A Lucchese fanatic and sports photographer, Chris Elise, has been a loyal customer for many years. Chris was born in the town of Tours, France, and is now living in Santa Monica, California. He has been in the U.S. for seven years and is married to his dream woman, Gigi Levangie, a mama bear born and raised in Hollywood, a novelist, and screenwriter. He is also the stepdad of her two boys, Thomas and Patrick, his sons from another father as he calls them.
Chris is an NBA photographer working for French media. He is represented by the NBA and distributed via Getty Images. He has been a sports photographer for more than 15 years, following a career as an IT journalist, covering all sports around the world. From Cuba to the Dominican Republic for baseball, all over Europe for several sports, to South Dakota or Wyoming for bull riding. He said, “I was lucky enough to move to the U.S. seven years ago for good, which was a lifelong dream, something I dreamt about as a child.” Besides shooting the NBA (15 seasons, 6 NBA Finals), he started to cover PBR (Professional Bull Riders) a year ago. Chris is fascinated by these cowboys, their lifestyles, and their dedication to their sport. He’s the happiest when he is at a PBR event because he loves everything about it – from the people to the riders to the PR folks.
Being born in France, you don’t see too many cowboy boots walking down the street. How did you hear about Lucchese?
I was born in France and spent most of my life in my homeland. By fall 2020, I will be able to apply for my U.S. citizenship, which I will! I fell in love with America when I was around 10 years old. Can’t really explain why, but can a love story be explained? My grandfather, a WWII veteran who couldn’t speak two words of English, loved western movies. I spent my childhood watching those movies with him and my grandmother who lived five minutes away from home. I loved – and still do – western movies, and the American Cowboy. I always wanted to wear cowboy boots, but it felt silly to wear them in France. So, when I moved to the U.S. – after a first year in Boston, going west to Los Angeles, I hunted for my first pair. I heard about Lucchese from a buddy working at Boot Star, the iconic shop on Sunset Boulevard. I read about the brand, the long history, the attention to detail, and I was sold – my first pair of cowboy boots had to be Lucchese.
What are your hobbies?
Getting to know more about America, the people, the culture, the history, by reading books, watching documentaries, exploring the west I love so much, driving my American muscle cars (a 1968 Chevelle SS 396 and a 1969 Dodge Super Bee, when I don’t drive my Colorado ZR2 truck for long road trips), listening to country music (I even have a Waylon Jennings tattoo on my arm), rock, blues, and jazz, learning about bourbon, keeping up with my skills at the gun range (me being an ex-military), watching sports (NBA, MLB, NFL, PBR mostly), and watching our two dogs sleep most of the day (Glock, the English bulldog, and Peanut, the mini dachshund).
How do cowboy boots play a big role in your life?
Cowboys boots are my go-to shoes, my everyday shoes. I literally wear cowboy boots every day. I wear them like other people wear sneakers. They’re a perfect fit for any situation for me. I wear them to drive my younger boy to high school, to football practices, I wear them to walk with my wife to our favorite local coffee shop, I even wear them sometimes when I cover NBA games, and definitely when I cover PBR. I wore a pair of cowboy boots for my wedding – a stunning red pair of Lucchese of course!
When did you get your first pair of Lucchese boots?
6 years ago, when I moved from Boston to Los Angeles.
Describe why are you such a big fan.
The quality. Then, the variety and history of the brand. Lucchese means authenticity, excellence in craft, it’s a brand with a sense of pride, of tradition. It’s rooted in American history, in the American culture. I happen to have met a lot of people working for the brand, in stores, all around the country, all very good people. It’s a good feeling to own the craft of such dedicated, nice people.
What’s your favorite pair?
The Gibson model, belly caiman. Everything is perfect about this model. I also love suede models. Last time I was in Santa Fe, I saw a suede model in Italian leather and it was insanely beautiful!
How often do you buy a new pair?
I had to slow down… my wife thinks I am addicted to the brand! And she’s right! I buy a new pair once every few months now.
How big is your collection?
27 pairs… and counting.
What do you feel every day when you put on your Lucchese boots?
My love for the cowboy boots is rooted in my childhood love for America, for the cowboy. “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” … Being a cowboy is also a lifestyle in my opinion, a core of values, an appreciation for simple things. Every day I put on my Lucchese boots, and it truly reminds me that I’m living my dream, living in this country I love so much, and I am grateful, happy, and ready to ride!
For more information about Chris Elise, follow him on Instagram @froyourmind or@chriselisenbaphotos.