RAM TRUCKS AND LUCCHESE: A PERFECT PAIR
Two iconic brands join forces to celebrate the 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn™ 10th Anniversary Edition with custom boots.
Sometimes, destiny and authenticity are in the cards. In this case, how Lucchese came to design a cowboy boot inspired by the Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn™ 10th Anniversary Edition actually began the other way around, in one of those rare moments of synchronicity, when the right idea magically appears. That was when Ryan Nagode, Chief Designer—Head of RAM Interiors, visited Texas more than a decade ago—when the notion of the Longhorn becoming a true luxury truck was still a twinkle in his eye—and he and his design team wandered into several Western stores and were impressed by what they saw.
“Going into a boot shop and some of the saddle shops, and seeing the attention to detail, the creativity and the uniqueness, I knew that was fundamental to get into the Longhorn and even more so, play that up on the 10th Anniversary Edition,” Nagode says. After 10 years of the Longhorn evolving into the pinnacle of Southwest luxury and capability, Ram Trucks’ customers had learned to expect nothing less.
Nagode’s boots-on-the-ground inspiration would prove pivotal. “Luxury at the time meant throwing leather-trimmed seats in the truck,” he says. “You probably didn’t touch anything else.” Sensing the evolution—and impending revolution—in who was driving trucks, Ram’s design and engineering teams set out to create lifestyle products that matched the consumers’ individual tastes and needs. “We had to distill it down to who was purchasing the truck—what they loved and how they use it—so we could design it for them specifically,” says Nagode.
By intimately getting to know their customers and how they use their vehicles, Ram Trucks could best gauge what would go into the interior and soon became known for forward-thinking design and comfort, along with durability and reliability. Now, a decade later, Ram's design teams have raised the world’s benchmark for upscale pickup trucks again with the Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary Edition.
As simple as it sounds, the Longhorn's achievement is the result of hundreds of decisions, all coming together in unison, that make the truck’s interior design resonate on a subconscious level. It reflects an astute balancing act between style and function, choosing the right details and textures to create that emotional spark while maintaining an unwavering focus on quality. Each design element, from the ultra-comfortable seats to the way the console knobs respond to your touch, is the result of thorough durability testing across myriad engineering, materials and quality teams. Some innovative materials undergo years of research and testing to ensure they’ll remain as awe-inspiring and joy-inducing as the day you bought your truck, yet be able to withstand plenty of wear and tear.
And the cumulative effect of those striking design details and tactile hallmarks of the 10th Anniversary Edition will now inspire luxury-level, Western-inspired handcrafted footwear from the prestigious Texas boot maker. “Elements from boot designs and saddle designs very much influenced our design process,” Nagode says. “I love the fact that we are able to collaborate now with Lucchese, and work together to come out with something that, for them, is a takeoff on our interior. It was a full circle, 360-degree process that happened over time, which is great.”
It also signifies a milestone in the exacting quality processes at both Ram and Lucchese, protocols that span from design inception through final product execution, providing the bedrock for each brand’s legacy and product lineup.
How Quality Design Begins: Details That Matter
Whether it is climbing into the interior of a Ram Truck for the first time or slipping one’s feet into a pair of Lucchese boots, both can blow your mind as to the potential of what a truck or a boot can be. And that exhilarating sensation doesn’t just happen by accident.
Whenever he’s imagining a new cowboy boot design, Trey Gilmore picks up his sketchbook and begins to draw. As director of product development for Lucchese, he’s designed plenty of boots before, and for some of the most well-known people in the world—U.S. presidents, Hollywood celebrities and sports stars among them. But when it came to designing a boot for Ram Trucks, it was different. He had the weight of representing two iconic brands on his shoulders.
What would it look like? Where would he begin? For inspiration, Gilmore looked to harness the essence of each brand, bring out the best elements of each and find a way to join them in a way that made the most sense. “My idea was to capitalize on and celebrate Lucchese and Ram Trucks, and take some of the best parts and pieces from a design aspect and bring them together, and be able to show the world a really fantastically designed piece of footwear that celebrates both brands and the history that they have,” he says.
Luckily, the layers of refined design and premium materials within the Longhorn 10th Anniversary Edition gave Gilmore a surfeit of references to choose from, ones that hinted at the truck’s own individual story and the story of its owner—maybe a rancher, or someone who would like to be; the warm-toned, Mountain Brown leather-trimmed seats, reminiscent of horse saddles and trail rides across the Southwest; the laser filigree detail on the suede door bolsters like you might see on a pearl snap shirt or a pair of cowboy boots; the brushed-zinc antique console badge that warms to the touch in the Southwestern sun; the tough-as-nails logo—that’s iconic Ram.
