This is a story about boots. But it’s also about boots, italicized, the platonic ideal of bootness. Not until I volunteered to write about buying my first pair of boots—which in these parts is short for cowboy boots—was I informed by my colleagues that the boots I have worn for years aren’t actually boots. So much hangs on a pair of shoelaces.
Our story begins three years ago at a vintage shop on Haskell Avenue. Our protagonist from the Northeast wanders past the Shriner kitsch and deer-antler Bowie knives to the boots section of Dolly Python. He isn’t seeking boots, not seeking much of anything, really. Maybe subconsciously seeking acceptance in his new hometown, though, he is pulled to the racks of busted and worn boots. I’ve lived here for a year, right? Maybe it’s time to get some boots. Not a hat yet, but at least some boots. Yes, boots would be good. He begins to browse.
His eyes settle on a pair of lace-up Justins, two-tone. The stippled leather on the bottom is capped by a restrained stitching, while the upper part is crisscrossed by laces. On the soles, there’s a quarter-size hole where the interior leather pokes through. The tops slouch and fall when they’re placed next to the cash register. For our protagonist, the laces offer some familiarity, a slower transition from there to here, but they’re Western, no doubt. Call them boots with training wheels. They’re $27. And they’re perfect.
He takes them home and wears them for months until the holes become half-dollars. Then he has them resoled, because they’ve become indispensable. He wears them to shoot skeet at a ranch outside Abilene, then dusts them off for semiformal events with a jacket and tie. These boots. They’re his boots.
A year later, a childhood friend visits from London.
“I need a pair of boots,” he says.
The pair heads back to Dolly Python, back to the boot rack. It’s a fresh start, a whole new selection. They finger a pair of eggplant Luccheses, more flashy, more expensive than the Justins. No laces. Boots, if that helps. The friend makes a move our protagonist couldn’t a year before, skipping the training wheels and going right for the motorcycle. He slides on the Luccheses, flashes them in the mirror, and grins. He picks up the deer-antler Bowie knife and throws that on the counter, too.
The two head out, both wearing their boots. Well, one of them does, anyway.