When My Obsession Became My Personal Brand

Jan 04

It started innocently enough. I was 12 and needed a pair of cowboy boots for horseback riding. My mother took me to a farm supply store and bought me a pair of Wrangler boots for $27. Instantly I was transformed from awkward ‘tween to bona fide cowgirl.

Those boots saw a lot of action; three seasons of horse shows to be exact. Sadly, the relationship ended though when a 1200-pound horse leaped over a puddle, catching the back of my boot and tearing off the sole. There was no saving them.

Fast-forward 30 years. While on a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I came across a custom cowboy boot store. Stepping through the door, my eyes bugged out of my head when I saw two rooms of floor-to-ceiling boots.

This was not the farm supply store of my childhood. While there were hundreds of boots on display, not a one was for sale. They were all samples of what could be had from top makers like Rocketbuster Boots, Liberty Boots and Tres Outlaws. Before I made it to the second room, I’d committed to my first pair of custom cowboy boots, a pair of Day of the Dead peewees.

As the years passed, I added to my collection of boots. Some tooled. Some with crystals. Others with fringe. I also had a practical pair made by an old fellow in El Paso to accommodate my spurs. I loved them. My horse not so much.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I became friends with Nevena Christi of Rocketbuster, makers of over-the-top custom boots. Nevena is amazingly creative and one year at her annual trunk show in Santa Fe, she asked me what I wanted on my new pair of boots. Out of nowhere this popped out of my mouth:

Chinese dragons.

Where. Did. That. Come. From?

Before I could backtrack, Nevena enthusiastically said, “Yes” and we were off to the races to create the world’s first-ever Chinese dragon cowboy boots.

Nevena slaved over the design of those boots, spending long nights hunched over her desk in her restored move theater house with a glass of wine figuring out just how to wrap a dragon around the shaft and tops of the boots. After weeks of sketching, she emailed me the final design. Perfect! Five months later, the tooled and hand-painted dragon boots were delivered to my door, and they were unlike any boots I’d ever seen. Nevena had even included a few well-placed crystals in the boots, including red ones on the eyes.

In the early days of my boot collecting, I was reluctant to wear them to work and draw attention. Eventually I embraced my obsession and wore the Virgin of Guadalupe boots to church, the dragons to meetings for my branding and freelance writing business, Lux-Writes; and the BoHo tall tops to art events. I added cowboy boots to my website, business cards and social media platforms.

Before I knew it, cowboy boots were my personal brand and a recognizable one at that. At one new client meeting, the CEO came out of his office and asked, “I want to see the boots!”

I’m up to 30 pairs now and I always swear the newest pair is my last. But like most things in life, I’ve learned it’s best never to say never.

Especially when I see my friend Nevena….




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