Invented after the Civil War around 1870 cowboy boots are an American creation and serve as an important historical reminder of where America came from. The design of cowboy boots evolved solely as what was most practical for those traveling and working out West, an adaptation of earlier boot styles that did not quite work for life in the unsettled West.

Even today when a telecommute requires no footwear at all, one can look at the unique shape and design of cowboy boots to remember a time when traveling for work was much more arduous and exciting.

Cowboy boots are typically made of cowhide due to its thickness and durability, but are also available in more exotic animal skins such as snake or alligator to name a few. The height of the classic cowboy style, also known as Western, goes at least to mid-calf. This extensive protection offered by cowboy boots helped those daily out on the trail, and the added height helped to keep boots on even without laces.

Cowboy Boots

Shorter boot styles, known as the roper, were later found to be more conducive to those working in rodeo and needing the ability to run faster. The height of both styles is still higher than an average shoe, and worked to keep the dust out of one’s shoes. Since dust is a common problem for those that wear their boots while riding, cleaning that dust off at the end of every use helps to prolong the life of the boots. Even those donning their boots for a fashion statement need to make sure proper care is taken of the boots.

Wiping them off with a damp cloth, and then allowing to dry naturally is recommended by most. Harsh cleaners can cause the leather to crack and must be avoided. Since boots are made of animal skin occasionally use a very small amount of shoe cream to keep the leather moisturized. The foot and toe of the boot typically show more wear than the shaft, but some view these visible signs of wear as a badge of honor.

The toe of cowboy boots is another distinctive feature with a very useful purpose. Cow boy boots are made with a pointed toe, a stray from the more traditional rounded toe boot, as an easier way to guide feet into stirrups. Overtime there has been some variation on this as boots serve as both functional footwear and fashion forward pieces.

The tall heel, usually ranging from 2 to 3 inches in early boot designs, also aided one with staying safely in the stirrups. That too has seen variation overtime as some women opt for much higher heels. Typically all cowboy boots do have some type of heel, with some noting that this is one of the few shoe options for American men with a heel.

In regards to the long life of boots, getting them re-heeled or resoled is an option if extensive wear and tear has finally taken its toll. Always make sure that whoever is doing repairs has experience working with boots.

America’s own fascination with cowboys and cowboy culture has actually left a lasting mark on the world of cowboy boots. Most boots were fairly plain until the culture explosion of all things cowboy.

In the 1920s when Wild West movies and the related dude ranch craze took hold, that is when the extensive adornment and colorful cowboys became more popular. Today even those relying on their cowboy boots for daily work can choose high quality boots with great designs.

The ability to customize boots in so many aspects can also be attributed to their ever present place in the realm of fashion. Country superstars really play up the glitz and glam when showing up on the red carpet rocking their favorite pair of boots. From cowboys, Wild West fans, fashionistas, and Country singers, cowboy boots have a permanent place in American culture.

Michael Young is the owner of & Young’s Western Wear a 3rd generation western wear business in Valentine Nebraska.

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