The cowboy boots are not only a shoe or boot but they are a lifestyle. It is one of the key elements that transform a person into something new. If a person is wearing a cowboy hat, riding a horse, lasso, six-shooter in a dusty street at high noon, he is not complete without cowboy boots. Cowboys have been wearing cowboy boots for centuries. Riding boots are not different from cowboy boots.
Riding boots and cowboy boots are special footwear that you can wear while riding at the back of the horse. A high heel boot made of stacked leather, high shaft, rounded to pointed toe, and traditionally no lacing is cowboy boots. Nowadays, they are part of fashion. People wear them to their work, meetings, weddings, and other casual events. In the past few decades, women have been wearing cowboy boots more than men.
History of Cowboy Boots
No one knows the maker of the first cowboy boots in history. There are rumors that they evolved from Texas or Kansas. It is likely because of the location or tradition but it is impossible to prove that cowboy boots came from Texas. For centuries, riding boots have been a part of equestrian life. Before the industrial age begins, the boots were handmade. They were of different styles depending on the culture.
The earliest designs of cowboy boots, as well as other cowboy accessories, were influenced by the cowboy tradition, also known as the vaquero tradition. This tradition was originated in Spain and came to America in the early 16th century. Military boots designed for the cavalry riders were also from the vaquero tradition. Mexican cowboy boots were developed from Spanish riding boots.
There are three styles of Mexican cowboy boots such as tribal toe, pointed toe, and rounded toe, whereas, American cowboy boots are having a lot more styles and designs. The idea of using skin or fur in cowboy boots came from Northern Mexico. Also, the various colors were the mimic of Mexican ranches.
During the industrial revolution, there was mass production of certain styles of cowboy boots. For example, Wellington Boot was a cavalry-oriented boot but it was shorter than the traditional cowboy boots. It was popular among the cowboys in the United States until the 1860s.
Cattle Drive Era
During the era of a cattle drive from 1866 to 1884, the cowboys were not inclined to ruin the good pair of dress boots while working. Some cowboys had decorative dress boots to wear around town. Style basics of the cowboy boots permeate the work boots and made Wellington obsolete. Fashion magazines from the 1850s and 1860s show the top-stitched cowboy boots with cutouts of natural elements and geometric styles with low heels.
In the ranching areas of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, the American-style boot was adopted by shoemakers. The two best-known shoemakers of that time were Charles Hyer of Hyer Brothers Boots in Olathe, Kansas, and H. J. Daddy Joe Justin of Justin Boots in Spanish Fort, Texas which was later known as Nocona, Texas.
Design of Cowboy Boots
During assembly and especially during disassembly, the slippery, step-less leather sole of the boots allowed for easy insertion and removal of the foot in Western saddle stirrup. The original tip of the cowboy boots was rounded and slightly tapered at the toe for ease of insertion. The extremely pointed toe is one of the modern stylizations of cowboy boots. It first appeared in the 1940s which were not comfortable for work.
In the saddle, the high heel minimizes the risk of the foot slipping forward through the stirrup. It can be a life-threatening hazard. If it happens, the rider is dislodged. Also, there was a considerable risk of the cowboy falling off the horse. The cowboys had to ride unpredictable young horses in rough terrain for tough ranching.
In such a case, if the rider fell from the horse and the boot got stuck in the stirrup, there were high risks that the horse might panic and try to escape. As a result, the rider or cowboy might get dragged with horse and get seriously injured, or possibly death
The high leather upper of the boot or shaft was to keep the boot in one place in the absence of laces. The tall shaft with a loose fit and lack of lacing were the safety features to rider or cowboy. The additional features help the jeans from dragging as the bodyweight could pull the foot out of the boot, while the boot is still stuck in the stirrup.
The shaft was there to protect the lower leg and ankle from rubbing against the stirrup leathers. Also, it protected the leg from thorns, bushes, rocks, rattlesnakes, etc. In wet weather or while crossing the streams, the long shaft protected the boot from getting muddy and watery.
The modern roper-style boot comes with a low heel and a shorter shaft. It was born out of a traditional design of modern rodeo, especially the calf rope where the cowboy had to run to tie the calf or to ride it. The lower shaft introduced cheaper cowboy boots. It made it easier to put on or to pull off the boots. Later on, the lace-up design was introduced with a safety concern that it will not fall off easily with the rider hooks onto a stirrup.
The decorations of the boot varied. Early boots were made from cowhide leather with a single row of topstitching. Later on, the custom cowboy boots were made with decorative stitching and cutouts in high shaft cowboy boots. During the 1930s and 1940s, there was an influence of Hollywood. The Western films were the new dimension of cowboy life in general. Western films gained popularity and cowboy boots were now a fashion statement.
Modern cowboy boots were made in different colors and leathers. Now everyone was looking for exotic animal skins such as crocodiles, alligators, lizards, sharks, snakes, etc. for their cowboy boots. Other skins that can be turned into leather such as elephant, ostrich, eel, buffalo, elk, stingray, etc. were also used for making fashionable cowboy boots.
Fitting of Cowboy Boots
The modern cowboy boots with lace-up or zippers have been operational since the 19th century. Every manufacturer is having their proprietary last producing the boots. These are considered trade secrets. The fitting of the cowboy boot from one brand will not match the fitting of the other brand. For some individuals, there might not be a difference between the fitting of one brand of cowboy boots than the other brand.
For a perfect fit, the wearer should not feel pressure from the sides while wearing the cowboy boot. Also, the wearer can easily wiggle the toes. The squared toe or rounded toe will fit perfectly just like the normal shoe or boot. Another variable considered in fitting is leather. Different kinds of leather are having different properties, so it is better to look for flexible leather.
Cowboy Boots – Rider Boots from Equestrianism
No one knows the first manufacturer of cowboy boots. They have been a part of equestrian life for centuries. Later on, they were adopted Mexicans for riding their horses. Also, they have been a part of military cavalry during the cattle drive era. They have evolved from one type to another.
Nowadays, you will see men and women wearing cowboy boots for their work or formal or casual events. They have become fashion statements where people use different styles, colors, and skins for fashionable cowboy boots.