“I’ve dealt with these politicians many times,” says Zephan Parker, the bespoke bootmaker behind Houston’s popular Parker Boot Company, which, he says, has made height-increasing cowboy boots for a number of Texan politicians. (No, he won’t reveal any names.) “I’ve helped them with their lifts. [DeSantis] is wearing lifts; there’s no doubt.”
For Parker, there are two giveaways. At a DeSantis campaign event in Tampa, a photo was taken of him from his side, showing the governor in his black cowboy boots and navy worsted suit. Traditional Western boots are typically built with an elevated heel, ranging from 1 1/2” to 1 7/8”. DeSantis’ boots have a traditional Western silhouette, but, to Parker, the heels appear shorter. When you stick inserts into cowboy boots, the combination of the height-increasing lifts and the heels can “turn them into five-inch stilettos,” Parker says. “That’s too much for the common man. So on a ready-made boot, they’ll cut down the heel about half an inch to accommodate the lifts, which looks to be what happened here.” (Shaving down the heels does negate some of the height value of having lifts in the first place.)
The other giveaway, Parker says, is the boots’ tops (what most people would recognize as the shaft). Cowboy boots are made to fit snugly; on their website, Tecovas recommends getting boots sized so that you feel a rush of air leave the boot when your heels drop into place. But such a snug fit leaves little room for a wedge-shaped lift, so people who wear lifts often have to size up in width. This increases all the other measurements in tandem, including the circumference of the tops.
Looking at the photo of DeSantis at his Tampa campaign event, Parker points out how the tops are pushing against his trouser legs. “He looks like he’s wearing trousers with an eight-inch opening,” the bootmaker estimates, “which is plenty of room for a Western boot on a man of his proportions.” The fact that the tops push against the trouser legs suggests to Parker “the boots are bigger than intended, probably to accommodate his lifts.”
DeSantis’ campaign denies the allegation that he’s wearing lifts. On Monday, DeSantis told podcast host Patrick Bet-David that his boots are “just standard, off-the-rack Lucchese boots.” In an email to POLITICO Magazine, DeSantis’ press secretary, Bryan Griffin, writes, “Considering the fact that Politico Magazine admittedly spent money to consult ‘boot experts’ to run this hit piece on DeSantis tells you all you need to know about their ‘journalism.’ The governor doesn’t pad his boots, but if he ever needed anything to line a pet cage or fold up and wedge under a table leg, that would be the highest and best use for Politico Magazine.” (To be clear, POLITICO Magazine did not compensate any of the boot makers quoted in this story. Also, POLITICO Magazine does not appear in print. —Ed.)
Graham Ebner, an Austin-based cowboy bootmaker who trained at Texas Traditions — widely considered one of the country’s best bespoke cowboy bootmakers — also suspects the governor is wearing lifts. “Three things stick out to me,” he says, “the instep, the toe spring and where the ball of his foot is sitting in the boots.”
In shoemaking, the term “instep” refers to the area of your foot where shoelaces usually sit. Ebner notes that almost every photo of DeSantis shows an unusually high instep that angles nearly 60 degrees, pushing the leather outward and making it unusually taut. This high instep showed up when DeSantis campaigned at the Iowa State Fair, meeting voters mid-stride while wearing jeans and his campaign’s fishing shirt, as well as when he spoke to guests at the Family Leadership Summit over the summer. “Instead of the leather hugging the inside arch of his foot, as it should, it looks like his foot is being lifted up and stretching out the leather,” Ebner says.