They’re all elements that create the ultimate first impression, that reaction when you first open the door of a Ram truck—the wow. “It’s tying the emotional connection to the features, the look and feel, the sitting in the seats, the smell when you open up the door, especially on our Longhorn model,” says Nagode. “You feel like you’re at the tannery. You feel like you’re on a ranch with the sunlight coming up in the morning, with the warm tones, the textures and the sensations. To us, it’s more than just a product. We want you to get in there and feel.”
To convey the Longhorn interior’s rustic refinement in a boot, Gilmore knew he had to get the boot color right. And that meant relying on the handcrafted, curated leather dying process that Lucchese’s known for. “That was also part of the inspiration, to subliminally connect the two brands through colorations,” says Gilmore. “The leather starts out very neutral, a kind of tan color, and with our hand-stain process, we mix all of our own dyes and colors and we do this coloring and finishing in-house. As you can see, that’s pretty spot-on to that Mountain Brown interior.”
Then Gilmore homed in on the Longhorn’s refined design elements. He imagined swirls of stitches on the boot tops influenced by the Ram's curled horns, and hand-tooled floral vines like the laser filigree detail on the Longhorn suede door bolsters. When it came to the Ram logo, he wanted its placement to be special—on the boot’s pull straps and centered on the front of the boot.
“This is obviously a very iconic logo in the world of pickup trucks, and simply out of respect, we did a number of designs and worked through the design team to make sure we weren’t crowding these logos and giving them space that they deserve, so that the customer can enjoy that and take it in,” Gilmore says.
The Collective DNA: Rigorous Quality Testing
Quality is something Ram stakes its name on, in particular with its interiors, which need to be durable and long-lasting: If any material doesn’t pass Ram's stringent battery of durability tests, ranging from heat resilience to stain resistance to ease of cleaning, it doesn’t make it into the truck.
"Ram's testing standards make sure that each truck can live up to what we promise,” says Nagode. “It’s so important. The leather that you feel on the seats. It’s nice and soft, but it’s also going to stand the test of time. That’s what we’ve worked on over the years with our engineering community, creating materials that will test well, last long and, on top of that, look unique.”
Selection of materials at Lucchese works the same way. Gilmore starts the process of building a sample boot with leathers that have a rich and elegant appearance, and wear well, too. Like the customer-driven philosophy at Ram, quality is ingrained in every pair of Lucchese boots.
Piece by piece—the front and back quarters, the section across the top of the foot known as the vamp, the pull strap and the rest of the leather components that make up a Lucchese boot—Gilmore’s boot design for the Longhorn 10th Anniversary Edition came together. He imagined a dressy, top-of-the-line edition crafted from alligator belly wild-harvested in Georgia and a more casual one in ostrich leather, known for its suppleness and durability. The heels would be low. The toes, square.
Because a boot needs to work as hard as the person wearing it, all of its materials—thick leather for a new outsole or delicate piping for the boot’s top that will last but also feel good against the skin—are first run through a battery of tests and a trial period to ensure quality. From there, a sample will be built and it’ll be worn to determine its reliability and durability.
“If it doesn’t pass the ‘wear test,’ and if it doesn’t meet our standards or exceed them, we’ll back up and start over and work with our supplier to make sure that we hit the mark,” Gilmore says. “Because testing is definitely one of the most important pieces of our process.”
As each pair of boots is passed from person to person, adding a detail or a decorative stitch, it goes through 120 different pairs of hands. “And that aligns with the quality and durability that both brands stand for,” Gilmore says. “Whether it’s your day-to-day way of life or just the spirit of the West that leads you to Lucchese or Ram, you can always count on the premium, dependable product that’s built to hold up and last, to get the job done.”
The Perfect Partnership Symbolized in a Boot
Superior quality. Durability. Tested over and over again to make sure that in time, they’ll wear just as well, if not better, than they did on that very first day. It’s what Lucchese stands for. It’s also the core ethos at Ram: to meet the customer’s expectations and then exceed them, whether it be in quality, safety or performance, every step of the way. So it makes sense that Gilmore’s final design has the two logos, Lucchese and Ram, side-by-side, inside the boot and on its sole, where leather meets the earth.
“You look at Lucchese, they own their niche,” says Nagode. “They know what they’ve done well, and they’ve built upon that. I trust them in what they deliver. Now they’ve reached out and have expanded their product offerings, and the same thing is true for us, as we get out there and start bringing on other parts of the market. Now people will know that and say, ‘All right, I trust Ram, and what they deliver.’”