SAN ANTONIO – If you’re a fan of Fiesta parades, chances are you’ve seen their work.
The Fiesta Queen and her court wear amazing dresses, but their look isn’t complete without the fancy footwear that inspires chants of “Show us Your Shoes!” And A&C Boots has been making some of that custom footwear for many of the Fiesta Royalty for more than a decade.
Jose Angel Castillo is the man behind the boot, though his customers know him as “Joe.”
“The queens, they get a folder, their designs, so they could have enough time so we can make the boot. So they bring in the picture and keep it undercover that way nobody knows what we’re making until the day it’s revealed,” Castillo said.
It’s not easy to bring his artwork to life on leather. It’s a rare skill that Castillo inherited from his father Angel who opened A&C Boots with a partner in the 1970s.
For Castillo, it only took one summer in high school of helping around the shop to fall in love with the craft.
“(I was) sweeping up, taking care of the customers, (answering) the telephone. I never thought about going back to school. I forgot all about school,” Castillo said.
Now with more than 20 years of experience, Castillo runs A&C Boots with his fiancé Cindy Anne Sanchez. His father still helps out.
Over the past decade, more and more Fiesta Royalty have been walking through their doors.
“We’ve made boots for the king, the queens, the duchesses and the whole court,” said Sanchez.
Including, Hannah Elizabeth Bakke, who is a Princess of the Order of the Alamo.
“I came in with a little bit of an idea, but I’ve never come close to designing anything,” Bakke said.
That’s where Castillo steps in.
“I’d say nine out of 10 times I guide them. I help them and tell them about colors and how to do the contrast and stuff. And we can get part of the dress to go with the boot, that way they’ll be able to use the boot in the future,” Castillo said.
“I wear them all the time. I get so many compliments. I switch back and forth with my black pair. I love them to death, and I know they will last me forever,” Bakke said.
The turnaround time for a custom pair of boots can be three to four months. And with one pair taking 72 to 120 man-hours, they can be pricey.
“Well, sometimes I don’t like to scare the customer, but it’s not about the price. It’s about the quality and what you’re going to get. When I put the boot together I’ve already made it in my brain. In my mind, I already could see it, it looks cool so I get excited. I think I get a little bit more excited sometimes than the customer,” Castillo said.
You can look for his work the next time you yell, “Show me your shoes!” during a Fiesta parade, but his customers know Castillo won’t be yelling.
“Well, I mention to them that I’m going to be at a certain spot and when I tell them I’m gonna whistle, they’re going to know who I am,” Castillo said.
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