They sell for $1,000 a pair without the presidential seal and this week President Reagan took delivery on four pairs of cowboy boots -- all inlaid with the seal in 14-karat gold. They may be the first clue to his political plans for 1984. After all, how long does it take to wear out one pair of cowboy boots, much less four?
The president didn't get into questions like that earlier this week at his Century Plaza Hotel suite in Los Angeles when he tried them on for size for Tony Lama Jr., president of the El Paso, Tex., firm that has been making his boots for years, and Rex Allen, the country and western singer hired by Lama to promote the boots that are said to be the favorite of real cowboys.
What the president did say in his 45-minute fitting session with them, Lama and Allen later told reporters, was that the boots were "too good" for his Santa Barbara ranch and that he intended to wear them at the White House.
It wouldn't be the first time that the 70-year-old El Paso firm has made boots for stalking the White House corridors. According to Holmes Tills Jr., vice president of sales for the $100 million-a-year firm, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Harry S Truman wore custom-made Lamas.
Reagan's size 10 1/2 B's with 1 7/8-inch heels, ordered for the president this spring by First Lady Nancy Reagan, are top of the line from Lama's "El Rey" (Spanish for "the king") collection, considered by some in the trade as the Cadillac class of cowboy boots.
Tills said that a team of Lama's best bootmakers, working in stages on the four exotic, imported leathers -- tan English calf, chocolate ostrich, black ostrich and patent ostrich -- took between 30 and 45 days to complete the boots. The presidential seal, measuring five inches in diameter, is an intricate hand-cut lamination inlaid at the top of each boot's front panel.
Tills said he didn't know when President Reagan will wear his boots -- or with what apparel.
"But you can wear them with anything, including Hart Schaffner and Marx suits. They're accepted footwear," said Tills. "Most people consider theirs investments."
Tills sent Sen. John Tower (R-Tex.) a pair not long ago when the question came up as to whether members of Congress should wear western attire. And he doesn't expect President Reagan's new boots will hurt business one bit.
"The Reagans were going to pay for them," said Tills, "but instead we charged them off to Rex Allen's promotional budget. We'll probably get a lot of orders."