The origins of the cowboy boot are as tough to pin down as, well, a wandering cowboy. The biggest myth about this most iconic form of Western footwear concerns the boot’s pointed toe. To hear some old cowboys tell it, the pointed toe was the brainstorm of a clever cowpoke with a bad sense of aim. A pointy toe, he reckoned, would make it easier for him to slip his foot into his saddle’s stirrup.

Wrong. In fact, cowboy boots had round or square toes until sometime in the 1940s, when pointy toes were introduced for reasons having to do with fashion. Other aspects of cowboy boots are more venerable. The boot’s arched sole and pronounced heel was designed to keep a rider’s foot more securely in a stirrup, and the boot’s tall shaft protected a rider’s legs from sharp brambles, the constant rubbing of wooden stirrups, and perhaps even snakebites.

The first boots worn by actual 19th-century cowboys were modeled after boots worn by Hessian soldiers, who fought side-by-side with the British during the Revolutionary War.

Billy the Kid, though not a cowboy, was photographed in 1879 wearing such a Hessian-style boot, distinctive for its V cut in the front, pull-straps on the side, and leather or silk tassel (naturally Billy’s boots lacked this decorative touch). Other cowboys from this era wore variations on the Wellington, an English military dress boot that was actually a riff on the Hessian.

Sometime around 1870, a cobbler from Coffeyville, Kansas named John Cubine pushed the form further when he started making boots for Texas cowboys that, like a lot of footwear of the day, could be worn on either the right or left foot. These leather boots had pull straps, low heels, and roundish toes. They were also taller in the front to give the wearer more protection while making them relatively easy to get on or off.

By the 1880s, Hyer Brothers was just one of 100-plus boot makers in Kansas, while Justin Boots was probably the best known boot name in Texas. Sam Lucchese of San Antonio was right behind them, followed by Tony Lama and others. Kansas may have been where the whole thing got started (and even that’s not a certainty), but Texas is where the cowboy-boot industry was eventually established.

From the vantage point of the 21st century, the era of the cowboy seems to be a major part of U.S. history, but even by the turn of the 20th century, the cowboy was looked upon w...

With the advent of radio shows and movies in the 1920s and ’30s, the myth of the lone rider, driving his herd in hard country, was burnished until it gleamed. William S. Hart, Hoot Gibson, and Tom Mix were some of the early stars, and their appearance in cowboy boots of increasingly costume-like design in turn drove the design of these once simple boots to new, decorative heights.

Mix, in particular, was enormously influential. His boots were richly inlaid with contrasting colors of leather and silk stitching, and when he was killed in a car accident in 1940, it did not go unnoticed that like a good cowboy, he died with his boots on.

In the years since, boot makers have taken the simple template offered by the Hessian boot and used it as a canvas for every imaginable sort of decoration, using materials that go way beyond traditional cowhide.

Lucchese makes cowboy boots out of American alligator or lizard, in colors with names like peanut brittle and rust. Lama boots come in Caiman crocodile in almond or oryx. Loveless, which is one of many makers who has made cowboy boots for presidents, likes to work with ostrich, kangaroo, and elephant hide, while Caboots of El Paso has made boots out of cobra and python.

Then there are artisans like Dave Little, whose grandfather Lucien started the business that would become Little’s Boots in San Antonio in 1915. Little’s boots come in all variety of toe and heel styles, but it’s the burnished leatherwork that sets his boots apart. Little’s boots are like works of art, sold in pairs, featuring roses, eagles, flames, cactus, horses, and steer skulls in alternating shades of leather, ostrich, and you-name-it.

Rocketbuster of El Paso makes boots in a similarly exuberant vein, with designs ranging from pink boots decorated with cherries to curly-toe creations that look like they’d be worn by some sort of demonic court jester.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Shoes

All About Shoes

From Canada's Bata Shoe Museum comes a visually impressive exhibit focusing on the history of the shoe from traditi… [read review or visit site]

The Black Tie Guide

The Black Tie Guide

Peter Marshall became an authority on formalwear out of necessity — he needed a tux to wear on the maiden transat… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

