From Wyoming: From Saddle Maker to Boot Maker
Trajan Vieira grew up on a family spread in central California where as a teenager, he explained, “We used to make our own saddles. Horseback riding was a big part of my life and I actually won a rodeo scholarship to attend West Hills College, where I majored in animal science. “After college Trajan liked to travel riding in rodeos, taking jobs making saddles and other ranch related work. It was in Cody, Wyoming, where he met his wife and where he first realized that he wanted to be a bootmaker. He was not interested in high production, but in very detailed work. To learn the intricacies, he traveled to Texas where he took an intensive three week curriculum given by Carl Chappell, a third-generation boot maker.
Today Trajan is the owner of Mercury Leatherworks in Cody.
When Trajan talks about boot making he talks about “the philosophy of fit.” Measurements of the foot involves about 11 spots including the ball, the instep, calf. There are decisions to be made about design, color, what leather to use, all of which may mean correspondence with customers as far away as Dubai. What color will the design be? Does the customer want butterflies, flowers or something the customer designed. There are swatches of leather to look at. Australian Kangaroo will come most likely from an Italian tannery. Alligator and crocodile are also popular. Trajan inspects his leather carefully. For example, if that animal during his/her life time got into a fight the leather might not be perfect. Trajan makes about 12 pairs of boots a year. Each pair takes as much as 100 hours of work and will cost anywhere from $3,500 to $20,000.
Trajan points out that bootmakers today are a small worldwide community and he seems to know who the revered are. He drops names like John Lobb in London. Who? The one whose family has been in the bootmaking business since 1866 and who wrote the book, The Last Shall Be First: The colourful story of John Lobb the St. James's bootmakers.
It seems that the customer’s relationship with his/her bootmaker never ends. Each customer is sent home with a kit and instructions how to maintain the boot, especially how to protect them from mud and wetness. If need be the boots may be sent back to repair the last, soles, heels or to rebuild the whole bottoms. Very much like maintaining your car.