Cowboy boot
Overview
 
Cowboy boots refer to a specific style of riding boot
Riding boot
A riding boot is a boot made to be used for horse riding. The classic boot comes high enough up the leg to prevent the leathers of the saddle from pinching the leg of the rider, has a sturdy toe to protect the rider's foot when on the ground, and has a distinct heel to prevent the foot from sliding...

, historically worn by cowboy
Cowboy
A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of...

s. They have a Cuban heel
Cuban heel
Cuban heel may refer to:* Stocking with a heel made with folded over and sewn reinforcement* High-heeled footwear - Men* Heel - MaleSee also:* Beatle boots...

, rounded to pointed toe, high shaft, and, traditionally, no lacing. Cowboy boots are normally made from cowhide leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

 but are also sometimes made from "exotic" skins such as alligator, snake, ostrich, lizard, eel, elephant, sting ray, elk, buffalo, and the like.

There are two basic styles of cowboy boots, western (or classic), and roper.
Encyclopedia
Cowboy boots refer to a specific style of riding boot
Riding boot
A riding boot is a boot made to be used for horse riding. The classic boot comes high enough up the leg to prevent the leathers of the saddle from pinching the leg of the rider, has a sturdy toe to protect the rider's foot when on the ground, and has a distinct heel to prevent the foot from sliding...

, historically worn by cowboy
Cowboy
A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of...

s. They have a Cuban heel
Cuban heel
Cuban heel may refer to:* Stocking with a heel made with folded over and sewn reinforcement* High-heeled footwear - Men* Heel - MaleSee also:* Beatle boots...

, rounded to pointed toe, high shaft, and, traditionally, no lacing. Cowboy boots are normally made from cowhide leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

 but are also sometimes made from "exotic" skins such as alligator, snake, ostrich, lizard, eel, elephant, sting ray, elk, buffalo, and the like.

There are two basic styles of cowboy boots, western (or classic), and roper. The classic style is distinguished by a tall boot shaft, going to at least mid-calf, with an angled "cowboy" heel, usually over one inch high. A slightly lower, still angled, "walking" heel is also common. Although western boots can be customized with a wide variety of toe shapes, the classic design is a narrowed, usually pointed, toe.

A newer design, the "roper" style, has a short boot shaft that stops above the ankle but before the middle of the calf, with a very low and squared-off "roper" heel, shaped to the sole of the boot, usually less than one inch high. Roper boots are usually made with rounded toes, but, correlating with style changes in streetwear, styles with a squared toe are seen. The roper style is also manufactured in a lace-up design which often fits better around the ankle and is less likely to slip off, but these two features also create safety issues for riding
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

.

History

Riding boot
Riding boot
A riding boot is a boot made to be used for horse riding. The classic boot comes high enough up the leg to prevent the leathers of the saddle from pinching the leg of the rider, has a sturdy toe to protect the rider's foot when on the ground, and has a distinct heel to prevent the foot from sliding...

s had been a part of equestrian
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

 life for centuries. Until the industrial age
Industrial Age
Industrial Age may refer to:*Industrialisation*The Industrial Revolution...

, boots were individually handmade in many different styles, depending on culture. Early cowboy boot designs, along with other cowboy accoutrements, were also heavily influenced by the vaquero
Cowboy
A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of...

 tradition imported from Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 to the Americas, dating back to the early 16th century. Military boots designed for cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 riders also had an influence.

Later, the industrial revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 allowed some styles of boots to be mass-produced. One mass-produced boot style, the Wellington boot
Wellington boot
The Wellington boot, also known as rubber-boots, wellies, wellingtons, topboots, billy-boots, gumboots, gummies, barnboots, wellieboots, muckboots, sheepboots, shitkickers, or rainboots are a type of boot based upon leather Hessian boots...

, (a shorter but cavalry-oriented boot) was popular with cowboys in the USA until the 1860s.

During the cattle drive era of 1866–1884, the cowboy was not apt to ruin a good pair of dress boots while working, but some owned more decorative dress boots to wear in town. The basic style elements permeated even working boots, and made the Wellington obsolete. Fashion magazines from 1850 and 1860 show the cowboy boot with topstitching, cutouts of geometric or other natural elements and underslung heel.

The American-style boot was taken up by bootmakers in the cattle ranching areas of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

, and Kansas
Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

. Two of the best known early bootmakers of the era were Charles Hyer of Hyer Brothers Boots in Olathe, Kansas
Olathe, Kansas
Olathe is a city in and the county seat of Johnson County, Kansas, United States. Located in northeastern Kansas, it is also the fifth most populous city in the state, with a population of 125,872 at the 2010 census. As a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, Olathe is the fourth-largest city in the...

