Meet Bar 9L Designs
Steven grew up in Southern Colorado on his family’s cattle ranch and spent the majority of his weekends riding bulls. He got started doing leatherwork in 4H as a kid but didn’t pick up the tools again and really take on the craft until he and Taylor moved to Alaska to work for Taylor’s dads’ leather shop where they made gun holsters.
Taylor grew up in Alaska but spent every summer with her extended family in Oklahoma before moving there when she turned 18. She grew up watching her dad build saddles and repair tack in their shop in Alaska before the shop needed to find a more Alaskan niche (hence gun holsters). She has spent the majority of her adult life working in leather shops and high-end western stores in Oklahoma and Colorado.
After we moved to Alaska and began making gun holsters, Steven started playing around with the more artistic side of things. We created an Etsy shop and began selling small items like tooled wallets, firefighter helmet shields, etc. before someone messaged us with a request to create a pair of fully tooled wedge shoes. Steven was quick to take on the challenge, and the rest is history.
What Inspires Your Designs?
I like to think we are inspired by timeless western carving and tooling. I always think of the way a beautiful old saddle patinas with time, and I always hope to create a pair of shoes that only get better with age.
What are your top three favorite things about the pieces you make?
Each and every pair of shoes is hand-drawn and tooled, so no two pair are alike. We are able to create so many different looks using different materials (hand-tooled leather, cowhide, Pendleton fabric, etc.) while keeping our signature style the same. The level of thought and care that goes into the finishing touches of each piece. We spare no expense. We spend almost as much time finishing each piece as we do tooling it. No rough edges, here!
What is an unexpected challenge people may not realize exists about the shoes you make?
We receive the wedge/heel bottoms only as a bare piece. We literally create and add the cushioned footbed and leather lining by hand cutting each individual piece. The process is extensive, and it takes several days to build a single pair just because of the number of times we have to wet, glue, and allow each section of work to dry.
What’s your advice for someone struggling to curate their own personal style?
I struggle with this myself. In the age of Instagram, it’s hard to feel like you are being unique. Beating to your own drum can be seriously exhausting. Plain and simple, wear what you want, when you want. Don’t feel like you need to keep up with the Joneses because you’ll never be satisfied. Make sure what you’re wearing makes you FEEL good. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. I get a lot of shit from people because one day I’m Lululemon from head to toe, and the next it looks like I stepped out of Urban Cowboy, but I do that because that’s what makes me feel good on that particular day… keep em on their toes!
Tell us something we may not know!
Taylor didn’t graduate high school, but got her GED several years after dropping out and is now a yoga and indoor cycle teacher.
Steven graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University with a Bachelors in Business Management and was on the rodeo team from 2006-2010.
Tell us a little about your personal style?
We both love a good mix of classic and modern. If you walk into our home you’ll find a good combination of vintage furniture and accessories (probably from Goodwill) and modern western artwork. Almost nothing matches, and that’s fine with us.
What is one piece of advice you’d give someone looking to start her business?
DO IT. Don’t quit your job yet (I always see that meme, something about quitting your job and buying a ticket… maybe be a little more thoughtful about it than that.) But don’t be afraid to go to other successful business owners who you may look up to. Ask them for advice, most of us are more than willing to help.