A Deep Dive into the Iconic Cowboy Boot

In the past, cowboys and horse riders have worn the iconic cowboy boot style of riding boots. The cowboy boot, which is typically made of cowhide leather, can be anything from a tough, functional, no-nonsense boot to ornately embellished fashion boots made of exotic materials like ostrich, alligator, snake, or buffalo leather. [1]

History of Cowboy Boots

Early Days of Cowboy Boots

American cowboys were men who worked as cattle herders on ranches in the American West. Since the late 1800s, cowboy boots have been the distinctive footwear worn by these ranch workers. These boots were initially made entirely of cowhide leather. When working in harsh conditions or while riding a horse, the boots were made to protect the feet and legs. Herders typically wore a pair of cowboy boots with a pointed toe to help the boot fit into the stirrup of the saddle and a high top or shaft to protect the lower legs. When riding, the boots’ high heels kept the wearer’s feet in the stirrups and allowed for the attachment of detachable spurs. [2]

Cowboy Design Influenced by Spanish Ranchers

The first cowboy boots were inspired by the Spanish vaquero tradition, which dates back to the 1500s. A horse-mounted livestock herder is known as a vaquero. In Mexico, the vaquero custom also became popular. History claims that in the late 1600s, cattle herders from Mexico came to the US and brought with them the vaquero traditions, including the attire and boots worn. These men’s traditional footwear served as the prototype for the American cowboy boot. The first cowboy boots made in America were all made by hand by bootmakers who sold their creations in western state towns and settlements. [2]

Industrial Revolution Led to Mass Productions

From the middle of the 1700s to the middle of the 1800s is when the Industrial Revolution took place. This period saw a significant shift in manufacturing that led to the widespread production of cowboy boots. Cowboy boots with decorative topstitching and geometric pattern cutouts began appearing in fashion magazines. Cowboys frequently drove cattle from Texas to Kansas between the mid-1800s and the 1890s. Around this time, people other than ranchers, herders, and farmers started donning long-shafted leather cowboy boots to protect themselves from poisonous snakes, thorns, and brush while walking and riding horses. [2]

Modern Cowboy Boots

A variety of materials, including cowhide, snakeskin, ostrich, alligator, buffalo, and eel, are used to make modern cowboy boots. It’s incredible to consider how the cowboy boot has changed over time from being a basic riding boot to a fashionable item of footwear that is a must-have for any wardrobe. [2]

Cowboy Boots Today

Many people still wear cowboy boots today, but unlike in the past, they may not necessarily view them as tools. On a ranch, many people wear work boots to stay comfortable throughout long shifts, while others save their riding boots for horseback riding. However, some people also prefer them for fashion reasons, so this isn’t always the case.

As Western boots gained acceptance, they swept the fashion world by storm and transcended their original purpose as footwear. Hollywood movies, naturally Hollywood brought radical change. [3]

Hollywood Transformed Cowboy Boots

The popularity of Western movies soared in the 1930s and 1950s. Actors wore cowboy boots to set the scene and transport viewers to the Wild West because that is where these movies were filmed. Soon after, magazines started to feature cowboy boots. Even models started wearing pairs, furthering evolution.

To make pairs of boots that stood out to buyers, shoemakers started experimenting with various stitching techniques and dyed leather. This brings us to the current situation, where there are numerous options for heel heights, types of leather, stitch patterns, and toe shapes. [3]

Cowboy Boots Styles

Cowboy boots are now an essential part of country life, and in Texas, a fine pair of exotic ones even serves as a status symbol. They come in a wide range of styles, from traditional to flamboyant, and can be dressed up or down. However, if the sheer amount of choice out there intimidates you, we are here to guide you. Here are some varieties of cowboy boots: [4]

1. Western Boots

Western cowboy boots initially gained popularity due to their dependability and usefulness. Cowhands needed boots with pointed toes, at least a 1-inch heel (typically 2 inches), and a tall boot-shaft to protect their shins from the harsh conditions on the range, in contrast to the fashionable Union soldier boots at the time. Consequently, the western-style cowboy boot emerged. [4]

