The Cowboy Boot: A Definitive Style for the American West August 08 2016
To define the style of the great American west, one thinks first of cowboys and then of course of their iconic boots. Cattle ranchers, or “cowboys” across the western ranches of the United States have worn cowboy boots as we know them since the mid to late 1800’s, as well as other similar styles since the 16th century. Thought to be inspired by Spanish equestrian boots that were brought to the Americas that spawned the “vaquero” tradition, the cowboy boot as we recognize it today is a combination of that traditional vaquero riding boot, military cavalry boots and short wellington boots of the Industrial Revolution.
The Cowboy Boot – Practical for Cattle Ranchers
Cowboy boots were not always thought of as a great style element. During their time in the 1800’s and the era of cattle ranches across the American west, they were used for practical reasons only. Cowboys chose the boots that fit snugly into their stirrups, protected their legs from riding and were durable enough for ranching jobs. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that fashion magazines started displaying cowboy boots with the elaborate topstitching that one finds on American cowboy boots today.
The American Style Cowboy Boot
The defining piece of the American west, or the “classic” American cowboy boot, started to be mass-produced by boot makers across the cattle areas of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas in the late 1800's. Some of the earliest, most well known cowboy boots were produced out of Texas as well as Kansas.
The Cowboy Boot: A Useful Design
The “look” that traditional cowboy boots have is not only for style, but also for functionality. The design is made to be useful for cattle ranchers and other horse riders. With a slick sole (to slide into the stirrups) and an angled wedge heel (to hold the rider in place in their stirrups), the bottom of the cowboy boot is made specifically for mounting and dismounting a horse. The shaft, or upper part, of the cowboy boot is made of sturdy, durable leather and helps to keep the boot on the rider’s feet. The strong material also prevents against chafing on the leather stirrup straps while riding.
Cowboy Boots as a Fashion Statement
As the cattle ranching craze continued on and spread across the west, cowboy boots became a “defining style” for western Americans. Cowboys and those from the “wild west” began requesting boots with elaborate topstitching, various materials and even different colors. Today, cowboy boots can be found in nearly any color and material across the entire United States. Besides their use by ranchers and horse riders, the boots have also become a symbol of American country music or even rural Americana.
Whether for practical use on a cattle ranch, or for fashionable use across the country, cowboy boots have a long history in America. Worn by “everyday” Americans as well as famous actors, musicians and rodeo stars – these classic boots are a piece of Americana and a definitive style of the American west.
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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