A Brief History of the Western Cowboy Boot July 11 2016
Historically, horsemen have relied on protective footwear with a higher heel for safe, efficient horseback riding. No one can agree on the inventor of the first cowboy boot and where that boot was made. Some historians argue in favor of the Huns while other historians are positive the first cowboy boots came from Kansas.
The cowboy boot style we are familiar with today is influenced by several prominent boot styles, including the Wellington boot, which came from Britain's Duke of Wellington. The original Wellington boot was a simple leather boot with a straight top and a low heel. Another influential early boot style that many early cowboys wore was the Hessian boot with a V-cut in the front. Some Hessian boots also had a leather or silk tassel hanging down in the V.
Finally, the Coffeyville-style cowboy boots which started in Coffeyville, Kansas around 1870, typically featured black leather and a low heel. The front of the boot or “graft” was higher than the back and often a different color. Many Texas cowboys had a lone star inset in the graft.
Through the late 1800s, the cowboy boot design continued to evolve. The European cavalier boot style, which featured high quality leather and higher heels, influenced many cowboy boot designs. Until the 1950s, the cowboy boot toes were rounded or square. Then pointed toe cowboy boots were introduced. The pointy toe makes it easier for the cowboy to get his foot into the stirrup.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the cowboy boot really took off as a fashion statement, largely because of the rise in radio shows and movies centered around the Wild West. There were some years in this time period with as many as two dozen Wild West movie releases. Originally the exterior stitching was done in brown or black, but during the 1940s, colors were introduced. Boot makers also began to experiment with varying inlays and overlays, sewing pictures and other creative designs into the boots, including eagles, cacti, horses, and horseshoes.
In the 1950s, rodeos became a popular type of entertainment, and country music was on the rise. As a result, cowboy boot popularity skyrocketed. Over the decade, boot makers crafted millions of pairs of cowboy boots in all colors and styles. From this point on, movies and other popular entertainment have heavily dictated cowboy boot trends. If a famous star wears cowboy boots in a blockbuster flick, it's very likely that style of boots will be in high demand soon afterward.
Today the cowboy boot remains an essential element of American culture, particularly in Texas and the Southwest. The versatile style makes them an appealing footwear choice for people from all walks of life.
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