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]

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]

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]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Frye Billy Short Western Boots Size 8 Dark Brown LeatherNew Women's Old Gringo Yippee Kiyay Gray Grey Western Distressed Cowboy Boots 8Frye 77031 "carson Short" Womens 9.5 B Distressed Pink Leather Western Boots ZkFrye Usa Made Womens 8 B Tall Mahogany Pull-on Leather Cowboy Western Boots -%Tall, Truly Outstanding Paul Bond Cowboy Boots! Sz 10.5 To 9 (see Below)Yahoo! Tall Sexy Frye Ladies Leather Buckaroo Cowboy Boots 8 B Awesome Patian!!!Womens ~ Ariat ~ Fatbaby ~ Heritage Collection ~ Cowboy Boots ~ Size 8 ~ NewLiberty Black Fringe Cowboy Boots Brown Size 7 Tan WesternJustin Gypsy Leather Western Boots Women's 7 BWomen's "ariat" Fatbaby Ostrich Western Leather Cowboy Riding Boots Sz. 8 1/2 BAriat Alabama Sassy Brown Leather Western Boots 8b 10010979Old Gringo Embroidered Floral Cowboy Leather Western Riding Boots 8.5 Dark BrownAriat Quickdraw Oiled Rowdy Leather Western Cowboy Boots 11d 10006714Womens Gianni Bini Cowboy Leather /man Made Brown Boots Size 10 MCorral Vintage Cowboy Cowgirl Boots Womens Size 7.5 MBeautiful Ariat Oiled Leather Ladies Cowboy Boots 8.5 B In Excell. Cond!Corral Edgy Womens Cowboy Western Boots Black / Purple Inlay Cross W/wingsSexy Plush Oiled Leather Lucchese Ladies Cowboy Boots 8 B Very Nice!!!Rare 10 1/2 D Sea Alligator Belly Custom Made Exotic Cowboy Western Boots Lucchese Beautiful Crocodile 8.5 D Western Cowboy Boots Square Toe Womens Ariat Brown/teal Leather Cowboy Boots Size 9.5b Nwob Frye 77300 12r Harness Leather Cowboy Western Boots 7 M Womens Made In Usa !#Beautiufl Ariat Oiled Leather Ladies Cowboy Boots 7 B In Excell. Cond!Old Gringo Leather Cowboy Boots Brown With Turquoise Stars "celeste" Womens 10Justin L9977 Women's Cowboy Boots Black Suede & Leather Size 9 BWomens Ariat Fatbaby Brown Saddle / Western/ Cowboy/ Boots Size 9Ariat Men's Big City Tan Leather Western Cowboy Boots 10d 10011810Justin "cactus Inlay" #l6327 Womens 9 B Suede Leather Cowboy Western Boots "kAmmons, El Paso, Alligator, Calf, Handmade, Vintage Cowboy Boots!!!Lucchese Men's 1883 Western Cowboy Boots Size 10 DAriat Mens 8.5 D Brown Leather Cowboy Boots All Weather Waterproof *fancy StitchNice Men's "ariat" Western Leather Cowboy Riding Boots Sz. 10.5 Or 10 1/2 D VgucNwob Ariat Wildstock Weathered Brown Leather Western Cowboy Boots 11d 10005876Womens Ariat Fatbaby 9 M Aqua Croc Western Cowboy Boots Style 14747Ariat 15035 Embroidered Floral Fatbaby Leather Ostrich Cowboy Boots Womens 9 BWoman's Red Justin Cowboy Western Boots Size 8 Womens ~ Ariat ~ Fatbaby ~ Heritage Collection ~ Cowboy Boots ~ Size 7 ~ NewDan Post Exotic Mens Hornback Lizard Cowboy Boots Sz 10 DTony Lama Boots Ostrich Cowboy / Western Men's 12 D Black ~leather~ Must See!!Justin Boots Womens Tan Leather Cowboy Boots Size 7.5 BWomens Size 10 Ariat Fatbaby Black Croc Print W/ Ivory Uppers Western BootsLucchese 1883 Vintage Pink Brown Leather Blue Star Alcala Cowboy Boots Women 7.5Corral Womens Cowboy Shoes Size 7.5 M Rs002047 Black Goat Sequence LeatherTony Lama Boots Women's Cowboy Boots Size 8 Shiloh Leather Brown Rr2016l NewAriat Womens Western Cowboy Boots Tombstone Sassy Brown 1008017 Size Us 9bAriat Fat Baby Camo Pink Boots Size 7.5b (women's) Western Cowboy BootsTony Lama Mens Black Leather Cowboy Western Boots With White Trim Sz 10 1/2 Ariat Heritage Western Bucklace Leather Western Boots 7.5b 10004738Nocona Leather Size 12 D Colorful Handmade Western Cowboy Boots Nice Handcrafted J Chisholm Full Quill Ostrich Cowboy Boots Size 10-1/2dJustin Boots Mens Cowboy Boots Size 10.5 Chocolate America Cow Leather Br314 NewJohn Deere Logo Johnny Popper Cowboy Leather Boots Boys Size 13Ariat Boots Men Cowboy Western Work Size 13 D Brown Leather Ironside WaterproofSteve Madden New Gesar Brown Leather Slouchy Cowboy, Western Boots Shoes 8 BhfoWoman's Ariat Fatbaby Western Cowboy Boots 7 1/2New Tony Lama Men's Brown Ostrich Cowboy Boots Size 10 1/2Old Gringo Ladies Cowboy Boots - 8.5 GolondritaWomens Lucchese Red Western Boots Size 9bDurango Rebel Boots Ffa Western Boot Men's Size 10mWoman's Size 9-b "ariat" Fat Baby, Western Boots - In Very Good Condition

