José Der began handcrafting custom boots and shoes in Havana, Cuba. More than 50 years ago, they opened their Brooklyn, N.Y., headquarters, where Der Dau keeps the craft alive producing boots and shoes of ultimate quality and fit. Der Dau is a rare gem of a company that values excellence, quality, and hand-made craftsmanship in a time when mass-produced products are the norm. It is no wonder that top equestrians have embraced the brand.

In addition to fine leathers, boots can include a wide range of other materials — here a boa snakeskin.

“The pride we have for our trade, as well as our skill, hard work, and dedication, have raised us to the level of excellence at which we stand today,” said company founder José Der Sr. “For over a half a century, Der Dau has been manufacturing custom quality boots and shoes by hand. Our pride is our craft and tradition.”

There was buttery-soft leather tucked everywhere. As you can imagine, the aroma was amazing.

“We handle every aspect of the process ourselves,” said Joseph Der, José’s son and President of Der Dau, as he welcomed EQ to the Brooklyn workshop. “We design and manufacture, market, and sell. We take great pride in knowing every one of our customers.”

 A Painstaking Process

The process of producing Der Dau boots begins with patterns created with meticulous measurements of the customer’s feet and legs. Then, the selected leathers are cut from Der Dau’s large inventory of quality hides. Boots are stitched and then lasted, a process of molding the boots to the exact shape of the feet. The soles and heels are bonded to the boots and carefully trimmed, and the calves of the boots are painstakingly shaped to match the customer’s leg. Finally, the boots are carefully inspected before they are shipped to the customer.


A craftsman trims leather to fit a customer’s template.
Joseph demonstrates how a boot is prepared for a sole.
Each customer’s personal mold is filed away for future orders.
Joseph demonstrates the measurements necessary for a perfect fit for EQ editor, Stephanie Peters.

Der Dau was the first in the equestrian industry to introduce a line of boots from exotic leathers and skins in a variety of colors, positioning Der Dau as refreshing, fashion-forward, and trendy, according to various media reports. In fact, pop icon Madonna has ordered multiple pairs of the boots for concert tours.

Mementos around the shop hint at some of the previous visitors.

Technology and Craftsmanship

Last year, Der Dau launched its “Dream Boot,” constructed with many innovative features for comfort and durability. The boot lives up to its name by keeping top riders, who are often in boots from dawn until well after the last class of the night, in state-of-the-art comfort.


Joseph Der brilliantly aligned the brand with equestrian sport’s leading competitions and organizations and maintains a highly visible presence at the nation’s major equestrian events. Der Dau sponsors top riders and Olympians like Debbie Stephens, Betsy Steiner, Ian Millar, Karen O’Connor, and Margie Engel.

José Der began making fine shoes in Brooklyn more than 50 years ago, and for many years before that in Cuba.

Published Spring 2013