The working cowboy was in mind when this particular style of cowboy boot was developed. It is the best choice for walking, working, or riding. Although functionality comes first in this design, decorative elements may also be present. [5]

2. Work Boots

These boots are a more economical and sensible option because they are typically made from cowhide. The best cowboy work boots have a small heel, typically 1 ¾ inch or less, which makes them perfect for standing all day. The soul is typically made of rubber with a lot of traction. Many have midsoles that are cushioned for efficient shock absorption. These are real working man’s shoes thanks to their sturdy construction and comfortable design. [4]

Work cowboy boots typically have a bulkier build than other styles, making them a poor choice for riding a horse. Work boots typically lack decorative elements because safety is their top priority. They are typically made of leather and nylon. [5]

3. Riding Boots

Riding Boot

For riding horses, you need riding boots. This boot is made with safety and comfort in mind for the cowboy or cowgirl riding in it. It is the boot of choice for rodeos and horse shows because of this. The high, angled heel makes it easier for the boots to latch onto the stirrups and keeps them from swaying while the rider is moving. The boots slide easily into and out of the stirrups thanks to their smooth leather sole and tapered toe, ensuring that the rider’s foot won’t snag if they fall. [4]

The majority of riding boots are flexible and durable because they are made of leather. A good pair of riding boots should keep your feet safe and secure in your stirrups and be supportive and comfortable. To stand out in the show ring, some pairs may have colorful shafts or decorative stitching. [5]

4. Walking Boots

These boots are made for walking. They are not as heavy-duty as the work boot, nor as high-angled and tall in the heel as the riding boot. A good walking boot is comfortable with a fair amount of traction on the sole. The wider toe and square heel make them better for standing up rather than sitting in the saddle. They are functional, comfortable, and perfect for a nice stroll on the trail or a walk about town. [4]

5. Roper 

Roper Boot

Horse riders should consider using ropers. Calf roping became a rodeo event, which led to a rise in popularity of the Roper style. These functional cowboy boots were created to be cozy while roping calves and chasing them. They have a round toe and a short, square heel to lessen the possibility of the heel breaking during abrupt dismounts. Additionally, ropers have a shorter shaft than conventional cowboy boots.

Roper boots also fit more snugly around the ankle for added comfort and better support when wrangling calves. They frequently have thick rubber outsoles and padded insoles. Roper boots are typically made of leather and have a straightforward design, though they could have decorative stitching. [5]

6. Dress

If you want to add some western flair when attending a formal event, like a wedding or party, dress cowboy boots are the way to go. They prioritize fashion over functionality, making them a poor choice for riding or working. While other toe designs are also possible, pointed toes are the most typical toe style for dress cowboy boots. They frequently wear higher heels with an angled design that is still appropriate for dancing.

Dress cowboy boots are available in a wide variety of hues and patterns because they are intended to be a fashion statement. They can be made of exotic leathers like snake or ostrich or cowhide leather. [5]

7. Stockman 

The stockman is a stylish look that can be worn for work, horseback riding, or casual occasions. They are strong and comfortable, made to last for any hard-working cowboy or cowgirl. Stockman is a fantastic all-around choice and has a traditional western appearance. Compared to other cowboy boot designs, they have a deeper scallop on the top of the shaft. They provide superior arch support to keep you comfortable all day.

Low, wide flat heels and non-slip rubber outsoles are features of stockman boots. No matter what you’re doing, they offer support and stability. The traditional leather stockman style frequently has decorative stitching and even colorful shafts. [5]

8. Buckaroo 

Buckaroo cowboy boots are stylish and adaptable. These boots have striking shafts that you can show off by tucking your jeans into them. Compared to other styles, the shafts on buckaroo cowboy boots are typically 14 to 17 inches tall. Usually, they have two-inch heels with a choice of round, square, or pointed toes.