Recent News: Cowboy Boots

Source: Google News

Favorite boots get new lease on life
Capital Press, October 17th

TOWNER, N.D. — Being a cowboy, I always remember Dad as a cowboy hat and cowboy boots kind of a guy. But being a North Dakotan, I remember him wearing a corduroy winter cap with ear flaps as often as his cowboy hat, and whether for comfort or ...Read more

Fashion Trend We Love: Cowboy Chic
5280 | The Denver Magazine, October 15th

One of the easiest ways for local gals to get the on-trend look is by investing in a pair of cowboy boots. It may sound a bit cliché when you live in Colorado, but the footwear is classic and versatile—I've spotted everything from a fringed stiletto...Read more

TOP SHELF: 'Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots'
Monitor, October 10th

Nothing demonstrates the extent of her poetic prowess like her most recent collection, Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots, published this summer by Lamar University Press. Divided into four sections, the book is organized around the conceit of female divinity ...Read more

Bluegrass Legend Ricky Skaggs Headlines 2nd Annual Cowboy Boots Bash ...
Marketwired (press release), October 9th

ATLANTA, GA--(Marketwired - Oct 9, 2014) - The legendary Ricky Skaggs plus some of country music's rising stars will raise the roof at Atlanta's Fox Theatre during the second annual Cowboy Boots Bash set for Friday, November 7. Atlanta Braves All-Star ...Read more

Schulman Takes Cowboy Boots to PayPal in Return to Tech Roots
Bloomberg, September 30th

Dan Schulman is back where he started: running a technology company. Schulman, 56, who favors cowboy boots and jeans at work, is leaving American Express Co. (AXP) to become PayPal's president and chief executive officer designee as it prepares to ...Read more

Man who stole expensive cowboy boots sought, Houston police say
KPRC Houston, September 30th

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT A REPEAT ROBBER HAS HIS SIGHTS SET ON, EXPENSIVE LA CASEY COWBOY BOOTS VALUED AT ALMOST $700. THEY'RE THE MOST EXPENSIVE BOOTS CAVENDER'S BOOTS EVEN SELLS AND NOW POLICE ARE ...Read more

Auburn fan fashion: Tigers fan kick it in cowboy boots before homecoming game
Press-Register - al.com, September 27th

AUBURN, Alabama -- When it comes to fans of the Auburn Tigers, cowboy boots are an essential part of every gameday outfit. Whether you're strolling through the tailgating fields and browsing the shoppes near Toomer's Corner, cowboy boots are common ...Read more

Novices make custom cowboy boots in unique Dillon class
KPAX-TV, September 25th

DILLON - Ever wonder what goes into making a good pair of cowboy boots? There's a boot-making class in Dillon to show you how. Dan Schwarz and his family have been in the boot retail and repair business in Dillon for 15 years. Schwarz loves the custom ...Read more