One aspect of Texas that I gave into, was boots. I admit it! I own cowboy  boots. Despite my family’s everlasting horror, I wear them even when I go home to California. They are probably the most comfortable shoes I own. That said, I wish I had waited to get boots like the ones that this man creates. He has been making custom boots by hand for 57 years. He builds his own tools, stitches each design and cobbles it together in his workshop. Each boot is precise and perfectly fitted to the person who ordered it. As someone who simply went into a boot shop and tried on various pairs, I wish I could say I had a pair of these instead. They were beautiful. And now after 57 years he is closing his shop and retiring. Despite having 12 children (yes, 12! His wife is a champ.) none of them are following in his footsteps. So another little piece of history and craft is disappearing. I wish it weren’t so.

A giant boot covered in photos of custom boots created by Alex Andrade sits in his shop Tuesday. In the center of the collage is a picture of Andrade when he was younger with boots in his shop. Andrade has created custom boots for 57 years and is now readying himself for retirement.

Alex Andrade applies powder to a stencil over leather to show how he creates the patterns for the stitching on boots Tuesday. Andrade is Refugio’s only boot-maker and has been creating boots for 57 years.

 

Alex Andrade's boot making tools sit atop a sketch he drew of his first shoe shining box. Andrade started as a shoe shiner but learned the trade and eventually opened his own shop in Refugio. He is Refugio's only boot maker and after 57 years, he is closing up shop to retire. "I make all my own tools." he said. Customers often provide the leather, but he transforms the leather into beautiful personalized boots for his customers.

 

The first shoe made by Alex Andrade in 1954 sits atop his counter as he describes his years of working his way from a shoe shiner to a boot maker Tuesday. On the bottom of the boot there is a carving that says "Made by Aleios A. 1954" Andrade has been making boots for 57 years and is now going into retirement.

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