John Muse is a businessman, philanthropist, polo player, and current chairman of Lucchese Bootmaker. He is a born and bred Texan who spent his formative years in Tyler, Texas. John received an appointment to the Air Force Academy, then served five years in the Air Force, and received an MBA from UCLA. After a couple of senior posts in investment banking, he co-founded Hicks Muse in 1989 with Tom Hicks and was with that business for almost 30 years until his recent retirement.
In 1998, John moved to London to expand Hicks Muse business into Europe. While living in England, he began to find his passion for polo. As a lifelong athlete and equine enthusiast, his polo appreciation soon elevated from spectator to player while learning and playing club chukkers at the Guards Polo Club in Egham, England. Three years later as a patron, he began playing at the medium goal level. Since 2009, John has played competitively at medium and high goal levels throughout England, Argentina, and the United States.
Tell us about the Lucchese polo team.
Polo is a team sport that requires team chemistry and strategy. It’s an adrenaline infused sport with speed and horsepower. The horse is the athlete as well as the player and the higher the level of polo, the more important how well the team is mounted becomes. I have been blessed to play with some great polo professionals over the years such as Howard Hipwood in England, two Argentines living in the United States named Andres Weisz and Agustin Molinas playing in Texas and Florida, and a magic season in California playing with Adolfo Cambiaso (at the time thought to be the best player in the world). We were undefeated and won all three high goal tournaments in the summer of 2010.
Today, my team is Jeff Hall, Facundo Obregon, Nico Escobar, and myself. Jeff has been our captain for the last five years and we have a very well mounted team this year. On August 9, 2020, we won the Sliver Cup! The Silver Cup was founded in 1900 and serves as a yearly stage for some of the best players and horses in the world. It is the oldest trophy played for in the United States.
Tell us about the Lucchese polo boots you wear during a game.
Lucchese made polo boots until 1984 for all the polo legends. We stopped making polo boots when Lucchese moved factories from San Antonio to El Paso. This is understandable because they have a higher shaft (which is a more complicated construction); however, I got us back in the polo boot business over the last few years with the finest most durable mustang leather with a sculpted shape to the shaft.
Our Competition Polo Boot features a protective layer on the outside of the quarters. This layer serves as a shield against direct, physical contact during a competitive match. The minimal material between horse and rider allows for feeling the horse underneath you during each ride, thus improving overall control, comfort and stability.
What are some things people may not know about polo and the team?
A lot of people don’t recognize the higher level of polo, the more dependent it is on the horse. The horse is the athlete; it’s not just the player. When you get to the level I’m at, many people say its 70% horse and 30% player. The horse makes all the difference in the world. Horses are like people — they’re all different. There are one’s that are quick, run better than others, or have more endurance than others. You’re looking for speed, turning ability, and one with endurance because you’re playing seven and a half minutes at a time. Most people just assume the horse is an appendage of the player, and the player is the most important thing.
Talk about the steps you took to get to where you are today. When did you first get introduced to the brand? How did you come to agree that Lucchese was the perfect fit?
Right after college, I bought some black ostrich boots because I felt like I needed some dress boots. When I put these boots on my feet, they were the most uncomfortable footwear. I went to a western store in search of a boot with a comfortable fit. After trying on a couple that were not that comfortable, the salesman pulled out a pair of Lucchese boots with the warning that you are going to love them, but they are 30% higher in price because of finer leather and artisan crafted. I said, “It’s a little more than I want to spend but let me try them.” So, I pull these boots on and I felt Lucchese’s signature pop in the heel, and the feeling of the last settle into your arch. I looked at the guy and said, “This is what I have been looking for.” That started my obsession with Lucchese. I wore these boots all the time and looked for reasons to wear them.
Before Lucchese became available in 1997, the business seemed to have lost its way because its main focus wasn’t with cowboy boots. My plan was to refocus the brand on making great boots. I bought Lucchese and sold off the other attached brands. I then went to the factory in El Paso and saw these amazing 3-4 generation artisans. My jaw hit the floor to see how they sourced, the quality of their piece goods, and their twisted cone last – just everything about it.
What do you find so special about this brand?
I tell my family that we are caretakers of this brand. This is a piece of Americana. I hold to say we will continue to honor the brand’s heritage by using the finest materials and delivering the best fit and finish.
Whenever I sell someone a pair of Lucchese boots, I tell them to look at the long-term and how it will be more economic. Lucchese boots will last you a lifetime. We have many grandsons who come in and ask if we can relast their granddad’s boots, and we’re happy to do it. You won’t get that with any other brand. If it doesn’t have a good fit, it’s not Lucchese.
What are some things people may not know about Lucchese?
Lucchese is 137 years old started by Italian immigrants. We have more history and longevity than any other brand. Sam Lucchese was the first man to figure out that a human foot wasn’t symmetrical – it was actually the shape of the twisted cone.
What are your favorite pair of Lucchese’s? Why?
The ones I wear the most are baby buffalo ropers. It’s like putting on house slippers. You can dress them up or wear them casually. I also ride in them. For those customers who are shopping for their first pair of western boots, I tell them if they’re just starting out and have never owned boots before, I recommend they go with a roper.
My favorite dress boot is black American alligator. I have owned these for 20 years, and they are as beautiful and comfortable as the first day I put them on. My other favorite boot is my black shell cordovan with a French toe. It’s a 100-year anniversary boot for Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club in 2011.
Thanks to John’s dedication and passion for the sport of polo, the Lucchese team continues to enjoy great success on the field and remains poised as one of the best polo organizations in the world. To stay updated with the Lucchese polo team, click here.
The Lucchese brand is fortunate to have the Muse family stewarding the rich heritage beyond and committing to carrying the history for generations to come.