Q: Though I live in Washington, D.C., I was born and bred in Austin. I love shoes. I have a pair of cowboy boots from a proper Texas boot shop, but they just don’t cut it. I want Golden Goose cowboy boots. Is this a grave sin? Will wearing designer boots negatively affect my Texas bona fides? I love my state. I love being Texan. But I also love Golden Goose.
Amil Sumaiya Malik, Washington, D.C.
A: The shoe section of the Texanist’s wardrobe, readers may be surprised to learn, is an overflowing embarrassment of riches—though the Texanist’s missus has been heard to describe it more pointedly as an “overflowing embarrassment,” period. Either way, among its leathery bounty are two old pairs of brown rough-out ropers, a rubber-soled pair of Justins that are extremely beaten up, and a leather-soled pair of Luccheses that are relatively less beaten up. There’s also a pair of brown Red Wing work boots that feature a comfortable lower walking heel, a slightly fancier pair of supple brown calf leather Luccheses, and a smart-looking pair that were custom-crafted by Camargo’s Western Boots, in the Rio Grande Valley town of Mercedes. Also occupying this impressive rack are some eighties-era Willie Nelson–style New Balance sneakers, a pair of penny loafers, and a set of first-generation Crocs in navy blue.
So, you see, Ms. Malik, the Texanist can relate to your footgear fanaticism. And while he has no way of knowing exactly where you choose to sport your current boots, he can tell you that the various occasions and events and undertakings for which he might slip into a particular pair of his own boots are wide-ranging: scooting around a dance floor, striding around out in the field, puttering around the house, sitting in the conference room, attending a football game, or socializing at all manner of informal gatherings and soirees.
Note that nowhere in that list did the Texanist mention cattle herding, cattle doctoring, cattle birthing, cattle branding, cattle castrating, saddle breaking, horseshoeing, fence building, fence mending, lasso throwing, rodeoing, jaw harp playing, chaps wearing, or, really, any kind of actual real-world cowboy doings. The reason for this is simple: the Texanist is a magazine advice columnist, not a working cowboy, though he does occasionally choose to wear his woolly chaps around the office.
But he’s also not an outlier. As pretty much everyone knows, the majority of today’s wearers of cowboy boots are not, in fact, cowboys. Or cowgirls, either. They’re everyday people—folks just like you, Ms. Malik, and the Texanist too.
Still, one can’t rightly talk about cowboy boots without talking about cowboys—both nineteenth-century cowboys, who essentially invented the cowboy boot as we know it, and modern-day cowboys, who carry on the
cowboying tradition. For such cusses boots were and are a utilitarian necessity: tall shafts protect the legs, tall heels help keep the foot in the stirrup, and sturdy insteps are well suited to sturdy work. The boot’s importance to these early Texans and its lingering significance is why it was chosen to serve as our official footwear, so proclaimed by the Eightieth Texas Legislature, in 2007.
Among the historic and familiar bootmakers mentioned in that legislation—H. J. “Big Daddy Joe” Justin, Tony Lama, Lucchese, and Nocona Boots—the Texanist does not recall seeing the name “Golden Goose.” In fact, until he opened this letter, the Texanist had never heard of the brand. But some basic internet sleuthing revealed that it is an Italian luxury goods company that was founded in Venice in 2000 and is best known for selling sneakers that have been distressed to the point that they could be fairly described as beaten up.
But because they’re beaten up by hand, each in a unique manner, the adult versions sell at upscale retailers such as Neiman Marcus for anywhere from $525 (for the down-home “Superstar Mixed Leather Sneakers”) to $1,725 (for the downright grimy-looking “Superstar Crystal-
Embellished Canvas Sneakers”). (The baby-size versions start at a much more reasonable $205.)
The Texanist will hold his fire on the subject of forking over hard-earned greenbacks for any piece of clothing or accessory that has been in any way pre-faded, pre-ripped, pre-crushed-up, pre-washed, or, yuck, pre-soiled and get straight to the crux of the query at hand: Are fancy cowboy boots that are made by a fancy Italian designer and purchased in a fancy department store less authentic than somewhat less fancy boots purchased in a relatively less fancy Texas boot shop? And will wearing such boots negatively affect one’s Lone Star bona fides?
To this, folks might again be a little surprised to learn, the Texanist would say, not necessarily. If the Golden Goose (Golden Geese? Golden Gooses?) are well-made and sturdy, look like cowboy boots, and smell like cowboy boots (the Texanist is referring to the rich smell of tanned leather, not cow manure), then who’s to say they are not the genuine article?
For the sake of thoroughness, the Texanist even gave the GG website a quick perusing. And while he wasn’t able to put his nose to the products, the cowboy boots displayed there did look like cowboy boots and appeared to be caringly crafted. The “Wish Star” line even features a Lone Star on the shaft (with, oddly, one point missing), much like the Lone Stars that early Texas cowboys had bootmakers embellish on their shafts. Though GG doesn’t deal in men’s boots, its women’s selection doesn’t appear to be completely ridiculous to the Texanist’s eye. And the prices—$790 for the “Wish Star low-heeled boots in black leather with canary yellow inlay details”—seem fairly comparable to the cost of a women’s Lucchese.
Sam Lucchese, founder of Lucchese, probably Texas’s best-known bootmaker, was himself, by the way, Italian, just like the Golden Goose brand. And though the Texanist’s Luccheses might have been made in El Paso, it’s also possible that they were made in Brazil, China, or Mexico. (The Texanist’s beloved Red Wings, truth be told, are Minnesotan, though his Camargos were definitely made by hand in Mercedes.)
At the end of the day, Ms. Malik, what’s most important is not so much where your boots are from or how fancy they are, but where your head is at. If purchasing and wearing these coveted Golden Goose boots will provide you with a sense of home-state pride, then by all means proceed. The Texanist bets his bottom dollar that nary a soul will ever question your Texas bona fides because of them—at least not there on the streets of our nation’s capital.
In bocca al lupo! And thanks for the letter!
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.
This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “The Texanist.” Subscribe today.