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The Distinguished: Joe Lama

Grandson of Tony Lama, Sr.

Joe Lama

Born in 1950 in El Paso, TX, Joe Lama is the grandson of Tony Lama, Sr. Growing up, Joe spent most of his grade school years running around and playing in the downtown El Paso, TX Tony Lama factory.

While he was in college, the union at the Tony Lama factory pulled a wildcat strike and Joe’s father asked him to come to the factory to cut leathers. This was his first official job at the Tony Lama factory and the start to his journey in becoming one of the most knowledgeable leather experts in the world. 

After college, Joe was asked to run the raw materials warehouse in the factory. At this time, computer stitching machines were not available and everything in boot making was done completely by hand. At the time, part of Joe’s job was to farm out two-thirds of the stitching work and bring it back in to ensure the stitching met Tony Lama quality standards.

Ever since his first job with Tony Lama right out of college, Joe has spent many years working in all areas of boot making production, but his true expertise lies heavily in leather. When it comes to boot making, there are very few production houses that can cut exotic leather well. It takes years of experience to get it right. And if you don’t have the right leather, the boot will not come together right.

This is why Joe’s role at Tony Lama very quickly morphed into purchasing leather. Tony Lama needed someone knowledgeable and trustworthy to pick the best exotic leathers available.

From his early years right out of college to working as the head of leather purchasing today, Joe has traveled the world in search of innovative, high-quality exotic leathers for boot making. And worldwide vendors would travel to El Paso to meet with Joe to sell Tony Lama exotic skins they wouldn’t sell to anyone else in the industry.

In fact this is why in 1974, Joe won a designer award from the American Apparel & Footwear Association for his innovative thinking and expertise in applying unique exotic leathers to the boot making process.

Today, Joe continues his family’s legacy working as the Director of Purchasing & Scheduling in our Fort Worth office. Over the years, Joe’s hard work and dedication is a true testament to his earned success and expertise in leathers and the boot making industry. His time spent in the factory, his experience in the industry and his unmatched knowledge is why he has earned the title of being one of the “Distinguished.”

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