Virtual Shoe Museum

Virtual Shoe Museum

This virtual museum from Shoe Icons Publishing showcases over 800 pairs of shoes and related reference information.… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Frye Women's Leather Boots Size 9.5 Cowboy / Western $1 No Reserve Free ShipAriat Legend Distressed Brown Leather Square Toe Cowboy Boots #10001046 Women 8Men's Lucchese (cherry? Burgundy?) 11 D Snip Toe Lizard Western Cowboy BootsVintage Antique Goose Neck Gooseneck Cowboy Boot Spurs Rodeo Women's Laredo Western Boots 8m Teal And Red Floral Hardly Worn Cool!Excellent Nearly Perfect Lucchese Black Caiman 11ee Cowboy Boots Womens Handmade Cartwright Western/cowboy Boots Sz. 8.5Tony Lama El Paso Rare Vintage Womens 7 Tall Red Leather Western Cowboy Boots ZgAriat Mens Cowboy Western Boots Size 12d Square Toe Black & Tan 10002233 (34832)Vintage Exotic Full Quill Ostrich Cowboy Western Boots Mens 9.5 Nice! L@@k!Lucchese M5011 Womens Black Hand Tooled Western Cowboy Fashion Boots Size 8.5 BJustin Womens Size 10 B Cowboy Boots Pink BrownAriat Original Fatbaby Fat Baby Cowboy Boots Sz 9b 9 Leather Justin Bent Rail Cowboy Western Boots Men's 9.5 Ariat Mesteno Purple Metallic Gator Western Cowboy Boots Size 9 BTony Lama Leather/alligator Western/cowboy Boot Men's 91/2 Crocodile Caiman SkinFrye Jane Vintage Over The Knee Thigh High Leather Cowboy Boots 8.5 B Womens :Tony Lama Women's 9 1/2 Tan Vintage Goat Cowboy Boots Womens 7 B Lucchese 2000 Cigar Full Ostrich Leather Crepe Soles Western BootsFrye Womens Cowboy Boots Western Ankle Boot Bone Sz 7.5Gorgeous Justin Chocolate Belly Caiman 10.5d Cowboy BootsJustin Aqua/turquoise Cowboy Western Boot Womens Size 9 New In Box Free Ship!Women's Brown/red Leather Ariat Cowboy Boots - Size 8.5bOlathe-mens Extra Tall/fancy Brn/grn Buckaroo Cowboy Boots/sass/ncows -10.5 EeLucchese Mens 13 D Cowboy BootWomen's Frye Brown Leather Western Boots Size 8 B NiceWomens Justin Gypsy Western Cowboy Boots Size 7b - WaterproofMens Tony Lama Boots Exotic Python Snake Skin. Sz 12 D.cowboy/western Olathe Tall Black Shark Foot Blue Tops Buckaroo Men’s Cowboy Boots Size 10 DMens Ariat Ranch Work Brown Leather Boots Square Toe 11 D Western Cowboy WorkhogMen's Lucchese 10 1/2 D Medium Brown & Tan Alligator Western Cowboy Boots Lucchese 2000 Ostrich Cowboy Black Boots Shoes Men's Sz 12 DLucchese Kangaroo Mens Western Cowboy Boots Black 10.5 D L1501Hvy Duty Olathe 2 Tone Leather Mens Buckaroo Cowboy Boots 9dWomens Lucchese Brown Red Leather Cowboy Western Tall Boots Size 8.5 Nice!!!Womens 9.5 B Ariat Cobalt Xr Pro Green Uppers Western Cowboy Work Riding BootsEeuc Corral Womens Cowboy Western Boot Angel Heart Wing Cut Out 9.5 Pointy ToeMens Justin Cowboy Boots Cognac Ostrich Skin Size 9 Only Worn 3 TimesOlathe Kansas Usa Tan Leather 20" Tall Buckaroo Cowboy Boots~10dAnderson Bean Western Boots Mens Square Toe 8 B Brown Turq S1091Olathe Western Boots Mens Leather Cowboy Elephant Skid Row 11 D 8021Lucchese Vintage Exotic Partial Quill Ostrich Cowboy Western Boots Mens 9.5 DWomen's 7-1/2 B Ariat Square Toe Flashy Bronze & Black Fat Baby Cowboy BootsOlathe Tall Bright Blue Buckaroo Men’s Cowboy Boots Size 10 BWomens Brown & Pink Cowboy Boots Size 6 B (fits Like A 7) Square Toe Horse PowerChippewa Western Cowboy Packer Boots, Size 11dWomens Frye Carmen Boots Black Dakota Inside Zip Tall Cowboy Boots 8.5 Uk 6 39Corral Distressed Leather Overlay Western Cowboy Boots Ladies 10 MMagnificent Rocketbuster Cowboy BootsLucchese Vintage Exotic Full Quill Ostrich Cowboy Western Boots Mens 9 D "crepe"Ariat Alligator Cowboy BootsVtg Exotic Dan Post Snakeskin Cowboy Western Boots Gold Metal Tips Mens Sz 10.5Womens Frye Brown Leather Motorcycle Tall Cowboy Western Boots Size 10 M Nice!Orginal Rocketbuster Cowboy Boots!!! 7 1/2 Womans, High End Western Apparel$450 Dan Post 10 D #2806 Two-tone Brown Caiman Crocodile Leather Cowboy Boots FsMacie Bean Western Boots Womens Rose Garden Floral 8.5 B Tan M9012Womens Corral Brown / Black Leather Inlay Shorty Cowboy Boots 9 M Excellent CondHorse Power Western Boots Mens Leather Cowboy Patchwork 13 D Hp1079Used Womens Justin Brand Cowboy Boots Size 7.5 B Made In Usa Black Red WhiteCowboy Boots Men's Cuadra Mexico 10.5 Or 29.5 Anteater Very Well Worn Brown Gold

