DWF...can you comment a bit on how bootmaking is the last remaining area of American shoemaking that, with only a few exceptions perhaps, aims at the best traditional standards? I can comment at length (as you have perhaps noticed) on "western" (aka "cowboy) bootmaking, but perhaps not so much on other forms of bootmaking.. Western bootmaking has its own standards and traditions. Most of them are derivative or closely related to the wider, older shoemaking traditions that are shared among European makers. But historically, there are three factors that work to alter...distort, change--pick a word...the traditions. First, western bootmaking as a separate branch of the Trade (and some do think of it that way) grew up and came of age after the Civil War (traditional shoemaking goes back much further than that--10,000 years by some accounts). Industrialization was in full swing in all the Trades. The spinners and weaver were nearly up in arms, ready for revolution, claiming that the mechanized loom was making "wage slaves" of working men. But bootmakers readily adopted the new technologies and machines. To this day we still use machines which many shoemakers may be familiar with but which most would say are not necessary. Second, a good portion of the bootmaking Trade was centered in the border areas where new, burgeoning factories employed cheap, cross-border labour...who often went home and started their own businesses. This, in turn, not only forced wages down but introduced many factory-centric techniques that are, in my opinion, both contrary to the concepts of quality and the older techniques. But competition will do that. Celastic as a toe stiffener (rather than leather) is one example, although there are any number of supposedly high end shoemaking firms in Europe (and many more in the USA) that have recently gone to it, as well. And third, bootmaking went through a stage, when it was still in its formative years, during the Great Depressions when master shoemakers refused to pass on their knowledge or abandoned time honoured techniques and materials in favour of faster, cheaper, less onerous. Hard times and competition will do that. There are more than a few bootmakers in this country who try to preserve and honour the techniques of the past...techniques that are described in Rees and elsewhere and that their fathers and grandfathers practiced. But more than one has simply decided that such skills and materials are old hat and decided to move on. "That's the way we used to do it," to quote one wag. For all the reasons above. I really admire the older techniques---to use them requires infinitely more skill, a better eye, and a certain refined sensibility. All that equates to more time...and that is almost the antithesis of today's modern "factory mentality." Plus it's just the challenge of something new at my stage of life...it's almost like re-inventing yourself. Starting a new career without all the awkwardness and uncertainty.