Two of my very favorite wardrobe items include hand made E. Vogel riding boots that were molded and sized for my feet and my legs and then made especially for me. At first glance, E. Vogel Custom Boots & Shoes is in a nondescript shop/location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There are few shoes, or boots, even, on display, but you know you have found the right place (they recently moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn) the minute you smell the tanned leather and hear the sound of faint voices and the toe tapping of skilled cobbler’s hammers in the distance. The shop is not showy, it never was intended to be, but it is very unique, in history as well as design.
E. Vogel was family-run since 1879, they made their mark specializing in custom-made men’s dress shoes and then riding boots for women, men and children, as well as the United States Equestrian Team for decades. Vogel’s wonderful shoes and boots are substantially priced and in order to have them made to order, do require a proper, though lengthy, fitting. Once the measurements are taken they then make a wooden form of your feet and calves, that will be saved for posterity (or for future purchases.) The big price tag is further reduced when buying subsequent pairs, as the template need not be resized. In my case, that proved very helpful as my Nubuck faves, now stand tall next to a recent sharp unwrinkled Ebony pair.
How I came to know Vogel was also by accident. As a child I spent some time on a popular daytime TV show and the character I played, rode horses. So a few times a year, the costume designer took me to the Kaufman Riding Shop in New York (now there is Manhattan Saddelry, directly opposite where Kaufman was on 25th St in NYC) for riding ensembles. As I was one of the only teens on the show, and small for my age, I got to keep all the clothes that I wore on set, including my first and only pair of Vogel riding boots (size 5.) Still beautiful.
And now many adult years later, a very similar type of Fieldmasters were promised to me as a Christmas present – I was told to go to Howard Street on the lower Eastside and see Jack Lynch, (a Vogel cousin and now the sole proprietor, in Brooklyn) and although I knew I was getting pretty boots, I had no idea they would take three months to make. I also didn’t realize that I would be using them to actually ride, horses – I suspected they would look cute fashioned with a well composed Burberry outfit. And to add to the unusual gift giving theme, on that very same Christmas, quite out of the blue, I received (from another gift giver) a package of 10 riding lessons, neither Santa had any clue that this pres-ent-ation was taking on a life of its own. So the tools (the lessons) and accessories (the boots) I received enhanced the look and my love of the sport and have both been put to very good use. And for monogrammed fans, it was an added bonus for me when I saw that they emblazoned, in gold lettering, my full name on the interior calf of each pair.
I simply adore classic sport clothing and quickly became addicted to any and all riding shops/websites over the years, buying a few pieces here and there that could be considered street wear. (Barbour jackets, do come to mind as there are currently lots of those puffers and wax numbers still hanging in the closet in sizes that defy my body proportions now, so, every once in a while I am compelled to add a new one right sized to my already cumbersome collection.) Like so many other well made and pricey pieces of clothing, the original, tiny Vogel boots I managed to save from my acting days still look pretty good – which is wonderful because they are a great reminder of a great childhood, on a great show chosen by an award winning costume designer.
Recently, my riding days have lessened, due to work responsibilities, but I make sure that I get back on the saddlery in my birthday boots as often as possible. While, I would never list ‘established equestrian’ on my resume, I actually took quite well to the sport, once I got over the fear of being thrown, that is, and it did happen, and then I got over it. Age, though is a funny thing (or not) – my beautiful godchild, started riding ponies, in Concord, MA and quickly advanced to horses about the time that I hopped onto my first real saddlery – on a beautiful quarter horse, named Irish, (and with an aptly hot Irish temper on occasion.) My pretty little fairy goddaughter was about 9 at the time and in only a few short years has become quite the little horsewoman – now happily and successfully jumping and showing all over the place. I am still not nearly as advanced (not at all) as my blonde Vogel wearing buddy, but I run with a competitive crowd, so I never resist a challenge or a finicky horse – it’s great fun, its invigorating and addictive, and it is as good a workout as any of my training runs for the marathon. (It’s all in the legs, which look great in the boots!)
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photographs by Viva Violeta Photography