Christian Brooks’ creativity seems to know no end. The leatherworker, musician and now author rattles off projects as fast as he mentions names of the famous people he’s worked with.
Best known for his guitar straps, famously beloved by Stevie Ray Vaughan among many others, Brooks is now celebrating the opening of his Etsy store, which will allow anyone to own his original boot bags. Each of the custom gems could previously be acquired only at the shop he ran out of his house, Blues Suede Shoe.
The signature bags have been around since the 1990s and remain in demand. To make them, Brooks repurposes boots he picks up from everywhere — at garage sales, estate sales, flea markets — and cuts off the tops. He then cleans and transforms them into seven different elegant, timeless designs of crossbody purses, signing each handcrafted creation. Brooks offers a Louis Vuitton version, made of repurposed bags, as well.
The bags take on special meaning when people bring him boots formerly owned by loved ones.
"There’s a lot of people out there that have lost their dad or their mom or their uncle, and they’ve got these boots sitting in these closets and they don’t know what to do with them,” Brooks says.
Brooks turns them into a new treasured item that allows families to keep a part of their beloved with them at all times. This week, a lady picked up a bag he made of the boots of her husband who died, and she plans to bring him two more pairs to make into smaller bags to give as mementos to her grandchildren.
Brooks’ bags are also a bit like owning a piece of Texas history. He used to ride bikes with Vaughan in Oak Cliff, who wore the guitar strap Brooks made him all throughout a documentary recently made about Vaughan, Out of Nowhere.
“For him to put that on the number one guitar he played — he put it on there and never took it off,” Brooks says. “I was quite honored. He was a special man.”
Back in their high school days in the '60s, each school in Oak Cliff had bands that would compete on the weekends and hold social events. Brooks, a songwriter and slide guitarist, played in one, as did a litany of now famous musicians, including B.W. Stevenson and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
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Later, he owned a shop in Deep Ellum at 2815 Main St. where he made menus, T-shirts and promotional items for early clubs in the area. Eventually he opened a boot and shoe repair shop and music rental store that musicians performing in the area would frequent, serving venues like Club Dada and Trees. At one point, he had seven boot stores. He was friends with Sheryl Crow, Phish and Billy Gibbons, among others, and made straps for many of the shop’s famous clients as well. ZZ Top, B.B. King and Gary P. Nunn have all worn his straps.
“I could do a lot of things, but I try to focus on a couple of things so I’m not so spread out anymore,” Brooks says.
The Etsy store will help him sell the bags with less hassle so he can focus on family and one of his other endeavors, his blues music group, the Christian Brooks Band, which will travel to Europe soon. The prolific artist also has a children’s book coming out, and he has started to design boots made from scratch by third-generation boot craftsman from El Paso, Karlos Giovanni. These complement another of his inventions, boot wallets, famous among clients for lasting for decades, whether used for fashion or to sustain outdoor work.
“I can make both,” Brooks said. “I can make you anything you want.”