How do I find out more about the Texas Brand Boot Company?
May 2, 2009 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Seeking history of the Texas Brand Boot Company.

I have a pair of vintage ladies cowboy boots, and I'm trying to guesstimate how old they are. They could also possibly be girls boots, because they are a size 5, which is usually a size you find both in kids and women's shoes. The company that made them, Texas Brand Boots (which was actually based in Tennessee), seems to be defunct as of the past few years. Apparently, their niche was affordable American-made boots. The oldest mention I can find of them are late '70s print ads on eBay.

My boots seem older than late '70s due to the style, construction, and materials, even compared to the ones in the ads and on eBay. I have no way of confirming this, however, without more info on whether the company even existed before that. I don't care if they're not older, since I bought them for their looks, not their age, but I'm just curious.

Does anyone know where I can find more info on this company's history? Or know that they were around before 1978?
posted by fructose to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Here is a record of a patent for Texas Brand Boots granted in 1973 to "The United States Shoe Corporation."
posted by XMLicious at 9:38 AM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: I worked for the Texas Boot Company for a number of years in the mid-1970s.

The company was founded by Harry Vise, a German Jew who emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1930s, and by the mid-50s, had wound up working for Acme Boot Company in sales and marketing. While working for Acme, Mr. Vise met "Skeets" Taylor, an innovative boot designer. Mr. Vise eventually had a major falling out with Sidney Cohn at Acme, and decide to start his own boot company, to compete with Acme, making "machine made" boots at popular price points. The company began operations slowly, in the late '50s in Lebanon, TN, first as a reseller of contract boots, but eventually made the jump to being a manufacturer, with its first plant in Lebanon, when Mr. Taylor left Acme to join Mr. Vise. The company competed fiercely with Acme for years, with Acme remaining several times larger, although Texas Boot Company was consistently profitable, and opened a second manufacturing plant in Hartsville, TN in the late '60s. In the meantime, Acme had grown to operating 7 or 8 manufacturing plants in the middle Tennessee region, along with Wrangler, Georgia Boot Company, and a few other makers who had operations in the middle Tennessee area as well.

All those companies did very well during the 1970s, due to the rising interest in country music, capped, in popular culture, by the 1980 movie "Urban Cowboy." In the mid-70s, Harry Vise sold the majority interest in Texas Boot Company to U.S. Shoe Corp. of Cinncinati, OH, a diversified maker of various kinds of footwear, with a long history in ladies shoes, under the Red Cross, Selby, and Capezio brands. But Mr. Vise remained active in control of day to day operations at Texas Boot as its President under U.S. Shoe, and personally oversaw operations, especially sales and marketing, but also, on a weekly basis, production. He was regularly in every plant, and knew the names and families of perhaps 1000 of the production employees, along with their productivity and job history. He was a demanding boss, but a hard worker himself, who was generally at work by 6:30 in the morning and often still in his office at 8:00 in the evening. He was a small man, perhaps 5'7", and spoke with an interesting mixture of a Germanic accent and a Tennessee drawl :-) He constantly wanted to best Acme Boot Company, and viewed them as the principal competition. Mr. Vise also was the patent holder of a number of patents related to the manufacture or design of boots; not all of these were his own ideas, exclusively, although, he came into ownership of the them through supporting the development and pursuing the patents.

By the late 70s, Texas Boot Company decided to open a third manufacturing plant in Smithville, TN, to make a higher quality type of boot, similar to that made by Justin, featuring exotic leather uppers, and hand operations like lemon pegged shanks on 3/4 welt soles. "Machine made" boots differ from traditional cowboy boots in that machines are used to do the lasting and sole attaching operations that are generally done by hand in the most expensive boots. Higher quality boots like Justin or Tony Lama boots may also be mostly machine made, but feature better leathers and more hand work in sole attaching and finishing. Many Acme and Texas grade boots also use synthetic soling materials and linings, to keep costs down, or to fulfill wear requirements for their uses as work boots.

In the 1980s, the Tennessee boot companies came under significant labor organizing pressures from the International Rubber Workers and other unions. At the same time, the removal of protective U.S. shoe tariffs opened the U.S. market to low cost footwear from Brazil, Mexico and the Far East, while at the same time, EPA regulations began to severely damage the fortunes of leather tanners in the U.S. The domestic boot manufacturers, faced with rapidly rising material costs, labor issues, and a flood of low priced import competition quickly scaled back operations, and by the late 1980s, most were a shadow of their former selves.

Those serving the work boot markets persisted longest, and eventually, Mr. Vise and his Texas Boot Company were able to buy the "Acme" brand, and in 2002, sold it to H.H. Brown, a Canadian footwear manufacturer. Mr. Vise had 3 children (two daughters and a son, David), none of whom was interested or regularly active, to my knowledge, in the Texas Boot Company.

As to your question regarding size, the company did make both childrens and ladies boots, along with mens boots. Generally, its childrens boots of that time were made using injection molded soles (link is to a maker of the kind of machines that do this), whereas ladies boots would generally have sewn on 3/4 or full welt construction. The difference was mainly in cost, as injection molded footwear, being cheaper to produce, filled the low cost "costume" niche of childrens boots better. Some injection molded ladies boots were made, along with lots of low cost mens work boots, too, but most women wanting genuine cowboy boots expected welt construction, so there was never much market interest or volume in ladies styles made by injection molding. So, it would be readily apparent whether you have a child or ladies boot, by looking at the means of sole attachment. But also, if you look inside the boot, you may still be able to read the stamped style number. Most ladies styles of that era began with an "L" such as "L1775" whereas child style were often denoted by "C" prefaces as in "C1704". Finally, virtually all childrens boots of that era would have had synthetic (vinyl) linings in the uppers. Ladies boots used, depending on price, both cheaper vinyl linings, or, in more expensive boots, goat, sheep, or cream calfskin linings. So, if your boots have a leather lining, they are most certainly ladies boots.
posted by paulsc at 4:25 PM on May 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Halfway down page 48 of the book Never Waste the Flowers: Vignettes of Life, Love, Learning, and Friendship by Robert L. Smith I found a nifty little story involving Texas Brand boots.
posted by XMLicious at 7:12 PM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, paulsc, I never imagined I could get such great info from here! Thanks so much! Now I know they are definitely ladies boots, because they have the style code starting with L. It says that the insoles are man made, so I assume the rest of the boots are not (the soles are wooden and leather, and maybe rubber on the heel, but they're worn, so I can't tell for sure). Thanks again!
posted by fructose at 7:38 PM on May 2, 2009

« Older Weight training: where to go from here?   |   Help me with my superhero costume! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.