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					                                                                                           l iberty boot co.

                                                                                   I        t see m s an u nli kely bi rth-
                                                                                   place of a world-renowned cowboy
                                                                                   boot company, but           Liberty Boot Co.
                                                                                   kicked things off in London, England,
                                                                                   during the height of          g l i t t e r r o ck   in
                                                                                   1974. To ny Benat tar was a 16-year-
                                                                                   old Canadian transplant from the Montreal

                                                                                   suburbs shopping with his father for a pair of shoes

                                                                                   to start the school year.
  Plat form sh oe s we re t h e rag e , but not for                                                                                                                                                 of Mexico. They decided that they wanted to work
B e nat ta r . “Platform shoes would have gotten you                                                                                                                                                together.Unable to find cool pointy cowboy boots in
beaten up in my neighborhood (back in Canada),”                                                                                                                                                     Toronto, Benattar started thinking of a way he
Benattar recalls. “There was no way I was going to                                                                                                                                                  and Robyn could work together, spend more time
wear platforms.”                                                                                                                                                                                    in Mexico and get some cool cowboy boots. They
  So they kept shopping, and when Benattar saw a                                                                                                                                                    started looking for cowboy boots in Mexico but quickly
pair of Frye boots in a store window, he was sold. After                                                                                                                                            saw that there was the same mundane choice of styles.
all, like many boys of his generation, he had grown up                                                                                                                                              At that point fate took them to a party where they met
with a    Have Gun, Will Travel     outfit. He was shocked                                                                                                                                          a young Frenchman wearing some very pointy and very
when his father forked over the cash for the boots —                                                                                                                                                black cowboy boots.
“They had to be three times as expensive as the shoes                                                                                                                                                 Yan Ferry, then a quality control agent for a
we were looking at, but my                                                                                                                                                                                                      European company called
dad wasn’t digging those                                                                                                                                                                                                        GO WEST, and the Benattars

platforms, either.” — and                                                                                                                                                                                                       became      instant     amigos.
even more stunned at the                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ferry sent the Benattars to
reaction he got at school.                                                                                                                                                                                                      Leon, Mexico, the boot-
  “Those boots made me a                                                                                                                                                                                                        making       capital    of    the
star at school,” Benattar                                                                                                                                                                                                       world, on “the bus ride
recalls. “I was the Cana-                                                                                                                                                                                                       from hell.”
dian kid in cowboy boots. I                                                                                                                                                                                                       “I       remember      Robyn
mean it was an instant                                                                                                                                                                                                          complaining      a     fair   bit
identity. I remember even                                                                                                                                                                                                       going up there, and I told
teachers taking me aside                                                                                                                                                                                                        her, ‘Honey, one day this
and going,‘Where did you                                                                                                                                                                                                        might make us a million
get those boots?’”                                                                                                                                                                                                              dollars,’” Benattar recalls.
  He      wore    those    boots
through high school and all
the way to Trent Uni-
versity    in    Peterborough,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I      n L e o n, B e nat ta r
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                f ou n d    the boots he
Ontario, then passed them                                                                                                                                                                                                       h ad b e e n loo k i ng fo r ,
                                                     “ B LU E B I R D S R O U G H O U T ”
down      to     his   younger                                                                                                                                                                                                  and Ferry introduced him
brother. “They turned green                                                                                                                                                                                                     to the head of the company.
from all the salt on the road, but those boots are still in                                                                                                                                         “Here I was, 26 years old, nobody’s taking me seriously
somebody’s closet in my family. Those got me started.”                                                                                                                                              back home,” Benattar says, “and here’s this guy, a tall,
                                                                                                                                                                                                    impressive man, and I’m telling him what I want to do

