No Place Like This for Boulet Boots - Wei's Western Wear

No Place Like This for Boulet Boots

How Wei’s Western Wear Worked with Boulet Boots to Produce Custom Wei’s Styles, and Became the Home of One of the Largest Selections of Boulet Boots in the World

Wei’s founder Wei Mah learned the trade of footwear repair in the mid 1950s, and spent long years working into the night, carefully fixing boots and shoes that Central Alberta customers had left for his attention. As his reputation grew, so did his shop.

Wei saw the factors that made good boots last longer, and which parts wore out sooner. He saw where some manufacturers took shortcuts, and that the customers would pay the ultimate price if they bought them.

In 1957, Wei expanded his business into retailing and founded Wei’s Western Wear, and his motto became “we’ll have your size”. Quebec-based Boulet boots were one of the first brands he committed to stocking for customers, because Wei liked Boulet’s quality, fit and craftsmanship.

Wei's founder, Wei Mah

Fast forward 50+ years, and now Chung and Al Mah, sons of Wei, run Wei’s in Red Deer. While every brand fits differently, “we have found Boulet boots fit the majority of our customer's feet,” explains Chung, 2nd generation President of Wei’s Western Wear. “Boulet became an important brand for us to carry.”

In his quest to learn all he could about customer preferences, Wei spent years listening to customers who let him know what features they liked best. As Wei learned even more about what customers wanted, he began to think about making styles that nobody else had.

The custom-made Wei’s Boulet 2041 with bullhide vamp and Roper toe and heel.

So, at some point in the early 1960s, Wei’s Western Wear started carrying custom-made cowboy boots made by Boulet to Wei’s specifications. The result was more than 30 styles of custom-made boots, many of which Wei’s still stocks for customers who want something unique.

These combinations are unique, and they’re a part of the history of Alberta ranching. “These boots are not found in the Boulet catalogue,” says Chung. “Even the style numbers are unique to Wei’s inventory.” In other words, you can’t get these boots anywhere else.

How Wei Designed Custom-Made Boulet Boots

What style factors did Wei choose from?

At One End of the Spectrum: The Riding Boot

Some cowboys or ranchers need to ride on a daily basis, or ride for sport, and riders like cowboy riding heels. A cowboy heel is slanted at the back and this shifts your weight forward just a little towards the balls of your feet, even in the saddle. The slant makes it easier to pull the boot - and your leg - out of the stirrup quickly.

The custom made 7202 Wei’s boot by Boulet with oiled cowhide and cowboy riding heel with U toe. The U toe fits the most like a shoe.

When choosing features for his custom-made Boulet boots, Wei chose a variety of those superior-riding boots.

Some like the spur ledge above the back of the heel, where a rawhide counter can absorb the shock of that spur digging into the leather. Wei made sure to include rawhide counters in some custom Boulet styles.

To make it easier to quickly insert into the stirrup of a restless horse, and easier to remove your foot from that stirrup, the cowboy boot toe is rounded or even pointed in an R toe or a more pointed J toe. The toe may even be “snipped” square for style purposes, producing a snip toe. All of these are best for riding, but not quite as ideal for walking or running.

The height of the cowboy boot is traditionally at least 13-14” tall and could even be 17 inches. This extra shaft length makes riding more comfortable, since your calves will not chafe against the horse. Plus, if you run into the longtime cowboy enemies of sagebrush and snakes, you’re better protected.

The custom made 15” boot with deertan vamp and cowboy riding heel with a round toe, style 9098.

Most of the styles Wei chose had a height of 14 inches to appeal to those working ranchers.

The Other End of the Spectrum: The Roper Boot

Other cowboys and ranchers like the Roper heel. It’s a heel that is squared in front like a shoe heel, and flat at the back which lets your weight rest like a shoe. These are better for running, for example running after a calf that has a mind of its own.

The classic shorter Roper heel and Roper toe with a deertan vamp, custom made for Wei’s in style Boulet 500.

When you think of the cowboy lifestyle and how boots are worn for many different activities over many days, the ease and comfort of a Roper boot might be considered a better multi-purpose boot than a traditional cowboy boot with slanted heel and pointed toe. As well, Roper boots might be a little shorter, say 11-12 inches tall.

