Texas is famous for its cowboy boots and a boot making tradition that has its earliest roots right here in Nocona, Texas, home of the Fenoglio Boot Company.

NOCONA, TEXAS

In the mid-1800s the storied cattle drives that made cowboys and the boots they wore proud symbols of the Lone Star State had carved the Chisholm Trail through this part of the North Texas Hill Country on the way to northern markets.  Recognizing the cowboys’ needs for reliable, sturdy, comfortable footwear to handle the rough terrain and months spent driving huge herds of cattle on horseback–a journey that could span thousands of miles from Mexico to the northern part of the United States–an enterprising young man named H.J. “Daddy Joe” Justin moved to Spanish Fort, Texas on the banks of the Red River and took up shop making sturdy custom leather boots along the Chisholm Trail for the cowboys passing through.

In a few years’ time word had spread about the quality cowboy boots being made by Justin and with his business growing, Daddy Joe relocated a few miles south to the booming town of Nocona, Texas, where a newly established railroad depot meant a larger market of potential customers and a better connection to Fort Worth with its stockyards and leather tanneries his business would need to meet the growing demand for his boots.

BOOTMAKING TRADITION & HERITAGE

As Daddy Joe’s operation grew from his own vision and leathered hands to the other bootmakers working under him in Nocona, Justin boots became established as one of the earliest innovators of the modern Texas boot style.  By the 1920s, Daddy Joe’s sons had taken over the business and against the wishes of his daughter, Enid, they decided to move Justin Boots to Fort Worth to be closer to the masses of people and the stockyards where leather and cowboys were plentiful.  Enid stayed behind for good reason.

The boot making tradition in Nocona might have died that year that the Justin boys took their boot company away had it not been for their strong-willed and enterprising sister who came to be known by all who admired her as Miss Enid.  She was an early feminist entrepreneur who decided to keep the family business alive in Nocona, despite the discouragement of her brothers, because she believed that it was her daddy’s wish that the boot company always remain in Nocona, a town that had been good to their family from the beginning.  She launched the Nocona Boot Company in direct competition with her brothers in 1925 and over the course of the next 80 years the company grew and prospered under her leadership through the wars and cowboy craze of the mid-century and by the late 20th Century, thanks to their quality and attractive styling, Nocona boots had become one of the most famous and respected of the Texas boot brands.

But times were changing, and though the Texas boot industry had weathered many ups and downs over the course of its 100 plus years of tradition, tastes were evolving and that meant lower boot sales.  Outsourcing was beginning to put its pressure on once venerable US companies and with Miss Enid’s death in 1990, it looked once again as if the town’s boot making days and its fame as a leather goods hub were numbered.

Justin Industries bought out the Nocona brand and in 1999 they closed down the sprawling Art Deco-inspired factory that Miss Enid built on the outskirts of town and moved production of the boots to Mexico, which many in Nocona felt was sacrilegious–a Texas boot should be made in Texas, not in Mexico or China.  That was a tradition that began here.  It was a tradition that a few skilled bootmakers who were left without a job when the boot company closed down decided to keep alive.

FENOGLIO BOOT CO.

In 2001 a handful of seasoned bootmakers in Nocona, Texas and a few new faces bent on keeping the business going launched the Montague Boot Company and opened their factory in the same brick building off Main Street where Enid Justin had started her famous boot business in Nocona in 1925.  From the outset, this new boot company competed with what had become a few giants of the boot industry who had seen their operations grow immensely through outsourcing of their boot production to foreign countries near and afar.

But that was not the business model that grew up here in Nocona, Texas in the spirit of Daddy Joe and Miss Enid and all those many boot makers who have called this town home for the past 150 years.  As the small group of men and women persevered in building boots the traditional way, and though theirs was a small operation through the mid-2000s, they were able to keep the boot making tradition alive long enough for another famous Nocona family, the Fenoglios–whose relatives had first settled this land back in the 1886–to take the reins and chart new and exciting courses in both traditional and modern boot making.  The Fenoglio Boot Co. is fast-becoming a brand that not only locals but all Texans and foreigners alike value for the fine materials and workmanship, the finest in Texas boots, once again being made right here in Nocona the right way.

Today the Fenoglio Boot Company continues to employ skilled bootmakers who take pride in making high-quality boots to last a lifetime in the time-tested, traditional ways.  This is a small operation by the big boot corporations’ standards, and that’s just fine with our boot makers here in Nocona, some of whom have been crafting boots for over 40 years.  The only standards that the Fenoglio Boot Co. abides by are to build the highest of quality, truly Texas-made boots of full-leather construction and traditional materials like lemonwood pegs and stacked leather heels the way they were intended to be made.  These are big boots to fill, but the Fenoglios and their boot making family here truly believe in living up to the company motto: There’s nothing finer than Fenoglio.