In the late 1980s, Marty Snortum was a photographer living in Texas. He photographed boots, among other things, for the catalogs of several manufacturers in El Paso. Though El Paso was the boot capital of the world, the number of boot makers had diminished and the great artists and craftsmen of yesteryear were becoming a thing of the past. Snortum noticed that most of the boot companies he shot for would put one glorified pair of hand-tooled boots on the catalog cover as a showpiece, but once inside the catalog, the boots were more focused on the hard-wearing cowboy and farmer variety. So after some research and a lot of hard work, he saw a niche and his custom boot making company Rocketbuster Handmade Custom Boots was born.
In 1995, Marty met Nevena Christy, a New York-based fashion designer who came to El Paso to commission Rocketbuster to craft several pairs of "outrageous" boots for a Nicole Miller runway show. Within a few years they had married. It is Nevena who runs the day-to-day operations of Rocketbuster, and has been given the respected title of “bosslady.” Adding her fashion sensibiity to what was already in place, Nevena helped the company become the success it is today.
Despite its popularity, Rocketbuster is only able to make about 400–500 pair of boots a year. It’s that small number that keeps their company focused and happy. Even with a wait time of four to six months, and prices ranging from $1,200 to $4,000 a pair, the customers still come (and considering the work that goes into a pair of boots like this (see below)—it seems like a fair price).
El Paso, Texas, still calls itself the boot capital of the world, though the number of handmade bootmaking shops has declined dramatically. Some of the better El Paso boot makers today export boots to Europe, where just an El Paso label alone is a mark of authenticity. Rocketbuster and a few others make boots that end up on the fashion runways of Milan, Berlin, or Paris.
And even though China is now in the business, and they make more boots than El Paso, in Texas, quantity will never equate to quality in the boot business.