Charles Hyer, Former Teacher, Opens Boot Store in Olathe, Kansas in 1875
The son of a German immigrant, Charles Hyer, arrived in Olathe, Kansas in 1872, where he was employed as a teacher at the Kansas State School for the Deaf. He spent the next few years here, teaching students to craft shoes and harnesses from leather. Hyer’s father had taught him the ways of leather working and shoemaking and he continued to improve his craft in his free time. He eventually saved up enough money to open his own small shoe shop in Olathe in 1875.
The Hyer Boot Company, the Nameless Cowboy, and the First Pair of Cowboy Boots
As the legend goes, Hyer was working in his shop one day when a nameless, lone cowboy from Colorado who was in town working the Kansas City Stockyards walked in and asked Hyer to design a completely new style of boot. The cowboy specified three main things he wanted: A pointed toe (to make putting his feet in the stirrups easier), a raised heel (to make staying in the stirrups easier), and a scalloped, wide top (to make putting on his boots easier). Hyer set to work and produced what many believed was the world’s first pair of cowboy boots. The cowboy tried on the new boots and promptly ditched his old Civil War-style boots. He rode off west with his new boots, where they began to catch the attention of other cattlemen.
Soon, Hyer had dozens of cowboys arriving at his shop looking to acquire a pair of Hyer’s custom-made cowboy boots. And the shop’s mail was flooded with letters from cowboys from around the country wanting a pair of Hyer’s new creation. As the popularity of the new boots continued to skyrocket in other states, Hyer created a do-it-yourself foot measuring system that was sent out to potential customers throughout the U.S. (Later Hyer’s form would become part of a mail-order catalog business and would be used by countless other businesses selling by mail order.)
Bootmaker to Cowboys, Presidents, Movie Stars – and Jessie James
With Hyer’s new system, no matter how far or remote a cowboy’s location, he could record his measurements on Hyer’s chart – along with noting any special design requests – and mail order custom boots from Hyer Boot Company. In record time Hyer’s boots made their way to every corner of the nation. Over the years, Hyer’s boots made their way onto some notably famous (and equally infamous) feet along the way – including Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill Cody, President Teddy Roosevelt, and Roy Rodgers to name a few!
With the store’s close proximity to the Kansas City stockyards and the successful mail-order business, the Hyer Boot Company continued its rapid growth. To keep up with the demand, Hyer’s sons became part of the business as he hired skilled European immigrants from Poland, Sweden, and Germany and also many of his former students from Kansas School for the Deaf to craft his popular boots. So popular in fact, the company became one of the largest employers in that part of Kansas.
For speed and to maintain quality, Hyer created an assembly-line process, preferring to train his leatherworkers to become experts in a specific part of the boot-making process rather than expecting each worker learn all of the skills required to craft an entire boot on their own. This system met Hyer’s goal in not only cutting down the time it took to craft a pair of boots but also ensuring their overall high quality.
Hyer Boot Company Becomes Olathe Boot
In the 1970’s, Hyer Boot Company transitioned into Olathe Boot Company. And today Olathe Boot is owned by Western Leather Goods, the same company responsible for manufacturing Rios of Mercedes and Anderson Bean cowboy boots. Customers will be glad to know, every pair of Olathe boots are still handmade – with the same precision, attention to detail, and high-quality materials as that very first pair of cowboy boots the lone cowboy wore as he rode off into the sunset.
Olathe Boot Exclusives – Custom Designs, Available Only at Nigro’s
Nigro’s Western Store is proud to offer a unique line of Olathe boots. Olathe Boot Exclusives are one-of-a-kind boots, with each individual style custom-designed by David Nigro Jr., and only available at Nigro’s! These boots are built with the same quality and same durability that has earned Olathe Boot the reputation as one of the best-performing boots in the business – offering some of the most unique styles, colors, and leathers in the boot business.
Each design of Olathe Boot Exclusives presented by Nigro’s is custom-made in small batches. The styles are here while they’re here – and then gone forever. A word to the wise, if there’s a pair you have your eye on, don’t wait!