T          h ere we re det ours, of c ou rs e . Benattar
was an unemployed college graduate when he saw his
                                                                                                                                                                                                    with cowboy boots and he’s acting like it makes some
                                                                                                                                                                                                    sense. Of course he is, because there are a bunch of
                                                                                                                                                                                                    European guys who look just like me who are selling
college roommate wearing a pair of cowboy boots. He                                                                                                                                                 thousands of his boots in Europe. I didn’t know it was
recalled his Frye boots, so he got a job, saved money                                                                                                                                               a trend, but it was.”
and bought a new pair of boots. “Those pieces of crap                                                                                                                                                 The head of that boot company? Vincente Fox, now
wore out so damn fast, they cost me every penny I                                                                                                                                                   president of Mexico.
could earn, and I needed another pair a year later. I                                                                                                                                                 Benattar bought two pairs of boots, one for himself
remember freaking,        ‘How can I afford to get a pair of                                                                                                                                        and one for his brother, and went home satisfied. Back
cowboy boots?’”                                                                                                                                                                                     in Toronto, he visited a hip boutique that carried
  He was doing seasonal work as a landscaper while                                                                                                                                                  cowboy boots, but nothing like the fancy pair Benattar
his wife Robyn’s acting career was winding down.                                                                                                                                                    had bought from Fox’s company. The owners eyes
During the off season they would winter on the beaches                                                                                                                                              popped, and they made arrangements for a meeting at

                                                                 page                                                      2
the bar next door.                                                                                              its import laws to allow U.S.
  There,     Benattar    showed                                                                                 boot companies to come into
them his brother’s boots and                                                                                    Canada with fewer tariffs. “I
pulled off one of his and set it                                                                                could see that our lifestyle
on the table. “Within minutes,                                                                                  might go back to the old way,”
20 people had gathered                                                                                          Benattar says.
around — the hip, cool
Toronto musicians who were
downing a few pints on a
Friday afternoon — and
                                                                                                                W          hen he attended
                                                                                                                the Western and English Sales
pointing, ‘I want those pair,’                                                                                  Association market in Denver
and ‘I want those,’ and these                                                                                   in 1992, and picked up a copy
guys from the boutique are                                                                                      of    THE COWBOY BOOT
looking at each other, thinking,                                                                                B O O K , written by Tyler Beard
‘We must be on to something.’”                                                                                  with photography by Jim Arndt,
  They placed an order, and                                                                                     he was admittedly jealous,
Benattar left the bar.                                                                                          especially of El Paso-based
  “I went out and bought a                                                                                      ROCKETBUSTER USA. “I mean,

new car,” he says. “That’s                                                                                      here were guys my age, and
ridiculous when you think about it, but that’s what I                                   their boots blew mine out of the water. They were get-

did.This was going to be good. I knew I could design                                    ting famous, making awesome boots and having a blast. I
more Rock ‘n’ Roll boots than I was seeing out there.”                                  bought a book and had them autograph it for me.”
                                                                                          Realizing that Canada alone could not support his

           nd h e di d. Wit hin a ye ar , TONY BENATTAR
         “very rock ‘n’ roll influenced, long curved
                                                                                        dream, Benattar sat down with Ferry. Both agreed
                                                                                        that they wanted to make      “high-end, crazy boots.”
                                                                                        In January 1993, LIBERTY BOOT CO. debuted at the
up pointy toes, heels so underslung it was hard to                                      Denver market.
step on your cigarette butt” — were the third-                                            “We had put our life savings in that,”    Benattar says.
highest-selling cowboy boot line in Toronto. A year                                     “We rented our showroom, did a little black-and-white
later, they were No. 3 in                                                                                       ad announcing “There’s a new
Canada. Darryl Hall of HALL                                                                                     brand on the range,” and put
AND OATES bought a pair, and                                                                                    down a Mexican blanket with
has continued to be one of                                                                                      fifteen cowboy boots on it.
Benattar’s    customers.   From                                                                                 “We were so broke at this
1987 to 1993, TONY BENATTAR                                                                                     stage,   we   had      spent     six
BOOTS was a rocking little                                                                                      months     trying    to    produce
company in Canada.                                                                                              these samples, train the guys,
   “I was proud and happy with                                                                                  send them into the States (at
the work we were doing,” says                                                                                   PEDRO     MUNOZ’S         STALLION
Benattar, who partnered with                                                                                    BOOTS) to learn how to carve
his wife and Ferry in the                                                                                       toe boxes and to train very
enterprise, “and saw you could                                                                                  good bootmakers how to be
make money and have fun and                                                                                     even better bootmakers.”
be creative and hang around                                                                                          For two hours, Ferry and
with like-minded people.”                                                                                       Benattar      twiddled         their
  Reality struck in the 1990s,                                                                                  thumbs. Then representatives
however.     Business    slowed.                                                                                of the BILLY MARTIN’S stores
                                                   “LIVE TO ROCK”
Stores closed. Canada relaxed                                                                                   came in. A $250,000 contract

