1918 Blucher Custom Boots, Style No. 200

Vera McGinnis

Made for Vera McGinnis, the first Cowgirl to wear pants in the rodeo arena, by the Blucher Custom Boot Company in 1918. This is the pair of boots I reach for whenever someone asks me "How can a pair of cowboy boots be a work of art?".

More than hide and glue and thread and sweat and tools and blood and tears. These boots are. They have a presence. A voice that speaks of life and death and immortality. Everything in-between and ever-after.

If you're an "old hand" here, you know I'm a fan of Blucher boots... they made a boot that walked the walk and talked the talk. Vera McGinnis loved to rodeo. A World Champion Rodeo Trick Rider and Rodeo Relay Rider, Vera wore Blucher Boots.

Vera McGinnis In The Drunken Ride. Pendleton Round Up. W.S. Bowman

In 1934, her racehorse fell. Vera's back was broken in five places. Her neck, her right hip and some ribs were also broken. The doctors told her she would never ride or walk again. Sometimes it's hard, if not impossible, to keep a Cowgirl down. She rode and walked again.

Vera was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1979 and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in 1985. A natural athelete, Vera recalled the day she decided to quit her office job and join the rodeo:
"If I'd pulled up right then, I likely would have missed the years of hardship, heartache, fun, adventure, a smidgen of fame, and finally, a broken body. But I'm glad I didn't, for I can honestly say the glamor never faded. It dimmed once in a while when I was hurt or overworked, but after a rest I always felt that I wouldn't trade being a rodeo cowgirl for any other profession."
- Alva Johnston, "Tenor on Horseback," Saturday Evening Post, September 2, 1939

Licks and kicks aplenty. Hard work and hard knocks. Made tough. Made beautiful. These Blucher Custom boots are as charismatic as the lady that wore them. Vera's autobiography, Rodeo Road; My Life As a Pioneer Cowgirl, is an entertaining recollection of her time.

Vera McGinnis died in 1990.

Her boots are still kicking...

Boot Photography: J. Davis

Blucher Boots, Collection: J. Davis
Vintage Photographs, Collection: J. Davis


1950s Lucchese Cowgirl Boots

Samuel Lucchese started making boots for the U.S. Cavalry in 1883. The Lucchese Bros. shop was in Fort Sam Houston, Texas... a small family-run business, they made very fine boots and shoes. Business was good and the shop was turning out thirty-five pairs of boots a day at the beginning of World War I.

Cosimo Lucchese, Samuel's son, took over the business in the 1920s. Cosimo, a master designer with impeccable taste and a keen eye, was well aware of the "Hollywood vogue" for Western clothes and fanciful boots. Lucchese was soon producing the most elegant, flamboyant and expensive Cowboy and Cowgirl boots money could buy.

Lucchese made these boots for World Champion Bronc Rider Vivian White in the early 1950s. Like the lady that wore them, they are remarkable in all respects. Works of art that add up to more, much more, than the sum of their parts.

Boots with elaborate inlays and overlays. Boots with Rococo wing-tips and counter foxing. Fanciful Baroque stitching. This was Lucchese's "Golden Age". Nothing was impossible or improbable.

Cosimo Lucchese and his team of master boot makers created extraordinary, made-to-measure Western boots. Boots that were ornate, not gaudy. No details were overlooked. No compromises were made.

Lucchese's "Golden Age" came to an end when Cosimo Lucchese died in 1961. His son, Sam Jr., took over the business. He developed an elegant and refined look that's still around today. Under Sam Jr.'s management, the Lucchese Boot Company enjoyed a reputation for using the best quality hides and employing the best craftsmen to make the best "stock" Western boots a man could buy.

Sam Jr. sold the business in 1970. With that sale, the Lucchese name was all that remained. A lack of leadership combined the corporate focus on profitability resulted in a lesser product. The Lucchese name began to suffer and their reputation was trashed over the coming years.

Lucchese has changed hands several times since and regained some of what was lost. Lucchese boots today have Sam Jr.s "look". But that's about as far as it goes. No more custom work to speak of. To their credit, Lucchese is the only factory producing their boots in the USA. The new breed of Lucchese boots are what they are, but they're not for me.

Photography: J. Davis