“Riding heels and tall tops were the most popular style for many decades,” notes younger brother Al Mah. “More recently, more customers have been asking for lower tops and flatter heels.” That style of boot is the Roper.

While Wei stocked dozens of tall top riding heel styles, he also saw tastes changing and incorporated more Roper styles as they became more and more popular.

The New Style: Wide Square Toe

Today, tastes have changed again and the wide square toe with a Roper-type heel, also called a walking heel, might be the most popular style.

“Boots with wide square toes and flat Roper heels are not as ideal for riding since they’re more prone to getting hung up in the stirrup,” explains Chung, “but they are the fashion right now and we stock lots of styles” in Boulet and several more brands.

“Styles change and evolve,” says Al. “We try to keep a good selection of styles so there is something for everybody.” Al is being modest, since Wei’s has more than 500 styles of Western boots in stock. There are so many that the staff is still working to catalogue them all and get them all on the e-commerce website.

Working with Boulet, Wei’s chose particular leathers and leather combinations, heel and toe combinations, and asked for extra-wide boots. At the same time, he had to be flexible enough to change the style when customer tastes changed.

After 67 years in business, “We like to think we know what our customers want,” says Chung.

“If we tweak the styles that Boulet is offering to something we think our customers would like even better, then we have a good chance of having a really happy customer who has an additional reason for coming back.”

Bring on the Bullhide!

  • Bullhide is also called Taurus. This is a very durable leather that enhances the wearability of the lower part of the boot. Bullhide is tougher than cowhide. It’s thicker, too. Plus, the distinctive wrinkles make each piece unique.
  • Often but not always, bullhide is oiled (“Oiled Taurus”) which has several advantages. It makes the bullhide a little more supple, so it’s easier to break in and you’ll get to that stage of total comfort earlier. It makes the leather a little bit softer to the touch, and more waterproof, too.
  • Bullhide vamps are often matched with cowhide shafts, because the shaft does not need to be quite as tough.
  • You’ll find bullhide vamps in the 7112, 2041 and other Wei’s Custom Boulet styles.

Soft as a Deer

  • Several of the styles use cowhide that’s put through an intensive process to make cowhide into Deertan.
  • This specialty leather type is also used by Lucchese and some other brands. It helps Wei’s custom made boots to stand out.
  • Deertan is softer than regular cowhide. One touch and you might think it’s calf hide.
  • Deertan is tougher yet more flexible than cowhide, without ripping.
  • Deertan is more waterproof than regular cowhide
  • You’ll find a deertan vamp in the 500, 9502 and other Wei’s Custom Boulet styles.

Make It Wide—Really, Really Wide

  • If D is regular, E is wide, 3E is extra wide…well, you get the idea.
  • Selected Wei’s Custom Boulet styles are available in 5E width. This means making a wider last, and more materials.
  • You’ll find the super-wide 5E in the 500, 2041 and other Wei’s Custom Boulet styles.

Getting It On

  • To pull them on, some people prefer pull holes and some people prefer pull tabs. Wei’s ordered some of each, and some with both pull holes and pull tabs.

Custom Stitching

  • Wei had seen hundreds or thousands of cowboy boots by that time. Fancy and floral, strong and simple, a colourful cachet. He knew what stitching designs he liked but more importantly, he felt he knew what customers wanted, and what they already bought.
  • He ordered boots with a wide variety of stitching, and that’s what you’ll see in Wei’s custom boots.

Goodyear Welting, No Exceptions.

  • While it might seem fun to choose the designs to make up a unique boot, Wei was very serious about one thing: the boots had to be Goodyear welted.
  • Goodyear welting is the most solid and respected method of connecting the boot to the sole. It is the mark of quality that means your boots will last, and can be re-soled to last again. No question.

Putting it all together, Wei’s custom-made boots are classic. They are truly a testament to Alberta’s culture and history. The importance of entrepreneurial families, the preference of individual taste, the changing nature of Alberta ranching, and even the strength of working with other quality Canadian companies are all reflected in these boots.

They also marked a milestone in Alberta retailing when Wei’s set itself a trajectory to become the best and most relevant it could be for its customers. More than 60 years later, we’re still here because our customers see the value of coming here.

When you buy a pair of Wei’s custom-made Boulet boots, you’re really getting a bit of Alberta history.

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