The top of the shaft of buckaroo boots is pierced with holes that make it simple to pull them on and off. The shafts frequently have vibrant colors and decorative embroidery and stitching. Although they can be made of other types of leather as well, they are typically made of cowhide leather. [5]

9. Packer

Invented in the 1800s, Packer Boots are a kind of hybrid between riding boots and work boots. They have a lot of functionality and can be a good choice for riding horses. Packer boots typically have laces, unlike traditional cowboy boots. Packer boots provide excellent ankle support because of their creative design. They feature a one to two-inch heel and a sturdy rubber outsole for support and traction.

Packer boots are a practical choice that looks great with casual clothing. They offer excellent comfort and support to keep you feeling good. [5]

10. Exotic

Exotic cowboy boots are the way to go if you want to stand out in the crowd. The pinnacle of stylish, exotic boots prioritizes fashion.

Exotic boots come in a variety of styles, with pointed toes being the most common. The use of various exotic leather types makes exotic boots so distinctive. Among others, these leathers come from alligators, emus, ostriches, snakes, eels, deer, and lizards. For any occasion where you want to dress up, exotic boots are fantastic. Additionally, they may have bright colors and decorative stitching. [5]

Cowboy Boots Market Outlook

Cowboy Boot

According to estimates, the global market for cowboy boots will reach US$ 237.5 million in 2022. The market for cowboy boots is expanding in the present because it is popular with millennials, which is significant given its historical significance in the state of Texas. It also comes in a range of colors, including tan, brown, and black, which are popular among young people as a fashion statement. [6]

Major Cowboy Boots Brands

Cowboy boots are one of the hottest shoe trends right now. Despite being in style, they are regarded as timeless shoes that are well worth the investment no matter the era. As the Western icon makes its mark on the catwalks, social media, and the streets, more and more brands have added their twist to the classic cowboy boot. Today, they sell everything from classic cowboy boots to modern styles that incorporate metallics, patterns, and vibrant leathers. Because there are so many options and cowboy boot prices can be a little higher than other styles, it can be challenging to choose the best brand. You need to pay attention to these cowboy boot brands. Surely, these are the highest-caliber safety-toe equipped. [7]

1. Lucchese

The legendary bootmaker and well-known Western brand, Lucchese, is based in Texas. Salvatore and Joseph Lucchese were immigrants from Italy in the early 1800s. In 1883, they set up a boot-making shop at Fort Sam Houston, a United States Cavalry School in San Antonio, Texas. [19]

In the long history of Lucchese, a few of the more interesting occasions include Mr. W. Shock’s 1.5-inch heel as the first entry in the Lucchese company measuring boots in 1897. Mexican Lorenzo Quesada made the first known international purchase of Lucchese boots in the 1910s when he purchased a pair of Moroccan calf boots. [19]

Moreover, due to its popularity, Lucchese was visited by award-winning actor Gregory Peck in 1942 and Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1952. Even the daughter of President-elect John F. Kennedy had her feet measured for a pair of Lucchese boots in 1961. Furthermore, in the year 2000, Lucchese released 125 pairs of special anniversary boots to commemorate their 125th anniversary. They were also announced as the official boots of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders in the year 2010. [19]

Price Range: $325-$5,995 [7]

Revenue: $78 million [11]

Founded: 1883 [11]

2. Golo

Golo, which was founded in 1915, is best known for using unusual materials—like cork, lucite, and vinyl—in its shoe designs. Having said that, the brand plays up the classic cowboy boot silhouette with everything from metallic finishes to distinctive patterns, so you can try the trend while still individualizing it to suit your taste and style. [7]

The iconic Go-Go Boot was created by Golo in the first half of the 1960s. The Golo Go-Go boots in white patent were worn by Barbra Streisand in a multi-page fashion spread in August 1965. Although there have been many changes over the years, Golo’s white boots continue to be the most popular. [20]

Price Range: $175-$325 [7]

Revenue: $5 million [16]

Founded: 1915 [7]

3. Durango

Durango Boots began in 1966. It is a 55-year-old brand that manufactures Western footwear for men, women, and kids. In 2021, they are the presenting sponsor of RFD-TV’s American Rodeo and have also developed a Team Durango Pro Team, which consists of 11 pro rodeo athletes. [21]

Price Range: $120-$351 [7]

Revenue: $5 million [14]

