In 1941, Edwin Martin wasn’t looking to be the next great Amarillo boot maker. Having dropped out of school in fifth grade, Martin was just looking for a way to help out his mother financially after his father left. The then 13-year-old Martin found work at a small shoe repair store in Amarillo for $3 a week. Seventy years later, Martin is still making footwear.
The 84-year-old is a custom boot-making marvel. From his home in Las Animas, Colo., Martin shapes and sews the leather gently with his weathered and experienced hands. Making a custom boot is a process that requires more than 40 steps and can take more than 50 hours to complete. But customers willing to pay $900 or more receive exceptional fit and craftsmanship. You haven’t worn shoes until you slip on a pair of handcrafted boots.
“It takes all you have in your being to make a great pair of boots,” says Martin. “You have to be a perfectionist. That’s how I am. You have to strive to learn more every day to improve your product.”
Martin’s boots can be customized in a variety of ways for a variety of looks, fits, and styles. He uses traditional hides like calfskin, ostrich, and alligator but also works with exotics like stingray, eel, and python—all in a rainbow of colors from cherry red and chocolate to royal blue and turquoise and, of course, every shade of brown imaginable.
Martin is one of only seven custom cowboy-boot makers in the state of Colorado and one of only 250 in the country. His workshop, an old boxcar behind his 1920s ranch house, is stocked with blue metal molds or “lasts,” barrels of leather scraps, and old industrial sewing machines.
Martin has had more than a few compliments in his lifetime, and one of the best came from a regular customer a few years back.
“Along with the check for the boots, there was a note that said, ‘As usual, I have a hard time figuring out whether to put them on the mantle or on my feet,’” Martin recalls fondly.