A Simple Sole
How Paul Hedrick is redefining boot-buying
by Hannah Morrow
Photographs by Tyler Sharp
PAUL HEDRICK never dreamed of being a fashion designer. This is best illustrated by the fact that the Harvard graduate used Microsoft Paint for his designs.
“I realized I had the opportunity to become [a designer], and no one was telling me I couldn’t,” the 30-year-old Texas native says with a laugh. “You do what you have to do to get the job done.”
What Hedrick did know was that he wanted to run his own company and create a product that he knew from the consumer angle. One day in early 2015, he sat down to brainstorm ideas. He was working in Greenwich, Connecticut, and living in New York City. Despite daily submersion in East Coast style, Hedrick was wearing a pair of pricey ostrich boots. When he looked down and saw them, the light bulb flickered.
“It was pretty simple: Nice, high-quality boots are hard to find,” he says. “And when you do find them, they’re expensive.” From this principle, Hedrick launched Tecovas with a simple mission: “create handmade, high-quality boots that don’t break the bank.” Founded in October 2015, Tecovas now offers 10 styles for men and five for women, plus belts and a leather duffel bag, which just launched earlier this March.
But starting a business is no simple task, nor is designing footwear or building a brand. Hedrick understood business, from his work in consulting and investing, and he understood cowboy boots as a Southerner’s closet staple, since he was born in Houston and raised in Dallas.
The combination made the most sense with cowboy boots, because they had low “fashion risk,” as he had learned in consumer retail investing. In other words, they weren’t going out of style. This is particularly true with Tecovas, as each boot in the collection is undeniably classic, with little if any embellishment besides the hand-stitched edging and buttery leather.
The boots are made in León, Guanajuato, the boot-making and leather capital of Mexico. There are 200 steps that artisans take in making each boot, from the hand-laid shaft cording to the lemonwood pegs in the midsole. Hedrick visits the production facility every six weeks to check in, as he continues to work as the head of design and product development for the company.
The short trip to León and a thriving western market were chief reasons for returning to Texas to start Tecovas. Though he had spent little time there in Austin, he chose the city because its innovative reputation and lack of pre-established big brand boot companies.
He and his team of 17 work from an office in East Austin. The boots are primarily sold online, enabling Tecovas to sell to customers at wholesale prices. The company had a showroom on East Cesar Chavez for most of last year but closed its doors recently to focus on growing the brand and expanding the product line. Custom shoe lasts, below, are formed to be true to size and are available in two widths.
“I like Austin for Tecovas, because we’re the new one, the tech-savvy one, the ‘cool’ one. And people think of Austin that way,” Hedrick says. “I moved here and I definitely felt like this was the right place. People here are so supportive of brands that are local.”
Still, while brick-and-mortar stores may be in Tecovas’ future, Hedrick wants to keep things simple.
“The cowboy boot-buying experience is still pretty cool. We won’t ever just have a grocery store aisle worth of options,” Hedrick says. “The goal was to have it all —appeal to the distinguished western-wearer who has been wearing boots for years and has several pairs but also appeal to the 24-year-old in New York who doesn’t want to get made fun of.”
As for Microsoft Paint, well, those days may be behind him. Hedrick intends to stay the head of product development but will let someone else handle the nitty-gritty design sketches from here on out.
“Product will always be a big, if not the biggest, focus for me,” he says. “When we start releasing things that I have less business designing, someone with more skills and training will do it. But we’ll always keep things as simple as possible.”