For the LOVE of Boots
By Danna Burns-Shaw
The first year of the1980’s was memorable for political drama, cable TV (which included the first 24/7 news channel), addictive video games and the movie release of Urban Cowboy. The movie would inspire a new generation of cowboy hat and boot enthusiasts that would forever change the western wear industry.
Pedro Muñoz’s venture into the fashion boot industry began that same year at the height of the Urban Cowboy craze.
“I was 23 years old, studying chemistry and biology, hoping to become a veterinarian,” he said. “There were two main industries in El Paso at the time – the jean business and the boot business. After Urban Cowboy came out, people wanted cowboy boots. I loved cowboy boots and thought the boot business in El Paso had great potential, so that’s what I did.” Stallion Boot Company was founded that year (1980) by Muñoz and his two partners, Jose Gallegos and Plutarco Rodriguez. “There were three of us, two master boot makers and me, a 23 year old, new at making boots. I had $2000, and that was borrowed,” laughed Pedro.
“In 1980 we filled a very small niche,” Muñoz said. “Not very many customers wanted designed, custom-made, high-end boots at that time. For me, that was my market. Otherwise, to manufacture en masse and to compete with the big guys would have been impossible. I would have ended up out of business. I just started to fill niches for people who wanted a better made boot.”
Little did Pedro know that filling that “niche” of building a better made boot would find him and his company featured in many magazines, newspapers and publications such as the New York Times, the Art of the Boot by the late Tyler Beard and that Stallion Boot Company would be named one of the Top 25 Boot Makers in 2002.
Being a native of El Paso, Pedro is very proud of his roots and the fact the city has been named the boot capital of the world, which he and his team are an intricate part of that designation.
“What El Paso has been able to provide for myself is an understanding of the biculturalism that exists here, because I grew up that way, so that was a big advantage to me,” he said. “Now, when I travel throughout the world, I have no assumption about anybody else’s cultural beliefs or standards. If I am willing and wanting to do business or pleasure, I need to fit my way of thinking to that of the people of the area. Having that exposure of being here gave me that understanding.”
It was with humble beginnings that Pedro began his love affair with cowboy boots. “As a young man, I was brought up on a ranch in Chihuahua,” Muñoz recollects fondly. “My grandfather took me to one of those general stores in Zaragoza, Mexico, that had everything you can imagine. He had taken me for the first time to the ranch when I was about 5 years old. He told me I couldn’t go up to the ranch without a pair of cowboy boots. I wore those old boots until they wore down to nothing.” Muñoz smiled at the memory of his mother’s reaction. “My mother used to have me dressed up very nice all the time, she always tells her friends that when my grandfather brought me back from that trip, I had cow manure on my hair and my ears and I was a totally changed man. That’s where my love of Western wear began.”
When you meet Pedro, his passion and enthusiasm are contagious. He oozes charisma. Standing up and designing boots with him (because he rarely sits down), you are instantly drawn into his inspiration and creativity.
My favorite place in the shop is their remarkable leather room. Pedro is a master at finding the most unique and highest quality leathers from around the world. He will even purchase skins from the crust and send it to the best tanners in Japan to have special one-of-a-kind coloring and dyes applied. Alligator, Nile crocodile and horse hides are some of his finest leathers, however you will find every legal skin in his unbelievable leather library.
New York Times writer, Armand Limnander, stated, “There is one El Paso local who has powerhouses like Dolce & Gabbana, Dior and Ralph Lauren, coming here for inspiration.”
Stallion is known for their impeccable finish, every centimeter of the boot is flawless. Their demand for excellence is evident when you pick them up and inspect all the incredible details.
Tyler Beard stated in his book, Art of the Boot, “Pedro you have a great talent for taking a single vintage boot detail, superimposing a contemporary idea on that design, and making a new and improved classic.”
Pedro loves to study old boots and design a modern version. “I am only the conductor. I design the boot, but our employees bring them to life. Without the right musicians, we don’t make beautiful music.” A Stallion Boot begins with imagination. It is then turned over to the team of expert hands, which turn a thought into a lifetime wearable work of art.
Stallion’s small production shop makes a handful of high-end boots per day. Prices start at a $1000 and up. Many of the Stallion boot makers have over 40 years of experience and have brought their sons and grandsons into the boot-building business. This multi-generational trade is truly a gem in today’s world.
Pedro’s adventurous, free-spirit has taken him all over the world promoting and placing his footwear in countries such as Switzerland, Japan, Germany and France. His clients include Madonna, Robert Plant, Bob Dylan, Ashley Judd and Tom Cruise, to name a few.
Pedro Muñoz is now the sole owner of Stallion Boot and Belt Company, but he doesn’t do it by himself; Pedro has a unique partner that knows the Stallion Boots business completely, his ex-wife Annette Lawrence. Annette had worked at Stallion off and on while raising their children. When they divorced, Annette quit Stallion and went into the restaurant business. Annette is an incredible cook/chef and a smart business woman; this paired with an incredible work ethic, made her restaurant flourish. Years later, after Pedro had hired several different office managers, he knew he needed Annette’s savvy business sense back at Stallion. Annette, growing weary of the demands of owning and operating a restaurant, decided to close her restaurant and in 2012, she agreed to come back on as Vice President of the Stallion Boot Company. Annette currently oversees many aspects of the business. Their son, Alejandro, is helping his parents with the electronic side of business. He takes photos, does computer work, orders materials and helps with organization. Their daughter, Annette, helps with all the accounting, fish & wildlife permits, among other things. Another daughter, Vanessa Muñoz –Pretzell, lives in Berlin and helps with the European stores and customers. Vanessa carries a small inventory; offering iconic western boots to a European culture that loves quality.
The Muñoz children have learned different aspects of the business from both of their parents.
It has been almost 38 years since the release of Urban Cowboy; a movie that stirred the interest of a young man infatuated with boots. Now the Muñoz family employs 20 skilled boot makers that work with them, producing roughly 40 to 50 pairs of boots per week. Their goal is to create a boot-making legacy of the highest standard in craftsmanship and design in a production cowboy boot.
What’s next for Stallion Boot Company? Pedro has bought land in New Mexico and has a dream to open a larger shop, hire and train more boot makers and bump his production up to a max capacity of 200 pair per week. His love and passion for boots has only grown over the years, and one thing is for sure, if you ever pull on a pair of remarkable Stallion Boots – you too will get the boot bug. Beware: they come with an addiction warning!
Stallion Boots & Leather Goods
100 North Cotton Street
El Paso, TX 79901