                                                          page             3
was signed. Tyler Beard walked in next, and a pair of                                                                                                                                             me through the head.”
LIBERTY BOOTS wound up on the back cover of his next                                                                                                                                                In 1997, LIBERTY was relaunched at the Denver
book,    ART     OF     THE     BOOT,   alongside legendary                                                                                                                                       market. Benattar had avoided bankruptcy. Two years
bootmakers Dave Little and Stephanie Ferguson.                                                                                                                                                    later, he began to think, “This could be good again.”
LIBERTY BOOT CO. was off and running. “Americans                                                                                                                                                  Encouraged by Torres, he followed his heart.
welcomed us with open arms,” Benattar says.
“Here was a Canadian guy manufacturing boots
in Mexico.”                                                                                                                                                                                       T       he company got a tremendous boost in
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1999, when Madonna wore LIBERTY BOOTS on tour and

B         ut there was a price. For the next three
years, Benattar never drew
                                                                                                                                                                                                  in a music video. Those boots came out of a tequila-
                                                                                                                                                                                                  induced brainstorming session with Benattar, Ferry
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   and      Lucchese’s        John
a paycheck, and when the                                                                                                                                                                                                           McAlpine. “What came out
U.S.     economy       slumped,                                                                                                                                                                                                    of that was almost a Gucci
orders    fell   off      —    22                                                                                                                                                                                                  boot, really tall but black,
accounts in southern Cali-                                                                                                                                                                                                         on a cowboy last but with
                                      ril Lavigne
fornia just disappeared.
                                    Av                                                                                                                                                                                             a taller than normal heel

Ferry and Benattar were
                                                              “ B R O DY R O C K S ”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Ma        don   so when they look down at
running out of resources.                                                                                                                                                                                                          the foot they see a cowboy
  “The      economy           was                                                                                                                                                                                                  foot but when they see it
horrible,” Benattar says.                                                                                                                                                                                                          on the shelf, it had a
“The numbers were ab-                                                                                                                                                                                                              stovepipe      top,       simple
solutely terrifying. I re-                                                                                                                                                                                                         chain     stitch,     a   really
member one friend telling                                                                                                                                                                                                          simple     boot.  Madonna
me, ‘Tony, your horse is                                                                                                                                                                                                           made Western wearable
dead and buried. Maybe                                                                                                                                                                                      “ t W I G GY ”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   again. She made it
it’s time to get off.’”                                                                                                                                                                                                            mainstream and fashion-
  But Benattar refused to                                                                                                                                                                                                          able again. She’s the pope
bury his dream. He and                                                                                                                                                                                                             of fashion. That was huge.”
Ferry agreed to go their                                                                                                                                                                                                             Tragedy struck in 2000,
separate ways in 1996.                  “ S U N F L OW E R”                                                                                                                                                                        however, when Robyn was
Ferry went on to open OLD                                                                                                                                                                                                          diagnosed with cancer. She
GRINGO BOOTS & BELTS in                                                                                                                              Bruce Sprin                                                                   died the following year.
2000, manufacturing qua-
                                                                                                                                                                g                                                                    “This     company         sup-

lity, mid-range boots out                                                                                                                                                                                                          ported me through that,”

of Leon. Benattar found                                                                                                                                                                                                            Benattar says. “I tell you,
a new partner, his old                                                                                                                                                                                                             Back at the Ranch     (of Santa
friend Luis Torres, owner                                                                                                                                                                                                          Fe,   New     Mexico)       and
of BOTAS CARBORCA , a                                                                                                                                                                                                              Buffalo Chips (in New York),
family-owned bootmaking business in Leon.                                                                                                                                                         Cry Baby Ranch       (in Denver) kept ordering boots even
  “Luis had the insight and foresight to see that                                                                                                                                                 though I wasn’t able to do the service. They helped
Liberty could be like Ford-owned Jaguar,”                                                                                                                                                         us out a lot.”
Benattar says. “Together we could be the high                                                                                                                                                       In 2002, haunted by memories of the previous year,
end and show the boot world that Mexico could                                                                                                                                                     Benattar decided he needed a break. So he took off
make these wonderful, beautiful boots, and that                                                                                                                                                   across America in a Ford Mustang convertible, setting
would attract people to his lower-end line. He was                                                                                                                                                up trunk shows at accounts across the States. It really
willing to indulge my crazy ideas for a few years to get                                                                                                                                          was more of a much-needed journey, a bridge between
back on track and make my samples without charging                                                                                                                                                his former life and whatever the new one held, than a