, and H. J. "Big Daddy Joe" Justin of Justin Boots in Spanish Fort, Texas
Spanish Fort, Texas
Spanish Fort is an unincorporated town in north central Montague County, Texas, United States at the end of Farm Road 103 one mile south of the Red River.-History:...

 and later Nocona, Texas
Nocona, Texas
Nocona is a city along U.S. Highway 82 and State Highway 175 in Montague County, Texas, United States. The population was 3,198 at the 2000 census.-History:...

. After Justin moved closer to Dallas where shipping was easier, the Nocona brand of cowboy boots was made by Enid Justin Stelzer, eldest daughter of Joe Justin, who stayed in Nocona with her husband, and the couple continued the family business. After the couple divorced, the Olsen-Stelzer brand was started by Stelzer.

Design

When mounting and, especially, dismounting, the slick, treadless leather sole of the boot allowed easy insertion and removal of the foot into the stirrup
Stirrup
A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle by a strap, often called a stirrup leather. Stirrups are usually paired and are used to aid in mounting and as a support while using a riding animal...

 of the Western saddle
Western saddle
Western saddles are used for western riding and are the saddles used on working horses on cattle ranches throughout the United States, particularly in the west. They are the "cowboy" saddles familiar to movie viewers, rodeo fans, and those who have gone on trail rides at guest ranches...

. The original toe was rounded and a bit narrowed at the toe to make it easier to insert. While an extremely pointed toe is a modern stylization appearing in the 1940s, it adds no practical benefit, and can be uncomfortable in a working boot.

While in the saddle, the tall heel minimized the risk of the foot sliding forward through the stirrup, which could be life-threatening if it happened and the rider were to be unseated. There was often considerable risk that a cowboy would fall from a horse, both because he often had to ride young, unpredictable horses, but also because he had to do challenging ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

 work in difficult terrain, that often meant that he could accidentally become unseated by a quick-moving horse. If a rider fell from a horse but had a boot get caught in the stirrup, there arose a very great risk that the horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

 could panic and run off, dragging the cowboy, causing severe injury and possible death.

The tall leather shaft of the boot helped to hold the boot in place in the absence of lacing. The tall shaft, comfortably loose fit, and lack of lacing all were additional features that helped prevent a cowboy from being dragged since his body weight could pull his foot out of the boot if he fell off while the boot remained stuck in the stirrup. While mounted, the shaft also protected the lower leg and ankle from rubbing on the stirrup leathers, as well as fending off brush and thorns, particularly if also worn with chaps
Chaps
Chaps are sturdy coverings for the legs consisting of leggings and a belt. They are buckled on over trousers with the chaps' integrated belt, but unlike trousers they have no seat and are not joined at the crotch. They are designed to provide protection for the legs and are usually made of leather...

 or chinks. While dismounted, the shaft helped protect the leg and foot from rocks, brush, thorns, and rattlesnake
Rattlesnake
Rattlesnakes are a group of venomous snakes of the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus of the subfamily Crotalinae . There are 32 known species of rattlesnake, with between 65-70 subspecies, all native to the Americas, ranging from southern Alberta and southern British Columbia in Canada to Central...

s. In wet weather or creek crossings, the high tops helped prevent the boot from filling with mud and water.

The modern roper style boot with a low heel and shorter shaft emerged from the traditional design in response to the needs of modern rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

, particularly calf roping
Calf roping
Calf roping, also known as tie-down roping, is a rodeo event that features a calf and a rider mounted on a horse. The goal of this timed event is for the rider to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope from a lariat around its neck, dismount from the horse, run to the calf, and restrain it by...

, where the cowboy had to run to tie the calf as well as to ride. The lower shaft resulted in a less expensive boot, but also allowed the boot to be more easily removed. A laceup design for roper boots became popular as it prevented the boot from falling off too easily and provided more ankle support when on foot, though the lacer also has safety issues because it will not fall off if a rider is hung up in a stirrup, and, lacking a smooth upper, the lacings themselves may make it easier for the boot to become caught in the stirrup in the first place.
Decoration varied widely. Early boots were cowhide leather pieced together with single rows of top stitching, but as custom boots were made, cowboys asked for decorative stitching, cutouts in the high tops (early on, often Texas stars), and different materials. The interaction of wild west shows and later, western movies, influenced styles that working cowboys at times adopted. Modern cowboy boots are available in all colors and can be made from just about every animal whose skin can be made into leather, including exotic materials such as alligator and ostrich.

One accessory used with cowboy boots are spur
Spur
A spur is a metal tool designed to be worn in pairs on the heels of riding boots for the purpose of directing a horse to move forward or laterally while riding. It is usually used to refine the riding aids and to back up the natural aids . The spur is used in every equestrian discipline...

s, which are sometimes attached to the heel of each boot for the purpose of cueing a horse while riding.

