The Interesting History of the Cowboy Boot
You know you love your favorite pair of cowboy boots, but do you ever wonder about their origin? This is the interesting history of the cowboy boot.
The cowboy boot has been an iconic fashion item for decades. Everyone from country music stars to the regular guy down the street are sporting these boots in countless styles, designs, and colors.
Aside from its undeniable versatility, the cowboy boot tells a unique and compelling tale about American history. A shoe born out of harsh conditions of the "Wild West," the modern cowboy boot is a true example of the American dream come true.
Before the Cowboy Boot
We can trace pictures of boots back to centuries-old cave paintings. However, these were a far cry from modern cowboy boots. The true foundations for the cowboy boot can be found in 16th century Spain, among livestock ranchers known as vaqueros.
Vaqueros were essentially Spanish cowboys. They understood the importance of proper footwear when it came to safety and functionality. Many vaqueros emigrated to the Americas bringing their traditions, clothing, and ranching skills with them, including their buckskin boots.
Other influences on the American cowboy boot include Hessian riding boots and Wellington boots. Hessian boots were part of the British cavalry uniform. They sported a pointed toe and a modest heel for additional riding support.
Wellington boots also have a military history, having been worn by the US calvary during the Civil War. The general public considered these sleek, tight-fitting leather boots quite fashionable. Wellingtons gave birth to many other styles, some of which we still see today.
Born in the West
The first cowboy boot came into existence sometime during the mid to late 1800s. Searching for a better life after the Civil War, herds of people headed west. What they found was a world of vast landscapes and unforgivable terrain.
Met with the demands of long cattle drives, breaking mustangs, and daily ranch life, it didn't take long to realize that existing footwear wasn't up to the challenge. Rancher's needed a new kind of shoe. One that could keep them steady on the saddle and shield them from commonplace injuries.
That's when one savvy rancher decided to ask the local cobbler for a custom-made boot. No one knows exactly who this man was, or where the original idea came from. But many suspect Kansas or Texas as the birthplace of the first boot.
It was made exclusively with cowhide leather and designed with tall sides to protect against tough briars, snakes, wooden stirrups, and other hazards. The pointed toe allowed a rider to navigate his boot into the stirrup, while the large heel kept his foot securely in place. And thus, the American cowboy boot was born.
At first, the only way to get a pair of cowboy boots was to have them custom-made and fitted by a local cobbler. A new pair of boots were built to last, fashioned with external stitching to keep the leather from buckling. However, they were also seen as a mark of status.
It wasn't until the 1700s, during the Industrial Revolution, that cowboy boots came into mass-production. Companies began offering reasonably priced, factory-made boots via mail order. Although widely available, they continued to be seen as practical job-related footwear.
It wasn't until the 1800s that people started wearing them outside of the demanding conditions of a working ranch. Casual horse riders came to appreciate both the support and the protection afforded by a sturdy pair of cowboy boots. Even women's cowboy boots gained popularity as less suitable footwear was tossed aside.
From Function to Fashion
From the 1930s to the 50s cowboy boots got their big break when they became a staple fashion feature in Hollywood cinema. Films and series such as The Virginian, Stagecoach, and High Noon began taking the country by storm, as popularity for this new genre continued to grow.
Between the silent film era and the 1950s, nearly one-fifth of all feature films were Westerns. And people started to recognize that a cowboy boot could be so much more than a shoe built for function.
Although cowboy boots continued to be the preferred work shoe for ranchers, actors and fans alike began sporting them in everyday life. These newly realized fashion statements made appearances on the pages of magazines, at runway shows, and even on the red carpet.
Diversification of the American Cowboy Boot
Cowboy boots continued to grow in popularity and became a chic way of displaying American pride. Today there seems to be no limit when it comes to boot design and diversity. The traditional pointed tip is available in a variety of forms, including snip toe, fashion toe, and square toe.
Gone are the days when boots were made exclusively with cowhide. Now people can choose from any number of materials. A few of these include snakeskin, ostrich, alligator skin, buffalo, crocodile, shark, kangaroo, and even stingray skin.
Different stitching, dyes, and cutout patterns create unique looks and styles suitable for every occasion. True, the practical work boot still exists but there are also designs that cater to dancing, romancing, and prancing. Cowboy boots are almost considered an essential item when it comes to country-western concerts, line dancing bars, and even rustic weddings.
An American Legacy
Today cowboy boots continue to serve as an internationally recognized symbol of American culture and history. They have come a long way since their birth as purely work-related shoes and have diversified to become a coveted addition to any wardrobe.
Although mass production and widespread distribution can often prove detrimental to quality, the cowboy boot is one item that has maintained its original luster. A sturdy and reliable boot to the core, cowboy boots continue to be manufactured to uphold the high standards upon which they were built.
Check out our selection, and get your pair of iconic American cowboy boots today.