Stumbling upon an outdated website usually means the domain's been left for dead. I figured buildaboot.com — a joint project between White's and Baker's, the largest distributor of White's, WESCO and Danner in the US — faced a similar fate when I clicked on it a few nights ago (while searching for "custom boots" on Google). It's good to keep up with what's out there, you know?
The site, designed in 2013, embodies that era of the Internet quite well. Complete with 2D buttons and 3D backdrops, chunky clickable toggles and logos so pixelated the text is nearly unintelligible, it's nothing too impressive. But, if it worked, I thought, navigating my way through the retro site would be well worth the return: a pair of custom-made boots manufactured by on the of United States' foremost footwear companies. I was skeptical of placing an order without confirmation this was still something they offered. So I reached out.
I entered "1-800-879-0514," the site's customer service line, into my phone and pressed dial. It rang. Then someone picked up. I said I had a few questions about the process and was put promptly on hold. An ironically old-sounding advert clicked on — like the kind musicians use for skits or interludes. A voice read a script to the tune of "Did you know you can custom order White's Boots? You can NOW on buildaboot.com."
Someone else picked up the other end. My questions were quickly answered: 1.) Yes, Baker's and White's both still offer this service. 2.) It typically takes between 12 and 24 weeks from the time of order to return your custom pair. Bonus: The site's due for a refresh sometime in early 2022.
Right now, it's still plenty functional (if you get past its Myspace-like aesthetic). Featuring five styles ranging from dress to firefighter boots, Build a Boot lets you choose your own "colors and textures of leathers, your sole tread design and color as well as the color and type of hooks and eyelets," the site reads. But that's not all. You can add or subtract things like leather laces and pull tabs, swap leather soles for Vibram ones, change the height, add a safety toe, remix your midsole colors and max out your heel height. If you can imagine it, White's will probably let you do it.
Some things, as expected, are extra. Certain leathers can be substituted for around $50 dollars more, but, for context, it only costs $40 bucks to upgrade White's popular Smoke Jumper from a 6-inch boot to a 16-inch boot. The extra 10 inches pushes your grand total closer $700, but that's essentially White's selling you a custom boot for nearly what it costs to acquire a regular one.