Fitting

Many cowboy boot companies have been in operation since the 19th century. Each manufacturer has developed its own proprietary
Property
Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation...

 last
Last
A last is a form in the approximate shape of a human foot, used by shoemakers and cordwainers in the manufacture and repair of shoes. Lasts typically come in pairs, and throughout their history have been made from many materials, including hardwoods, cast iron, and, more recently, high density...

s for producing boots, which are considered trade secret
Trade secret
A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers...

s and are highly guarded. Because of this, standardization
Standardization
Standardization is the process of developing and implementing technical standards.The goals of standardization can be to help with independence of single suppliers , compatibility, interoperability, safety, repeatability, or quality....

 has been slow, and fitting between companies is not always consistent. When considering wearing a cowboy boot from a different manufacturer, it is recommended to seek assistance from a knowledgeable merchant who specializes in cowboy boots if a person cannot try them on in person. Some wearers will swear by one manufacturer's fit, while others will not perceive any difference between brands.

The fit will vary depending on the type of toe that is sought. Pointed toes leave a narrower space between the toes and the tip of the boot which may cause discomfort, though can be minimized by selecting a half size larger than the wearer's normal size. A rounder toe (like a roper or a Wellington) will fit more like a regular shoe. Another factor is leather. A cowhide or kidskin boot will become softer with wear, molding to the wearer's foot. That is why it is recommended to select a snug size because the boot will eventually "break in" and a loose fitting boot at the time of purchase will become sloppy.

However, some individuals also are unaccustomed to the slight slippage of the heel in a new, non-laced cowboy boot, particularly with a cowboy heel, and buy a too-small boot in an attempt to stop this slippage. But a small amount of slippage is also normal at first. As the boot breaks in, the slippage will stop.

Boot hooks are often required to put on a new pair of boots until they soften in the arch and break in. A boot jack
Boot jack
A boot jack, sometimes known as a boot pull, is a small tool which aids in the removal of boots. It consists of a U-shaped mouth which grips the heel of the boot, and a flat area to which weight can be applied...

 is recommended for removal, though care must be taken not to damage the heel of the boot when using a jack.

See also

  • Cowboy
    Cowboy
    A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of...

  • Riding boot
    Riding boot
    A riding boot is a boot made to be used for horse riding. The classic boot comes high enough up the leg to prevent the leathers of the saddle from pinching the leg of the rider, has a sturdy toe to protect the rider's foot when on the ground, and has a distinct heel to prevent the foot from sliding...

  • Cowboy hat
    Cowboy hat
    The cowboy hat is a high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat best known as the defining piece of attire for the North American cowboy. Today it is worn by many people, and is particularly associated with ranch workers in the western and southern United States, western Canada and northern Mexico, with...

  • Western wear
    Western wear
    Western wear is a category of men's and women's clothing which derives its unique style from the clothes worn in the 19th-century American West. It ranges from accurate historical reproductions of pioneer, mountain man, Civil War, cowboy and vaquero clothing to the stylized garments popularized by...

  • Boot
    Boot
    A boot is a type of footwear but they are not shoes. Most boots mainly cover the foot and the ankle and extend up the leg, sometimes as far as the knee or even the hip. Most boots have a heel that is clearly distinguishable from the rest of the sole, even if the two are made of one piece....

  • Justin Boots
    Justin Boots
    Justin Boots are a brand of cowboy boots, owned by the Justin Brands company, which is in turn a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. Justin Brands additionally owns brands Nocona, Tony Lama, and recently Lucchese Boots Company...

  • Acme Boots
    Acme Boots
    The Acme Shoe Company is a manufacturer of western footwear.-History:Acme Boots was founded in 1929, during the Great Depression. Two Chicago shoe manufacturers, Jessel Cohn and his son, Sidney, decided to move their children’s and infants' shoemaking plant from Chicago, Illinois to Clarksville,...

  • Tony Lama
    Tony Lama
    Tony Lama is a U.S.-based corporation that designs and sells western-style boots. The company bears the name of its founder, who lived from 1887 to 1974. During the 1930s western wear craze in the southwestern U.S., the company focused its efforts on western-style boots.Lama learned his cobbling...

  • The Frye Company
    The Frye Company
    The Frye Company is a boot manufacturer that claims to be the oldest continuously operated shoe company in the United States . They produce multiple styles of boots including harness boots and engineer boots. Owned and operated by The Jimlar Corp. Dave Moore is the General Manager and Vice...

  • Double-H Boots
    Double-H Boots
    Double-H Boots manufactures western footwear. It is owned by H.H. Brown, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.-History:Double-H Boots began in 1955 in Richland, Pennsylvania. The original factory location was an area shoe company that had other facilities in the Reading area and had no future needs...

  • Lucchese Boot Company
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