Friday, September 20, 2013

Crowne-ing Glory

Twelve years ago, Ariat introduced a beautiful new field boot; the creme-de-la-creme of their line of boots, made in Italy.  They called it the Crowne.  The Crowne was an improvement over the Champion, their original field boot (also made in Italy), by creating a more streamlined sole (removing the exterior lateral stability component found on pretty much every Ariat boot previous), adding an extra eyelet to allow for easier on-off, and adding a Spanish top to create the illusion of a longer leg.  They were beautiful.  And far too expensive for me, at $500 (nearly $700 in 2013 dollars when adjusted for inflation).  But I was in love.  Maybe someday...  *sigh* At that same time, Ariat also introduced its first zipper boot, the Challenge.  The Crowne was not available with zippers until the introduction of the Crowne Pro in 2004, which coincided with a shift in production to China and a lessening in the quality of materials - along with a price increase and the discontinuation of the lovely Italian-made Crownes.  I was shattered when I saw the inferiority of the Crowne Pro.  And I began a mission to find a pair of original Crownes that I could afford, even if used.

It took me several years (2008 or so), but I finally found a pair of Crownes for about $200 or so, lightly used, on eBay.  It was a stretch for my budget at the time, but these were the boots for which I'd been searching.  And then the post office lost them.  *angry face*  The seller was kind enough to refund my money.

A couple years passed, and I found on eBay a very used pair of boots that *might* be Crownes.  These ones cost about $100.  Easier on the budget, but they were very used.  And the post office lost those ones, too (they also managed to once lose a saddle I had purchased).  *angry face*  What was, I'm pretty sure, months later, the boots did show up (the saddle was also found, for those wondering).  And they were very, very used.  But they were Crownes.

I wore the Crownes sparingly; they polished up well enough for shows, but they weren't going to last if I wore them beyond that.  Sadly, however, it turned out that this particular boot ran large in the footbed.  I wear a size 8 all day long in an Ariat boot.  I've had at least 6 pairs, and they've all been 8s.  In the Crowne, I needed a 7 1/2.  I made it work... but I still searched eBay every so often for a 7 1/2.  As a long-discontinued item, however, I knew the chances were slim.

A couple weeks ago, I went to Horseman's Outlet for the first time.  Horseman's Outlet is kind of a big deal as far as tack stores go.  And apparently they have a great consignment section.  I have a (big) soft spot for consignment, so I made sure to check it out.  As I toured the consignment section, I realize that it's not only consignment - it is also closeouts and clearance.  And I notice a pair of boots that look stunningly like the original Italian Crownes, new with tags, at half the original price.  Indeed, they were Crownes, but they were not my size.  

But I slowly realize that there is a veritable sea of tall boots, some used, some new, and mostly zipperless.  I slowly prowled through the boots, looking at the size of anything that might be a remote possibility.  And then I found them: original, made-in-Italy Ariat Crownes, size 7 1/2, and new with tags!  Could it really be?

Jealously guarding my treasure, I went out the main store to try them on.  I had to ask for a pair of boot pulls, because you really can't buy non-zip boots off the shelf any longer.  The fact that I was choosing to try on pull-on boots impressed the employees and earned me some respect.  I was almost afraid; what if they didn't fit?  What if my calf had gotten too big?  I would be devastated.

I hooked in the boot pulls and started to pull on the boots.  And then they stuck.  Sh*t!!  Panic began to set in... and then I realized that I had forgotten to loosen the laces.  Having put elastic laces in my own boots had negated my need to loosen the laces, so I just didn't even think about needing to do so for this new-found treasure.  I paused for a moment, gathered my bearings, loosened the laces, and proceeded to again try the boots.

And they fit!  Absolutely beautifully, perfectly, like a glove!  And they were brand new with tags!  Could it be any better?

At 50% off the original price, I felt they were a bit overpriced considering how long that particular boot has been discontinued.  But as I thought about it, anymore you are hard-pressed to find a decent boot at that price, let alone THE boots.  I also knew that the next-best option for me in terms of fit would be a $900 pair of Sergio Grassos; next-best to that would be a $900 pair of Ariat Monacos.  And I just can't stomach $900 for *non*-custom boots.

So I bought them.  And they are beautiful.  And I love them.

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