Founded: 1966 [15]

4. Ariat

The leading producer of innovative performance equestrian footwear, gear, and belts is Ariat International, Inc. Ariat was the first company to incorporate cutting-edge athletic shoe technology into English riding boots and genuine Western boots. [8]

The company takes its name from Secretariat, the legendary horse and 1973 Triple Crown winner with a heart almost three times the size of an average thoroughbred. They made Secretariat an enduring inspiration for their business because of his athleticism and unrelenting competitive spirit. Ariat was founded as “The New Breed of Boot.” They were the first to integrate athletic footwear technology into boots for equestrian athletes. [18]

Price Range: $95-$450 [7]

Revenue: $105 million [8]

Founded: 1993 [8]

5. Corral Boots

The Cuadra Group is the owner of the Corral Boot Company. They have a sizable wholesale sales force in the United States and do business in Canada, Europe, and South America where they have their tanning and manufacturing facilities. [12]

Since their founding in 1999, Corral has produced handmade boots of unmatched quality and iconic style using traditional craftsmanship methods and developing cutting-edge technologies. The idea of a fashionable cowboy boot was first popularized by the Western clothing company Corral, revolutionizing the market and altering how people view Western style. Also, Corral owns and operates the farms that supply the brand’s skins to ensure sustainable sourcing. [22]

Price Range: $198-$269 [7]

Revenue: $5 million [12]

Founded: 1999 [13]

6. Jeffrey Campbell

Indie footwear company Jeffrey Campbell pushes the limits of contemporary fashion. In 2000, Jeffrey Campbell and his wife, Christina, founded the company. The launch of the enduringly well-liked Lita lace-up platform boot in 2010 solidified the shoe brand’s popularity. [23]

Price Range: $150-$400 [7]

Revenue: $3 million [10]

Founded: 2000 [10]

7. Tecovas

Paul Hedrick founded Tecovas in 2015 as a result of his passion for cowboy boots, including their time-honored craftsmanship, luxurious materials that last, and classic styling. [9] In 2019, Tecovas opened its first physical store in Austin, Texas. [24]

Price Range: $225-$395 [7]

Revenue: $5 million [9]

Founded: 2015 [9]

Conclusion

Across the nation, cowboy boots are a recognizable fashion choice. These boots used to only be worn for practical and functional purposes. Even though they continue to play a significant role for those in this industry, many now also regard them as high fashion. No matter if you work a job where wearing cowboy boots is required or not, everyone – young and old, men and women – must own a pair. By reading on, you will discover why everyone should own at least one pair of these timeless boots.

Cowboy boots are classic and timeless. Thanks to their adaptability, you can wear these shoes at any time of year, regardless of whether it’s sunny or raining. This makes them an essential piece of clothing for both men and women, regardless of occupation or location.

