Wearable Works of Art: Ghost Rider Boots
Is now the golden age of boot making?
GHOST RIDER BOOTS | Product: Apparel + Gear | Made in: Denver
Mickey Mussett worked as a creative in advertising for a quarter of century before going into the boot-making business.
"I used to joke, 'Why are there no old copywriters in advertising?'" he says. "One day, I woke up and found out. I had a long career and a successful career doing it, and I could not get a job."
After working a few temporary jobs, Mussett made the leap to custom cowboy boots in 2003 after learning t he craft from Arvada-based boot guru Dave Hutchings.
Mussett says Hutchings thought he was something of a prodigy.
"He told me, 'I think you have it in you to be one of the best bootmakers in the country,'" Mussett says. "Every bit of it was a total surprise."
He subsequently made the abrupt career shift as a 50-something with a guiding philosophy: "If you're going to do something, do it the very best you can, no matter what."
That's easy to see in his handiwork: Ghost Rider Boots are wearable works of art. Mussett says cowboy boots "truly are an American art form, like jazz."
He adds, "People talk about a golden age in boot-making, but it's a golden age right now. In 15 years, I've never had one day where I didn't have a boot to work on."
Mussett's one-man shop in his Denver garage is like a museum of the tools of the trade. Some machines are new, but some of his tools and machines are about a century old. "This is a never-ending saga," he says. ”How many boot-makers and shoe-makers stood in front of these machines doing their business? How many boot-makers held these tools in their hands and where are they now? These people shod America."
He uses all kinds and colors of leather from cattle, alligators and other animals, and has designed everything from boots sporting designs ranging from flames to Willie Nelson to the logo of the Boston Red Sox.
Mussett typically works on four pairs at a time. Fit is critical, and he mails a kit to those who can't meet him for a measurement. Then he creates the patterns and gets the customers’ stamp of approval, and does a first fitting before sewing on the outer soles and finishing the boots, which typically cost $1,500 to $5,000 a pair.
Boot-making "is a monastic calling," he adds. "That work bench has taught me more about life than anything else. You cannot fake this. Isn't that wonderful? If the boot doesn't fit, the boot doesn't fit."