In the straightforward style of our state, let’s skip the bull and lead with the burning question: Can an authentic, honest-to-goodness cowboy boot be vegan? Kat Mendenhall says yes, and this Texan has the knowledge, passion, and product to back up her claim.
Five years ago, lifelong Dallasite Kat Mendenhall adopted a vegan lifestyle. The meat-free, plant based diet proved a good fit for her in both body and mind. Footwear options, however, were another story.
“As a native Texan, cowboy boots are part of my personality,” she explains. Traditional leather Western styles, however, were no longer an option, from a vegan point of view. Exhaustive searches for attractive, vegan-friendly cowboy boots netted only tumbleweeds, so to speak. And that’s where Mendenhall’s independent, home state spirit sparked an idea.
Over a year in the planning and designing, Kick Butt Boots equals leather-free, 100% vegan cowboy boots, handmade in El Paso, Texas. Stylish enough for a day of Dallas shopping, as well as an authentic fit for line dancing, Mendenhall also proclaims that they’re “the most comfortable boots you’ll ever wear.”
This trail-blazing product is set to soft launch next month at the annual Get Healthy Marshall expo in Marshall, Texas. Classic and custom styles will then be available online. As the big reveal approaches, read our exclusive Q&A to learn why these compassionate kicks born deep in the heart of Texas may also be your next new favorite pair.
DFW Style Daily: You describe yourself as a “cowgirl at heart” and a “country girl trapped in the city.” What ties you so emotionally to the country?
Kat Mendenhall: “The country will always mean ‘family’ to me, since I’ve spent so much time there, first as a child with my grandparents, later at my parents’ ranch, and also on the farmland that my husband and I own in Arkansas. I love the rawness of the land, the open sky that provides fresh air to breathe, and the beauty displayed as each season rolls in and out. Life slows down in the country, which gives me a deep sense of serenity.”
Likewise, you are emotionally invested in your choice to live a vegan lifestyle. Have you encountered any stereotypes or misconceptions since this decision five years ago?
“We all, at some point, have had misconceptions about someone. In most cases, these stem from a lack of knowledge, so I don’t take it personally when someone stereotypes me for being vegan. I’ve encountered those who assumed I’d joined a religious cult, turned ‘hippie,’ took too many yoga classes, or was following a diet fad (which, by the way, I’ve never done). I’d like to say that, five years later, those stereotypes and misconceptions are gone. However, despite vegan lifestyles being more mainstream today, we still have a lot of work to do.”
To your point, Dallas hasn’t exactly been known, historically, as a particularly vegetarian- and vegan-friendly city. That’s changing, largely because of people like you. What changes have you seen in Big D in the last few years?
“Dallas is a food city and a fashion city, but being environmentally friendly is not our top priority. We can’t even embrace a bag ban, for goodness sakes! I’m encouraged, though, by those mavericks who are working everyday to make changes. In the last year alone, we’ve seen a big surge in veg-friendly restaurants, and grocery stores are carrying more veg-friendly and organic options. What’s more, the Texas Veggie Fair, founded by vegan activist Jamey Scott, surpassed 10,000 in attendance last year.”
Moving on to the subject of shoes (which we love!), what appeals to you about cowboy boots? What are the key characteristics of a real, honest-to-goodness boot, in your expert opinion?
“As a native Texan, cowboy boots are part of my personality. They are also a Texas emblem that signifies the ruggedness of our past and our heritage. I love the comfort and protection of a cowboy boot, and how they get better with time.
“Some may argue this fact, but a true cowboy boot is Texas-styled and made in Texas. Hailing from the Spanish culture of eighteenth century Mexico, they feature a tall, loose shaft and a Cuban heel. They provide a sturdy, no-slip grip to be worn in any conditions. They must be handmade with quality craftsmanship, fashion-forward with colorful embroidery, and be durable and breathable to handle our drastic weather changes. And, of course, they’re not just for Texans!”
Describe your target clientele. Where would he or she wear a pair of Kick Butt Boots?
“My target client is anyone, man or woman, who appreciates a quality, uniquely designed, handmade product. He or she doesn’t have to be a cowboy or cowgirl at heart; they only need know that a Texas-styled cowboy boot gives you confidence to walk in style and enjoy the admirers.”
If you could outfit any celebrity with a pair of Kick Butt Boots, who would be your top picks?
“I’d love to replace Ellen’s famous tennis shoes with a pair of my vegan boots. It would also be an honor for Alicia Silverstone to have a pair, since I feel she is partly responsible for my amazing vegan journey. I’d love Carrie Underwood to rock a pair, because she’s a country girl at heart, too. Finally, Woody Harrelson, who is a native Texan and one bad-ass vegan actor!”
Lastly, following the launch of Kick Butt Boots, how do you see your company growing in the future?
“I’m actually in the process of re-branding prior to the launch, under the brand Kat Mendenhall, Vegan Texas-Styled Cowboy Boots. They will still be one heck of a kick butt boot, where leather always gets the boot, but I felt it was important to keep the brand under my name.
“Moving forward, I will continue to develop quality vegan products that prove no animal ever has to suffer for comfort and fashion. The vision for my company is to empower people to make informed food and fashion choices, to debunk myths about veganism, to be a voice for animals, and to give people the tools and resources they need to live according to their own values of compassion and wellness.”
All images, courtesy of Kat Mendenhall. Visit KickButtBoots.com for more information.