Interesting Facts

Black Leather Western Cowboy Boots

  • None of the footwear worn by Americans and Europeans traveling west, including Wellingtons (calf-high boots with low heels) and brogans (ankle-high untanned leather shoes), was appropriate for cattle drovers who spent 10 to 12 hours a day in the saddle in challenging conditions.
  • According to the consensus, the first boots with a reinforced arch and a higher heel that stayed in the stirrups were created in Coffeyville, Kansas in the 1870s.
  • The shafts of Coffeyville-style boots were typically tall (at least 12 inches) and made of black leather to shield the lower legs from saddle rubs and sharp brush and cactus spines.
  • Since the majority of riders were men, laces that could catch on a stirrup or prevent a rider from kicking free if a boot caught were not used. Cowboy boots are made to be pulled on and to fit snugly because of this. To make it easier to pull the boot on, leather loops (pull-straps or bootstraps) were added at the top.
  • The “Cuban heel,” which was becoming popular at the time, served as inspiration for the higher heel and underslung silhouette. The boot’s higher heel prevented it from slipping through the stirrup, which also ran the risk of dragging and hurting a rider who “accidentally dismounted.”
  • The toe was strong to shield fingers from hooves, could be square or rounded, and had a distinct taper to make it easier to slide into and out of stirrups. The square, traditional, snip (small square), and rounded toe styles are now available.
  • In 1879, H.J. In Spanish Fort, Texas, “Daddy Joe” Justin started making boot repairs. He started making his cowboy boots after getting a loan to buy supplies. Justin was a pioneer in the use of decorative stitching. He added rows of stitches to the boot shafts and tops to stiffen the leather and keep it from folding inward at the ankles.
  • With their top-notch, cozy boots, Justin and other pioneering bootmakers like Tony Lama and Sam Lucchese quickly took over the cowboy market. With the aid of a measuring system developed by Joe’s wife Annie, Justin’s was the first company to offer boots via mail order. As the system became established, it revolutionized the production of custom boots, making Justin well-known throughout the West.
  • Cowpunchers who wanted unique or easily recognizable footwear, as well as later Hollywood cowboy actors and Nashville musicians who wanted to project the image of the rugged frontiersman, eventually turned cowboy boots into canvases for artistically inclined bootmakers who were happy to satisfy their vanity. The basic riding boot was elevated to fashion (and frequently novelty) status by using contrast stitching, tooling, exotic leathers, and colored dyes.
  • The 1980s saw a radical change in the materials and design of cowboy boots due to the comfort and fit requirements of western boot buyers. In the 1980s, plain Wellington-style boots, also known as “ropers,” gained popularity, largely due to their shoe-like fit. Technology-advanced boots made popular by a new company, Ariat, in the early 1990s revolutionized western boots and gave rise to a whole new category of western and riding boots.
  • The first cowboy boot archetype to be documented originated in England, not the American West. The first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wesley, is responsible for the cowboy boot. Wesley adored the boot’s comfort and style, and it quickly came to stand for the aristocracy.
  • Old cowboy boots’ overall design was influenced by nations other than just England. Americans may owe more to the Spanish and Mexicans than to the English. According to reports, cattle ranchers in Mexico and Spain wore boots with a similar design, but the flat-bottomed footwear made it difficult to pursue cattle.
  • Have you ever wondered why nearly all cowboy boots have a pointed toe? It’s a practical consideration as well as a fashion statement. Cowboys could get into and out of the saddle more easily thanks to the pointed toe. Previously, a cowboy would suffer severe injuries or death if they were dragged behind their horse while trapped in a saddle.
  • While there is some disagreement as to who exactly invented the characteristics that we now associate with cowboy boots, Charles Hyer of Kansas is given a lot of the credit. According to the legend, a farmer from Colorado came by to ask about riding boots. The rider’s custom-made boot from Hyer was so useful that the cowboy spread the word about his work to anyone who would pay attention.
  • Although we typically associate cowboy boots with leather, almost any animal hide can be used to create a boot. There are boots made from just about any animal you can think of, including those made from snakeskin, bullfrog, and shark.
  • The toe of most cowboy boots is slightly curved. Toe wrinkle refers to this area of the boot.
  • The rounded wheels with jagged ends are probably something you’ve seen in a western movie. Spurs, which are parts of the boots, enable cowboys to increase their horse’s speed. They simply kick the spur into the horse’s side to make it move more quickly. To put it mildly, it’s not the most compassionate method of care, but it seems to work.
  • Old cowboy boots were undoubtedly more functional than fashionable, but the line dancing scene has adopted the West’s preferred footwear as its own. You can find plenty of cowboy boots at any country bar or line dance.
  • Cowboy boots didn’t go away, but their appeal did for a while. Hollywood didn’t start to be obsessed with cowboy culture until that point. Cowboy boots regained popularity in the 1940s thanks to the appeal of western films.
  • Cowboy boots are so widely available because the footwear market is so large.

