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Matehuala, Mexico • The customer known only as "Cesar of Huizache" had an odd request for shoemaker Dario Calderon: He showed him a cell-phone photo of a sequined cowboy boot with pointy toes so long, they curled up toward the knees. He wanted a pair, but with longer toes.
"I thought 'What's up with this dude?'" Calderon said at his shop in Matehuala, a northeastern Mexican city of farmers and cattle ranchers accustomed to a more stoic cowboy look. The boot in the photo measured 60 centimeters (23 inches) "but we made him a pair that were 90 centimeters (35 inches) long."
The mystery man from Huizache, a nearby village, wore his new boots to Mesquit Rodeo nightclub, where he danced bandido style with a handkerchief hiding his mouth and nose
"He was dancing and having a good time and he didn't care what people were saying about him," said Fernando Lopez, the master of ceremonies at the rodeo-themed disco.
Then he disappeared.
The next thing Calderon knew, it seemed like everyone wanted the bizarre, half-Aladdin, all-Vegas pointy boots, from little boys attending church ceremonies to teenagers at the discos.
Calderon fashioned the elongated toes from plastic foam and charged 400 pesos ($34) for the extensions. The competition began charging 350 pesos ($30) per 15 centimeters (6 inches) of new toe.
Boys who couldn't afford that used garden hoses to make their own. When one added glittery butterflies, another made 5-foot-long toes and added multicolor glitter stripes. When one added stars to the tips, others added flashing lights and disco balls, strutting them on the dance floor to attract the girls, like peacocks spreading their feathers.
"At the beginning I didn't like them very much, but the girls wouldn't dance with you if you weren't wearing pointy boots," said university student Pascual Escobedo, 20, his own covered with hot pink satin and glittery stars.
Nobody knows where Cesar's photo or the fad came from, since he was known to cross back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. But once it hit the sedate city of 90,000 people and auto-part and clothing factories about 18 months ago, it spread to nearby villages and showed up as far away as Mississippi and Texas, where some DJs at rodeo-themed nightclubs say it peaked a year ago and now has gone out of style.
"They would put all kinds of things on them, strobe lights, belt buckles, and those red lights that flash when you step on the shoes," said Manuel Colim, a DJ at the Far West Corral in Dallas, Texas, where a lot of Matehualan migrants live.
The pointy-boot fad coincided with a new dance craze of gyrating, drawer-dropping troupes dressed in matching western shirts and skinny jeans to accentuate their footwear.
They dance to "tribal" music, a mixture of Pre-Columbian and African sounds mixed with fast cumbia bass and electro-house beats. In Matehuala, all-male teams compete in weekly danceoffs at four nightclubs that offer prizes of $100 to $500, and often a bottle of whiskey.
The troupes are so popular, they're hired to dance at weddings, for quinceaneras, celebrations of the Virgin of Guadalupe, bachelorette parties and even rosary ceremonies for the dead. One group, Los Parranderos, or The Partiers, filmed a wedding scene for "Triunfo del Amor," or "Love's Triumph," a prime-time soap opera on the Televisa network.
"At the beginning there were people who would criticize us and would say, 'How tacky that you are wearing that. I wouldn't wear them,'" said Miguel Hernandez, 20, of Los Parranderos. "But we feel good dancing with the pointy boots."
One recent Matehuala competition drew about 800 people, who came to watch the dancers jump from side to side, spin and wave their arms or sensually shake their hips as their boots sparkled in the disco light and their toe extensions bounced from side to side.
Dancing tribal in pointy boots is "like going crazy," said Jorge Chavez, 16, whose group, Los Aliados, or The Allies, competed for the $100 prize. "We dance it as if we were chasing chickens. It's all about goofing off."
Housewife Laura Soto, 36, who watched the competition, convinced her husband to buy a pair of blue and silver pointy boots decorated with stars.
"The boots makes them look more sexy because you can tell they are daring," she said.
Soto's husband, Mario Fuentes, said he gave them to his 23-year-old son.
"I don't think I would look good in them," Fuentes, 45, said. "But I do like to come see them because they make everything more cheerful."
But as with every youthful fad, the pointy boots already are being replaced by low-rise Roper style boots, which also have lower heels.
"There are some steps where you have to cross your feet and throw yourself to the ground and you can't do that with the pointy boots," said Francisco Garcia, 18, of Los Primos dance crew, or The Cousins. "With the Roper boots it's easier."
At the Mesquit Rodeo competition, the Socios, or the Partners, took first prize for their energetic choreography. Dozens of teenage girls screamed when one of the dancers pulled his pants low enough to reveal a leopard print-thong.
The Socios had abandoned the pointy boots for Ropers.