It might be hard to believe, but one of America’s most respected made-to-measure bookmakers works out of a non-descript storefront on the main street of the hipster hippy town of Sebastopol, California.
Visitors who walk into the unassuming shop - cleverly called Apple Cobbler - will be greeted by Michael Anthony Carnacchi. The long haired, ruggedly handsome bespectacled cobbler counts famous movie directors, rebellious Hollywood stars and rock ‘n’ roll musicians as clients of his bespoke Western boots.
However no customer is turned away. A woman wanting to replace a heel on a pair of beloved $100 dollar shoes is given as much attention as one who trekked to the store to get their feet measured for a pair of custom made “Michael Anthony” boots. Footwear that has a starting price of $2,000 dollars, a figure that quickly rises depending on the style, detail work and type of leather chosen.
“When I was working in a shoe repair shop, back when I was about 25, I noticed that the boots I was repairing- when I would take them apart they would go to hell- the quality just wasn’t there. So I decided if I was going to preserve and maintain boots for myself to wear, that were quality boots, I was going to have to make them myself,” explained Carnacchi about how he first became fascinated by boot making.
He got his start repairing boots at the well-respected company Schuman Brothers Shoe & Boot Repair in Cotati California and with that strong foundation moved on to the esteemed Marelli Bros. Shoe Repair, in San Rafael, also in California, finally honing his cobbler skills at the knee of famed Texas boot maker Jack Reed, who originally passed on Carnacchi’s request to study with him.
Undaunted, Carnacchi continued to court the cobbler until he finally agreed to give him a two week crash course once a year (beginning in 1996) in the finer points in boot making.
“I already knew the inside and outside of a boot, but I wanted to learn from Jack about pattern making, how to sew it together, and other techniques,” said Carnacchi. “Then I would come home and practice and then go back again the next year, but there were also a lot of phone calls throughout the year as well.”
The process in getting exactly the right fit is a lengthy one. Carnacchi spends over an hour taking eleven different measurements on each of his client’s feet on their first visit to his store so that the future shoe cast, on which the boots will be built, will be accurate down to the millimeter. From there, besides deciding on a type of exotic skin or leather (Carnacchi prefers those that come from France or Germany) to craft the boots, there is also the question of the shape of the toe, the height and curve of the heels and the length of the boot shaft to consider. In all there are 372 steps to complete to create a classic Michael Anthony pair of boots.
Carnacchi says that to get a really good pair of boots that will last “at least 20 years or more like mine” the only way to go is with a custom pair, although he does admit that Gucci still makes a decent pair of boots. “But today there are very few people who can afford the initial investment in a good pair of boots, even if in the long run they will get their money’s work,” he said with dismay in his voice.
So what’s the secret to keeping a pair of boots in good shape? “Just dust them off,” said Carnacchi. “Get the dust out of the wrinkles, where the creases are, because dust is like sandpaper and it will just wear out the leather much faster.”
Currently Carnacchi has a backlog of custom orders so long that the minimum turn around time on a pair is 18 months, with payment split down the middle at the order placement and final delivery, almost two years later.
But isn’t it true that the best things in life are always worth the wait?