These Boots Were Made for Gawking

`LUCCHESE is the Rolls Royce of boots,'' says Greg Bournazos, manager for Helen's, a Western-wear store in Boston. Pronounced loo-KAY-say, the boots hail from San Antonio, Texas where the Lucchese family settled in 1880 after immigrating from Italy. At first, they made boots for the calvary. As time went on, the military boots gave way to Western boots, worn strictly for working in those days.

Today, although Lucchese boots may be worn by more businessmen than cattlehands, they are still handmade with what's considered to be the cr`eme de la cr`eme in craftsmanship and materials.

``We only work with the best that money can buy,'' says company manager Gary Killey.

For starters: the ``finest'' leather, 52 lemonwood pegs driven into the bottom of each boot, and a 4-inch steel shank as part of the support system.

The average pair requires 25 man hours and is worn for 10 to 12 years. ``Once we have a customer, we have them for life,'' says Mr. Killey, who praises the boots' fit and comfort. Sizes range from 6 to 15 AAA to EEE for men; 4 1/2 to 10 AAA to C for women.

Although Lucchese uses some exotic skins - alligator, ostrich, hornback lizard, teju lizard, and very rare anteater (but no endangered species) - their boots are considered conservative, not flamboyant.

They have also done a lot of globetrotting, as they are popular in Germany, Australia, Japan, and France. ``One of our largest dealers is in Paris,'' says Killey. The No. 1 color is black.

Ask boot buffs what the ``best'' cowboy boot is, and they are likely to blurt out ``Lucchese.''

Lucchese fans range from business executives and politicians to basketball and rock stars; even some real cowboys and ordinary consumers. The year 1990 was a record-breaking year for Lucchese, according to Killey.

``Lucchese are my dream boots,'' says David Kaufman, a student who eyes them in a Boston store.

Notable owners of Lucchese boots include: President Bush (He ``has certainly more than one pair,'' says Killey), Michael Jordan, Tina Turner, Jean Autrey, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Arsenio Hall, and the Moody Blues, country singer Doug Stone, baseball hall of famer Willie Stargell.

``We made all of John Wayne's boots through his entire career,'' says Killey.

``A lot of our celebrities like their name and initials and stitch patterns done especially for them,'' he adds.

Lucchese's prices range from $400 to $4,000.

``We charge a lot, but you get a lot for it,'' says Killey, who adds that one customer just ordered his 147th pair. Another bought 14 pairs in just one afternoon. Killey owns ``more than 30.''

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