“Man, I love your boots.” –Bob Dylan
The Stallion Boot & Belt Company of El Paso, Texas has fewer than thirty employees, but their list of satisfied customers is more star-studded than a Hollywood premiere. Handmade Stallion boots have been worn by Bob Dylan, Jane Fonda, Tina Turner, Kevin Costner, and many more since the company’s founding thirty-five years ago, while Stallion collections are perennial must-have items in the high-end fashion industry. The story of how this small company in South Texas garnered such a fashionable following is as charming and humble as the man who stands at its center, Mr. Pedro Muñoz.
An American Icon
The cowboy boot is an iconic piece of Western culture and history. Its appearance grew out of the everyday footwear of the Mexican vaquero, which was adopted by American cavalrymen who had previously worn a European style high-topped, flat-heeled riding boot; the cowboy boot’s shorter top, pronounced heel, and straightforward construction was much preferred for the life and landscape of the Southwest.
The Hollywood success of the Western cowboy hero popularized this practical, everyday design. Movie and television serials idolized the romantic figures of the Open West, and the cowboy boot became a distinctly American fashion. Designs became more imaginative and diverse, displaying the vaudevillian roots of the original cowboy performers. Over time these appearances were moderated as the cowboy boot became a normal fashion fixture, and attire such as the ‘Texas business dress’ brought the boot into men’s professional wardrobes.
In modern fashion the cowboy boot has risen above trends and transience—its design is a classic in its own right. Cowboy aficionados such as Stallion accomplish a beautiful balance, subtly interpreting the boot’s timeless look with contemporary ideas that reflect and enhance its iconic appeal.
A Modern Cowboy
It only takes a short conversation with Pedro to get a sense of how naturally this line of work came to him. Easygoing and openhandedly welcoming to visitors, Pedro has all the charm and courtesy of a classic Western movie hero. Indeed, he is in many senses a model of the modern cowboy—though he leads a metropolitan life, he carries on the pride and heritage of the cowboy tradition in which he was raised.
Spending much of his childhood on his grandfather’s ranch in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Northern Mexico, Pedro learned the hard work of raising livestock. He enjoyed caring for animals and considered studying to become a veterinarian, but something about the vaquero lifestyle held him.
Pedro recalls as a formative moment his grandfather buying him his first pair of truly beautiful boots when he was five years old, when they stopped at the general store in the small town of Zaragoza while driving to the family ranch. Bootmaking demands painstaking diligence, patient work, and respect for tradition. These qualities speak to the values of the cowboy lifestyle, and they resonated deeply with Pedro.
In 1974, when Pedro was a young man in college, his father took him to Mr. Martinez, his father’s personal boot maker in Ciudad Juárez, to have made Pedro’s first custom pair. He grew fascinated with the traditional process of boot making, and, finding himself inundated with requests from friends for beautiful leather cowboy boots like the ones he wore, he decided to fully commit to the business. Five years later he met José Gallegos and Plutarco Rodriguez, whose experience and knowledge he credits with helping to form what is now the Stallion Boot & Belt Company.
Making a Stallion Boot
Despite their enormous international demand, every Stallion boot is still made by hand in the traditional fashion by an individual craftsman in Stallion’s workshop: production caps at about seventy per week. There are more than 140 steps involved in creating a basic handcrafted boot, and that count can grow beyond 200 when intricate inlays and patterns are used (for Stallion, they often are).
Ultimately, there is no substitute for skilled hands. Hand construction creates an unmatched level of quality, comfort, and fit. Master craftsmen pull wet leather over the last—a hard casting in the shape of a foot—with expert manipulation, fine yet firm that simply cannot be replicated by a machine.
Stallion Boots are wearable art. Cowboy pride demands the highest level of quality, durability, and comfort for every item that bears the brand name, yet Stallion also asserts the value of individuality. They believe that each handmade boot carries the unique character of the artist who creates it.
For owner Pedro Muñoz, this process may be difficult, but it is not complicated. He sees a right way to make boots, and no other way will do. He travels extensively to personally source Stallion’s exceptional materials, which include skins from Nile crocodiles, French calves, American bison, ostriches, lizards, stingrays, as well as jewels and adornments from all over the world. His process is really a way of life, directing his work and defining who he is, and it is a living part of the iconic history and heritage of the cowboy.