A short history of cowboy boots
If you’ve watched the fashion news lately, you’ve noticed this absurd look, double cowboy boots. The fashion industry managed to invent footwear more ungainly than a stiletto. Unlike a stiletto, this boot makes your feet look big, not your butt.
You’ll never run wearing these things, either. Not that you’d want to.
I grew up wearing cowboy boots because I rode horses. I couldn’t get out of them fast enough once I got off the horse. They were for riding, not comfortable to walk in.
Just how did the cowboy boot get from working tool in the 1800’s to runway fashion?
The story begins in the cattle drives of the mid-1800’s and mass production. Cowboys needed cheap boots because cattle drives ate up boots. And cowboys weren’t rich. Mass production stepped in, producing high top boots (high shaft) for an affordable price. The one-inch heel prevented boots catching in the stirrup during unexpected exits from the horse. The high shaft kept ticks, sagebrush, and rattlesnakes at bay.
The 20th century brought the modern rodeo to town. Ropers needed a boot to ride and run in, and so the roper’s boot was born. With a lower heel and shorter shaft (no more high top), the rodeo cowboy walked and ran easier in them. How I have no idea.
Rodeo grew in popularity, from a grubby, dusty back lot to indoor arenas. Everyone, including the cowboys, wanted to look upscale. Boots manufactured from exotic leathers, like alligator, supplied that look.
After the 1970’s, country music moved mainstream along with urban cowboy movies. Looking cool in line dancing clubs demanded appropriate boots; for dancing, not steer wrestling. The cowboy boot upgraded to a fashion statement, with new accouterments such as lower shaft with shiny stuff on it.
I admit to owning a pair, the low shaft with shiny faux metal dots kind. I didn’t buy them. My partner got them on sale, as a gift for me. I couldn’t explain they brought back memories of horse shit, dust, and sore feet. So, I wear them in the fall and spring in the Pacific Northwest where I live. They’re good for kicking snails.