit their stores, they can create almost any kind of design you can imagine), but the storied brand is about to embark on a new venture. This year, the Texas maker will debut The Lucchese Collection – building on the company’s foundation and expanding into fashion territory – think more city streets than dude ranch.
We caught up with Lucchese’s creative director, William Zeitz, for a look back and at what’s ahead:
What makes Lucchese such an iconic brand that has stood the test of time?
“It’s rare to find a brand that has 130 years of history. That heritage is special, and we’ve never wavered from our founder’s vision, which is to build the best boot that can be made. We have an unwavering commitment to quality. The craftsmanship that Sam Lucchese brought over from Italy, a lot of what he introduced, is still in practice today. It’s been passed down from one generation to next.”
Talk a little bit about the craftsmanship, process and quality that set you apart.
Each boot takes more than 21 days to make – each pair is touched more than 300 times by human hands. We use the best raw materials you can buy and have more quality leather and exotic skins than anyone in the world. When we make each boot, it is a very intricate, handcrafted process with techniques that no one else uses. You just don’t find that level of craftsmanship.
Lucchese started making boots for the U.S. Cavalry in Texas at Fort Sam Houston. In that terrain they needed the best boots they could find. Back then boots didn’t have left or right. He designed a special last and that Twisted Cone Last is still a signature part of our boots today.
Why is the “Made in America” aspect so important to your company?
We like to say that we were born in Italy and bred in Texas. And we’ve been there for 130 years. The values of Texas and the spirit of the American West are part of our DNA.
With this new horizon for Lucchese, how do you stay true to your heritage and also innovate?
We’ve made the best western boots, and we will continue to do so – we won’t deviate. But at the same time we want to expand the brand’s reach while honoring and respecting where we’ve been. We have to address other opportunities in different product categories and create a fuller range of products. You need boots on the ranch and for other occasions. This year you’ll see us expand beyond western wear and into a continuum of other types of shoes like Oxfords, Chelsea boots and Chukka boots. We will also have other leather goods, bags and accessories.