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business trip, but six months later, Benattar realized                                                                     LIBERTY BOOT CO. was called the 14th best Cowboy Boot

his business had doubled.                                                                                                  Company in history by TRUE WEST MAGAZINE.         LIBERTY

                                                                                                                           BOOTS have been part of various museum shows in

B         e nattar h asn ’ t slowe d down, or looked
back. Today, he’s at home in Toronto. When he isn’t
                                                                                                                           America, including EAST MEETS WEST at the George
                                                                                                                           Bush Presidential Library in College Station, TX ;
                                                                                                                           THE MUSEUM OF THE HORSE WESTERN EXHIBIT in

making boots, he’s playing bass and dobro with the                                                                         Ruidoso, NM ; and recently at the BUFFALO BILL
Cameron Family Singers                at the CAMERON HOUSE or                                                              MUSEUM in Golden, CO .

with the Latin-influenced             Rancho Misterio.                                                                       LIBERTY BOOT CO. has also — in conjunction with

  “I’ve buried myself in L I B E R T Y B O O T C O M PA N Y                                                                New York pop artist Ed Adler and the      Cameron Family
and the music these last few years, and have been                                                                          Singers   — mounted the multi-media show POP GOES
quite shocked at how much fun this has been,” he                                                                           THE COWBOY in Toronto for the last 5 years. This show

says. “And I’ve managed in my own way to tie                                                                               has travelled to New York and Dallas, and will appear
the two things together.”                                                                                                  in Portland, OR in February 2006.
  Celebrity customers           include Madonna, Steven Tyler,                                                               But for Benattar, it’s all about the boots.
Ralph Lauren, Jean Paul Gaultier, Sheryl Crow,                                                                               “I think the inspiration is the golden era, not the
Lucinda Williams, The Godfather of Soul James                                                                              guys riding the range, but the ’40s.”
Brown, Outcast’s Andre 3000, Jennifer Tilly, Bruce                                                                           “What we want to do is produce a boot that is every
Springsteen,       Dusty             Hill,                                                                                                          bit as good as it used to be. So
Rodger     Daltry,     Kid       Rock,                                                                                                              how do you do that? You do it
Lucinda      Wi l l i a m s ,        Billy                                                                                                          the way they used to do it. You
Bob Thornton, Hilary Duff,                                                                                                                          hand carve the toe boxes, you
Sandra Bullock, Angelina                                                                                                                            hand cut the inlays. You use
Jolie, Av r i l Lavigne, and                                                                                                                        really great leathers, and an
New Mexico Governor Bill                                                                                                                            all-leather insole and outsole.
Ri cha rds o n to name a few.                                                                                                                       What that does is these boots
  LIBERTY BOOT CO. has had                                                                                                                          will take the impression of your
mucho     exposure        in         Tyler                                                                                                          foot,   unlike    cork   insoles,
Beard’s last two Cowboy Boot                                                                                                                        because they’re leather.”
Books (A R T     OF THE BOOT                                                                                                                           And most importantly, that
and   C O W B O Y B O O T S ; GIBBS                                                                                                                 LIBERTY BOOT trademark:


                                                                                                                                                    “ abso lute ly edge-
COWBOY      BOOT      CALENDAR.                                                                                                                     p ush i ng d e s i g n . ”

                                                                  T O N Y B E N AT TA R

                                              For more information on Liberty Boot, visit our website

                                                  w w w. l i b e r t y b o o t c o . c o m
              2 8 6 C R AW F O R D S T R E E T            T O RO N T O , O N TA R I O                                                  M6J 2V8        416*588*5013

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