Cowboy boots in the western style have been making fashion statements internationally for several decades. This timeless style is now worn by everyone from Hollywood’s most famous A-listers to the daily normal Joe’ on the street, and is available in a variety of materials, styles, and colors to fit any taste. Cowboy boots have become ingrained in our daily lives, and it’s only natural that we look back in time to see how this iconic American footwear has evolved through time.
Cowboys in the United States made their living herding cattle on ranches in the ‘Wild West.’ Since the late 1800s, these cattle ranch laborers have worn cowboy boots fashioned of special leather. Originally, these boots were made entirely of cowhide leather. The mens winter work boots were designed to safeguard the feet and legs while riding horses and working in hazardous environments. As well as other characteristics, a typical pair of cowboy boots used by herders included a high top or shaft that protected the lower legs, as well as pointed toes that made it easier to slip the boot into a stirrup of the saddle. The boots’ high heel was designed to keep riders’ feet securely in the stirrups while riding and also to accommodate removable spurs.
How did Spanish ranchers influence cowboy design?
Spain’s vaquero tradition, which extends all the way back to the 1500s and is still practiced today, influenced the design of the first cowboy boots. The vaquero is a horseback herder who travels to herd herds. Mexico has also embraced the vaquero culture. Cattle herders from Mexico arrived in the United States in the late 1600s, bringing with them vaquero customs, such as the clothing and boots still worn in the region today. The traditional footwear worn by these men served as the inspiration for the nineteenth-century American western wear women love. The original cowboy boots in America were completely handcrafted by boot makers who sold their wares throughout the western United States’ settlements and towns.
The Industrial Revolution Ushered in Mass Production
The Industrial Revolution is defined historically as the time from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s. You can see here that a watershed moment in manufacturing occurred, announcing the start of mass production of cowboy boots. Western boots with ornamental topstitching and geometric pattern cuts began to appear in fashion magazines. Between the mid-1800s and the 1890s, livestock trafficking from Texas to Kansas was widespread among cowboys. When non-ranchers, herders, and agricultural employees began to wear leather cowboy boots with long shafts to protect themselves from brush, thorns, and potentially poisonous snakes while walking and riding horses, this was the era in which they began to see more and more non-ranchers, herders, and agricultural employees adopting the style.
Cowboy Boots of Today
Cowhide, snakeskin, ostrich, alligator, buffalo, and eel are some of the materials used to make modern cowboy boots. It’s also possible to order them in a range of colors. Even today, it’s difficult to think that the cowboy boot has developed through the years from a practical boot for horseback riding to a fashion statement.