When Dr. David Little walks into a room to begin a lecture, his students can’t help but take a look at his feet.
That’s because they want to see what custom-made boots he’s wearing this time, whether it’s the pair with his practice logo, the ones promoting Little Implant Co., or a brand new creation they’ve never seen before. Repeat students know the story behind the San Antonio-based doctor’s boot collection, and many have even asked where they can get a pair for themselves.
The answer is Little’s Boot Company in San Antonio. The company has been part of Dr. Little’s family since 1915, and he fondly remembers his dad receiving a proclamation from the state of Texas in 2015 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary. His father passed away last September at the age of 87, but Dr. Little’s brother and sister still run the family business today. All boots are made by a small, loyal staff (many are sons and grandsons of the original employees) who take pride in their craft and the tradition of making boots by hand.
Dr. Little gets at least one new pair of handmade boots every year, and jokes that he could probably wear a different pair every day if he wanted to. New boots enter his collection when the family wants to try something different, like a new skin (they’ve used his mold many, many times), or when he’s ready for an upgrade.
“I do wear them every day,” Dr. Little said. “The only time I’m not wearing them is when I see patients because I’m usually in scrubs.”
Making the boots wasn’t in the cards
Before Dr. Little became a dentist, he was part of the family boot business. He started working in the shop in high school, and eventually moved his way up to a sales position. While he enjoyed working with his father, he soon discovered he just didn’t have a knack for making boots and would probably need to find another career path.
“I started going to rodeos, cattle shows, doctor offices, lawyer offices, wherever I could to measure people and sell them boots,” Dr. Little said. “I was terrible at actually making the boots, though. My dad would tell everybody my son wanted to be a boot maker but didn’t have the hands for it so he became a dentist.”
So instead of making the boots, Dr. Little wears them proudly, sporting custom designs with dental themes, including dental implants and Little Implant Co.’s Multi-Drill.
A whole lotta boots
Dr. Little has boots made of alligator, crocodile and ostrich skin to name a few. Those made of alligator and crocodile are more on the fancy side, he said, while the ones made of ostrich (his favorite skin) polish up the best and can be worn dressy or casual. He has boots he wears to hunt in and boots that mark special occasions, including the ones he received 35 years ago from the shop’s employees when he graduated from dental school (they have teeth on them). He even has boots he hasn’t worn yet, including the ones designed for the 100 year anniversary. They’re still on display in the showroom.
“My dad designed those,” Dr. Little said. “They’re special. That’s why I haven’t worn them.”
His current favorites are the boots with the Little Implant Co. logo. The logo is a bright blue that really pops, he said, making them a great conversation starter.
Dr. Little has owned countless pairs of custom-made boots over the years, as well as belts, wallets and other leather goods to match. He has given many pairs away, but has a boot rack for the ones he wears regularly and cases to store some of the others. He keeps the boots he wears polished, and gets them cleaned up every time he visits the shop.
Dr. Little is proud to wear the boots, and of the company that has been in his family for four generations.
“It’s the whole package. I like wearing them because they are comfortable and they look great. It’s something you don’t see that often,” he said. “And I’m proud of the family tradition. I really am. So I like showing them off and of course, when people see a dental theme on the boots, that’s a great conversation starter. Then it goes into dentistry.”