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There’s a campfire truism in the cow country that a cowboy demands real quality in only two things…his boots and his saddle. Catering to the former demand has brought Tony Lama from an army shoe repairman to once of the most successful boot makers in the United states.Actually Tony Lama’s customers today range from Texas oilman and movie stars to working cowboys-and Lama boots are sold from coast to coast. Western movie and television star Rex Allen orders hi Lama boots in an exlusive pattern used only in boots made for him. Slim Pickens, another western movie star, has special feauters built into the regular Lama style he orders. With he exception of a few popular stock style, each pair of  Lama boots in made to a customer’s individual specifications and measurements. It specification and measurements, It takes a little longer but there’s nothing like custom-made boots for comfort and appearance. You can order Lama boots trough any dealer and take your choice of toe and heel style, patterns, patterns size, and leathers. Since each pair of Lama boots receives individual attention, it costs no more to have a pair made to any standard size if your dealer doesn’t have your fit in stock. To this day, every pair of boots sold with the famous Tony Lama brand is hand-lasted. Lama has a  true craft man’s disdain for ” Machine-made boots”. He’ll be the first to admit that plenty of city slickers are wearing high-heeled footwear these days, but he’ll add that they’re still getting old fashioned quality and exquisite attention to detail when they order from Lama’s. Tony Lama had learned leathers work in his home town of Syracuse, N.Y., and 1913 was a shoe repairman with old Sixth Infantry. After his transfer to old Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, he become a dyed-in-the-wool westerner, and when his army hitch was over he opened up shop at 109 E. Overland street. Lama put his money dreams into selling neighbors fine boots. His sales have grown steadily since he opened shop in 1919, to its present flourishing status in a factory employing 130 person. Today the Tony Lama Factory turns out nearly 200 pair of quality boots a day. In those days, Lama customers were mostly people who bought boots for a purpose-such as protecting their legs from west Texas cactus,  that would hang in a stirrup when a mean-tempered cow pony got to rarin’ around. Today, of course, cattle-rich Texans have been known to torn up at fancy dress balls complete in white tie and tails and high heeled cowboy boots. So demand now is for ever fancier footwear. Inlaid leathers, all-over stitching, and even precious stones and metals are used to enhance the apparence. At the same time boot tops reached higher than a top hand on saturday night. All this changed from two to there inches tall and boots tops were  about 10 inches in the height. Stitcing was only, two or there rows, sufficient to stiffen the top of the boot. The popularity of wester wear, boots in particular, grew rapidly during World War II. Northerners and easterners were transferred west and took newly ecquired cowboy boots home with them. Tony Lama boots tramped the buttelfield of Europe and island of Pacific, and westerners transferred to other parts of America. Brought their boots with them. It wasen’t long before the whole country learned about western wear and a pair of boots was the first item they purchased. The change in leather helped ste the pace. For years, Kidskin was standard choice for boots tops, with vamps of calf and cowhide. Sharkskin, although an unusual leather to the layman, has been used for years, bet newer on the scene is alligator at that. Lama says the leather used must be from one of the big crawlers that has reached at least 40 years, an then it must be carefully selected from his flippers and the underpart of his forelegs. Alligator is used mostly on the boot vamp, and, as any gal who has longed for a new alligator  purse and shoes know, the price is high. In fact it has almost quadrupled in recent years. Another exotic leather employed for many years is kangaroo. Noted for its pliability and softness, it is a favorite with leather workers and boots wearers alike. Recently  Tony Lama added another first by acquiring exclusive rights on a Benedictine-tanned aniline-dyed kangaroo leather in which   the penetrating aniline dye brings out the natural beauty and lustre of the leather hanching the surface details and leathers grain. This aniline dye contains no pigment to discolor the handsome golden tone fish that result.In fact , nowadays the man with a yen for something different can just about have his choice of the new and unusual…the range covers ostrich, seal, and pigskin leathers, plus imported fancy leathers from all over Europe-Italy, France, Sweden, Denmark, and Holland. A couple of other continents make boot making an international affair when you consider that all the kangaroo leathers come from Australia and most of the Gator skins come from Brazil. Where once  Where once the range hand would have sniffed in disdain at a pair of boots in anything but conservative browns and blacks, today’s customers choose all the colors of rainbow, the brighter the better! New dyes have made this possible, along with the development of distinctive leather patterns and finishes. Probably Lama reached the pinnacle of fancy boot making several years ago when he personally crafted a pair of “dream Boots”. The boots, named “El Ray”, took 18 month to design and make, and were  valued at $ 5.000. They the exhibited in major cities around the country and drew large crowds, made up of many people who never paid more than $9.95 for a pair of shoes. Their trim included four large diamonds, eight rubies, and four emeralds, painstakingly set in platinum on each top made of dazzling gold and silver kid. The final protoof of their desirability is not a happy one.While the boots were on display in a Florida store, a thief a heaved a brick through the glass window and made off with them. How ever, it is doubtful if he will ever enjoy wearing his prize, because the boots are so distinctive that the wearer would be spotted anywhere in the world. Customer-wise, Tony Lama scaled the heights of fame several years ago when Harry S.Truman, then president of the United States, tugged on his first pair of Lama-made boots. Like new automobiles, paintings, and sail boats, notables boots are given appropriate names. Truman’s were naturally  named “El Presidente,”and Lama put all his knowledge and know-how into making them worthy of a president .The boots were size 9D with kangaroo vamp and kid leather tops, inlaid with gold and silver. they Were presented personally to Truman by Tony’s son Joseph Lama. Californi’s movie colony comprises one of Lama’s big sales areas and notables such as Joel McCrea and Keenan Wynn are on his customers list. Closer to home is El Paso’s own federal Judge, R.E.Thomason, who served for many years as one of west Texas’ best loved Congressmen. He orders his boots custom-made, and his foot last is one of the many kept on hand to insure perfect fit for every pair. In fact, once you’ve had a pair of boots Custom-made at Tony Lama’s, your measurements are always on file. Over 50,000 measurement charts are on file at Lama’s. Customers with unusual measurements who order several pair of boots a year have their own last kept on file in the factory. Boot from Tony Lama are shipped all over the world. Another thing that gives an old world flavor to the Lama bootery is the fact that it is largely a family affair.Tony is still active, but the younger generation is taking over the growing business. Three sons and tow-sons-in-law are in the business and three daughters still help out in the factory office.

Thanks to Western Horseman magazine 1950s