Michael Anthony Carnacchi, a native of Detroit, Michigan, came west on his Harley in 1987 and learned his craft from legendary bootmaker Jack Reed of Burnet, Texas.
As a cobbler, Michael observed that the quality of factory-made boots has been rapidly declining. He figured that there would always be people willing to pay for the best, so he studied bootmaking in Texas and then started hand-making boots the old-fashioned way . . . one pair at a time. Like Jack Reed, Michael operates a one-man shop where the entire boot, including the stitching, is done by him. He makes his boots in a small workroom in a shop on North Main Street in downtown Sebastopol, in Sonoma County, California. He sells a number of boots in southern California, so he makes quarterly trips to fit customers there.
He takes eight to ten measurements on each foot to guarantee a perfect fit. "There are 372 steps to making a pair of custom Western boots and I do every one of them. It's just me," says Michael. There are just about as many options in ordering a pair of custom boots. You have to choose the toe style, heel height, shaft height, stitch patterns, color and type of leather, plain or fancy. Tall shafts, and heels up to three inches high, are available.
Michael prefers using French or German calf leather, as well as ostrich and alligator skin, for most of his boots, but he's prepared to craft boots from the skins of deer, emu, mule, snake, or lizard. "I will make a pair of boots from any hide that is not an endangered species," he says.
A basic, $2000 pair of boots requires at least 50 hours of labor. The most expensive pairs of boots can run $7,500 and utilize exotic materials and take many hours to make. The leather alone for a basic pair of boots is $200. Michael says, "I figure I earn $11 an hour when I make a pair of boots. I'm not getting rich doing this, but bootmaking is a dying art that I love and want to preserve. If you have never had a pair of Western boots handmade exclusively for your feet then you have never really worn a pair of boots. Unfortunately most cowboys can't afford my boots."
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