Recent News: Cowboy Boots

Source: Google News

Whales, Art, Bunnies and Cowboy Boots, April 15th

Whales, Art, Bunnies and Cowboy Boots. Late April Fun. By Chris Daniels April 15th, 2014. The advancing days of April bring bursts of warm days, a sweeter scent to the air, and urges to play in and savor the sunshine! Why not take a break from all the...Read more

Trending with Lizzy Jagger: Cowboy Boots, Cupcakes, James Joyce & More
E! Online, April 15th

Lizzy Jagger may have some famous parents (Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall), but she's much more than just a recognizable last name. Lizzy, 30, has modeled for major campaigns—and most recently she's landed a gig as the face of Row NYC, a new hotel in ...Read more

Paint a pair of cowboy boots at 'True Grit' class
Columbia Daily Herald, April 13th

The Big Read-South Central Tennessee Project and Friends of Maury County Parks and Recreation are partnering to sponsor a family-friendly Step-by-Step Painting class of Cowboy Boots for ages 12 and older from 6-9 p.m. Thursday at the Nell H. Wright ...Read more

ACM Awards: Miranda Lambert Packs Bedazzled Boots, April 5th

One of those ventures is her shoe line, and when we talked, she was wearing the Cowboy cowboy boots in platinum -- her favorites -- which had been "custom bedazzled" for the trip to Vegas." "And with that break, I've had time to live with the record...Read more

Derek Jeter presented with cowboy hat, boots and golf clubs during ceremony in ...
Yahoo Canada Sports (blog), April 2nd

The Astros kept it simple and classy, giving Jeter a pair of cowboy boots with No. 2 engraved on them, a Stetson cowboy hat, and a set of golf clubs. #Astros will present Jeter with golf clubs, Stetson cowboy hat, and custom boots. more

Astros give Jeter interesting Cowboy boots, golf clubs & more, April 2nd

those cowboy boots the astros gave jeter have to be the ugliest thing ive seen in baseball, right upthere with kevin youkilis face. — Fred Nuñez (@infernoscurse) April 3, 2014. I would pay good money to see Jeter actually wear the cowboy boots the...Read more

Kristen Stewart's Chanel Campaign Includes Cornrows, Cowboy Boots
Hollywood Reporter, March 25th

Kristen Stewart's Chanel Campaign Includes Cornrows, Cowboy Boots. The actress goes for a rodeo-inspired look in Karl Lagerfeld's latest ad. @garcon_chanel/instagram. March 25, 2014. by. Stephanie Chan. Nearly three months after Kristen Stewart was ...Read more

Whidden Hill offers cowboy boots and accessories
Frederick News Post (subscription), March 24th

Whidden Hill offers cowboy boots and accessories. Debbie Hill, left, and Lisa Whidden, owners of Whidden Hill, a downtown shop that sells cowboy boots and western apparel, opened for business in early March. Contact. Lisa Whidden and Debbie Hill...Read more