References:

[1] Western Boot Barn. (n.d.). The History Of Cowboy Boots. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.westernbootbarn.com.au/blog/the-history-of-cowboy-boots/

[2] Fascinating History of Cowboy Boots. (2019, April 14). Hankering for History. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://hankeringforhistory.com/fascinating-history-of-cowboy-boots/

[3] The History of Cowboy Boots: Where It All Started. (2021, November 23). Country View Western. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.countryviewwestern.com/blogs/western-wear-tips/the-history-of-cowboy-boots-where-it-all-started

[4] Jordan, K. (2021, February 3). Different Types of Cowboy Boots: A Beginner’s Guide. Harry’s Boots. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://harrysboots.com/types-of-cowboy-boots/

[5] Stanek, A. (2022, April 26). 9 Common Types of Cowboy Boots. Horsey Hooves. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://horseyhooves.com/types-of-cowboy-boots/

[6] Cowboy Boots Market. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2022, from https://www.futuremarketinsights.com/reports/cowboy-boots-market

[7] Saddle Up in Style With the 10 Best Cowboy Boot Brands. (2022, March 27). Byrdie. Retrieved September 16, 2022, from https://www.byrdie.com/best-cowboy-boot-brands-5220139

[8] RocketReach – Find email, phone & social media for 450M+ professionals. (n.d.). RocketReach. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://rocketreach.co/ariat-international-profile_b5c6d1d7f42e0cfe

[9] RocketReach – Find email, phone & social media for 450M+ professionals. (n.d.-b). RocketReach. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://rocketreach.co/tecovas-profile_b5a7b920f682c5da

[10] RocketReach – Find email, phone & social media for 450M+ professionals. (n.d.-c). RocketReach. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://rocketreach.co/jeffrey-campbell-profile_b58ee0d8f7071ebe

[11] RocketReach – Find email, phone & social media for 450M+ professionals. (n.d.-d). RocketReach. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://rocketreach.co/lucchese-inc-profile_b5dc1076f42e49e8

[12] RocketReach – Find email, phone & social media for 450M+ professionals. (n.d.-e). RocketReach. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://rocketreach.co/corral-boot-co-llc-profile_b4b90895fb2c48ce

[13] Boots, C. F. G. D. B. Y. (2022, February 7). Corral Boots: A Tradition Of Craftsmanship. Cowboys and Indians Magazine. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.cowboysindians.com/2022/02/corral-boots-a-tradition-of-craftsmanship/

[14] Durango Boots. (n.d.). zoominfo.com. https://www.zoominfo.com/c/durango-boots/37800570

[15] Whelchel, L. B. Y. (2021, June 9). Brand Spotlight: Durango Boots. Cowboys and Indians Magazine. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.cowboysindians.com/2021/06/brand-spotlight-durango-boots/#:%7E:text=Durango%20Boots%20began%20in%201966,parent%20company%20Rocky%20Brands%2C%20Inc

[16] Golo. (n.d.). zoominfo.com. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.zoominfo.com/c/golo/541179873

[17] Golo Shoes. (n.d.). Contact Us. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://golo.shoes/pages/contact

[18] About Us. (n.d.). Ariat International. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.ariat.com/about-us

[19] Timeline. (n.d.). Lucchese. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://lucchese.com/pages/timeline#d_2010

[20] Golo Shoes. (n.d.-a). About Us. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://golo.shoes/pages/about

[21] Whelchel, L. B. Y. (2021b, June 9). Brand Spotlight: Durango Boots. Cowboys and Indians Magazine. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.cowboysindians.com/2021/06/brand-spotlight-durango-boots/#:%7E:text=Durango%20Boots%20began%20in%201966,with%20a%20heritage%20of%20quality.

[22] Boots, C. F. G. D. B. Y. (2022b, February 7). Corral Boots: A Tradition Of Craftsmanship. Cowboys and Indians Magazine. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.cowboysindians.com/2022/02/corral-boots-a-tradition-of-craftsmanship/

[23] Who Is Jeffrey Campbell? Where to Buy Shoes, Boots, Flats, and Heels. (n.d.). Your Next Shoes. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.yournextshoes.com/brands/jeffrey-campbell/

[24] We went inside Tecovas, the “Warby Parker of cowboy boots”, to see how its $300 boots are taking the multibillion-dollar boot industry by its horns. (2019, June 18). Business Insider Nederland. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.businessinsider.nl/tecovas-cowboy-boots-austin-texas-2019-6?international=true&r=US