Aspen’s favorite hat brand, Kemo Sabe, now makes custom boots

On the heels of his pop-up in Houston’s Rice Village during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the venerable Aspen-based hatter has announced his first-ever collection of cowboy boots.

After a recent acquisition of the JB Hill boot factory in El Paso due to the retirement of the owner – Kemo Sabe retained all employees – the outfitter synonymous with the après-ski lifestyle has rolled out fully customizable styles for men and women. Choosing from leathers, suedes and exotic skins in a range of options, including a classic cordage for men and a shorty for women, the boots can be adjusted in store down to heel height, shape of the toes and point style, for a period of approximately eight weeks.

Or, like Kemo Sabe’s hats, a customer can add bespoke touches, including a monogram on the boot pull tab, custom stitching, handmade embellishments, or “anything you can imagine,” a said owner Wendy Kunkle – even a depiction of a beloved pet dog on the front panel. “The sky’s the limit with boots, you can be extremely creative.”

Kemo Sabe’s Kate Valdmanis adds that the eponymous collection, which is offered alongside boot brands such as Mercedes’ Rios, is “timeless and classic and nothing overly designed or overly trendy…20 years from now this boot is still absolutely gorgeous and wearable.”

In addition to black, browns and metallics, limited seasonal offerings will be available, such as a shocking pink python. Kunkle expects its large Texas customer base, often vacationing in the cities where it has stores, to be receptive to the new offering. “In our Texas pop-ups, they’re the nicest, kindest people on the planet,” she said.

When the Kemo Sabe team was in Houston this spring, the pair said they were warmly greeted by patrons who split their time between Houston and the Rockies, arranging impromptu rodeo invites and intimate dinner parties. “I feel like everyone in Houston, they’re like us, they want to create fun,” Valdmanis said. In the flagship store, Houston shoppers often greet each other by name. “They come in and laugh, ‘Everyone comes to Aspen to buy hats and boots.'”

He’s just the type of shopper who will work with the team to design a pair that’s distinctly their own. “It’s an experience, making friends, having a drink, telling stories, making memories,” Valdmanis said. “It becomes so much more than buying a pair of cowboy boots.”

Prices for custom boots start at $775 at Kemo Sabe stores in Aspen, Las Vegas and Vail;

Allison Bagley is a writer in Houston.

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