Ready, OKAY! Over a course of six months (and now, regularly), we worked with the Poppy Barley studio in León to make custom cheerleading boots for two NFL cheerleading teams—the St. Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiderettes.
We know what you’re thinking: how did a brand new Canadian made to measure shoe company come to make custom cheerleading boots for such a niche—and public—sport in the US?
It all started with a Google search for “custom boots” and a simple email—self-described as a “weird request”—from Keely Fimbres, director of special events at the St. Louis Rams, asking if making boots for a cheerleading squad was a possibility at Poppy Barley. Apparently, it was. Almost immediately, images of kicking, jumping, twirling, knee-high white boots—made famous by cheerleaders all across North America—began floated around in our heads.
At that stage, we had been open for less than six months. As a startup, we were surprised, but mostly excited, and after researching deadlines (the NFL season started in August), and thinking big at our little studio in Mexico, we concluded: why not?
Soon after taking on the contract with the St. Louis Rams, we received another request, this time from the Oakland Raiderettes cheerleading team. In total, we made 86 pairs of custom boots. For continuity, we used last year’s boot design already owned by the Rams and Raiderettes, but made some component improvements, like padded insoles and custom measurements on the calf.
Our biggest challenge in accepting the contract was meeting tight deadlines. By the time the Rams and Raiders found us, we only had three months till game time, and still had to develop samples before even beginning to manufacture the 86 pairs of boots.
Sometimes extra-pressure (and telling our artisans exactly who these white leather boots were being made for; believe us, delivering the news has been half the fun) is exactly what you need to make something amazing happen.
Laura, our Mexico Operations Manager, visited 18 tanneries in two days in search of the right type of leather (one with a plastic coating, similar to the material used to make sneakers), so that the grass wouldn’t stain the boots. Lupita, our Studio Manager, digitized our lasts so that our lasts, insoles, and soles could all be made at the same time, rather than sequentially, which is the typical process. Jeanette, a manager with the Raiderettes, took a measuring tape on-location at their bikini shoot so that she could measure calves before each cheerleader’s photo session.
One of the biggest highlights from the experience was Keely’s visit to Edmonton from St. Louis, Missouri in June. Keely is one of the warmest people we have been privileged to work with. While the weather did not cooperate (a hailstorm and tornado alert!) we took advantage of Edmonton’s great local restaurants like The Marc, Corso 32 and Tres Carnales, for some amazing dining. (For the record, we did not take her to West Edmonton Mall.)
Naturally, we decided to work off all that food by trying desperately to be cheerleaders. Keely took us through a Rams dance routine that the girls have to learn at tryouts. As you’ll see from the shaky video below, we are mostly a group of runners and not used to moving that way—with the exception of Breanne who, to no one’s surprise, used to be a pompom girl.
The end result was a super-cool experience and two new favourite NFL teams for Poppy Barley. We continue to work with these two teams to create their boots.
And now… the three most pressing questions we had for Keely:
1. Do cheerleaders have to do their own hair? (If yes–dance abilities aside–this alone would keep me from making the team.)
No. They get full hair and makeup done before each game.
2. Do cheerleaders date the players?
This depends on the team, but for the Rams this is strictly a no. A girl will get removed from the squad if she dates a player.
3. What is the most important quality you look for when selecting the team?
Professionalism. Above all, each cheerleader is an ambassador for the team and needs to behave in a manner that reflects well on the team–at all times. For this reason, the interview component is weighted the most important, while dance skills are considered teachable (provided a decent starting point).
Who wouldn’t want professional ambassadors to be ambassadors for your made to measure shoe company? Go team!