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The Warby Parker of cowboy boots has a Texas-sized plan to win 21st-century retail

If you didn’t grow up in Texas, it can be hard to fully grasp the role that the cowboy boot plays in Southwestern culture. But many Texans grew up with the boots, choosing their first pair from the store when they were just toddlers. For some, it’s an important symbol of their culture, heritage, and identity. And for others, it’s just an everyday fashion choice.

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Just ask Paul Hedrick, who was born and raised in Texas, before moving to the Northeast to attend Harvard University–where he showed up to class decked out in cowboy boots. “There’s a whole subculture of cowboy boots,” says Hedrick, who founded Tecovas, a fast-growing cowboy boots brand that just landed $24 million in funding. “There are intricate designs and patterns, different grades of leather, a whole range of price points. It’s a messy, crowded market.”

Hedrick is here to cut through some of this noise and deliver a high-quality cowboy boot to his fellow millennials. After spending his post-college years working in consulting and finance, where he focused on retail, he believed he was uniquely poised to disrupt the cowboy boot market. “It’s a multibillion-dollar sector, but it really hasn’t experienced much innovation,” he says.

Hedrick launched Tecovas in 2015, with a line of high-quality men’s and women’s cowboy boots made in Mexico and sold through a website using the same direct-to-consumer model popularized by Warby Parker and Everlane. Thanks to Tecovas’s approach, it is able to sell boots at prices that start at $195, with its most expensive, alligator pair costing $455. This is a fraction of the premium brands, whose prices easily go north of $1,000.

Rebooting a classic

Tecovas was an instant hit. By its second year in business, the brand was generating more than $10 million in revenue, and is on track to triple that this year. Hedrick says one-third of sales come from Texas, and the rest comes from all over the country. Some sales come from Texans who have left the state and cannot find a good pair of boots, while others are purchased by non-Texans who think the boots make a good fashion statement. “I think it’s hard for people outside the Southwest to understand how important these boots are to people in this region,” says Hedrick. “But I think the fact that this market is so hidden is actually one of our advantages. We don’t actually have that much competition (within the direct-to-consumer space).”

[Photo: courtesy of Tecovas]
Hedrick designed the boots to be sleek, with minimal decorations, and made from premium leathers, including calf, ostrich, and alligator. He believes the simple aesthetic appeals to some customers who don’t usually wear cowboy boots. And Hedrick says customers have been asking for other products, including bags and jeans, so Tecovas has been expanding its product range. “Men wanted to know what kind of pants to wear with their boots,” says Hedrick. “We decided to just make the ideal jeans for a cowboy boot, and they’ve been a popular product in their own right.”

To keep up with this pace of growth, Tecovas landed the aforementioned $24 million in Series A funding led by Elephant. (This is on top of $4.4 million in equity funding the brand raised earlier.) Hedrick plans to use this funding to invest heavily in brick-and-mortar stores throughout Texas. A year ago, Tecovas opened a pop-up in Austin that successfully introduced new customers to the brand, and led to a spike in sales. Tecovas will open its first permanent store in Austin, then shortly thereafter in other major cities in the state. Hedrick says he cannot confirm where they will be since the company is currently negotiating contracts, but we can assume they will be in cities like Dallas and Fort Worth.

But Hedrick says Texas is just the first step in his plan for Tecovas’s growth. He believes there’s space to transform the brand into a national sensation, and get people in places like California and New England to wear the boots. It’s an ambitious plan, for sure, given that cowboy boots have such distinct cultural associations. Will the same consumer who buys Warby Parker glasses, Away luggage, and Everlane cashmere also pick up a pair of Tecovas boots? It’s unclear, but Hedrick is going to give it his best shot.

“I see the cowboy boot as an iconic American product,” he says. “I believe our boots can be styled in a lot of different ways, and look good across the country.”

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