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    

Lucchese Men's Alligator Brown Boots Western Cowboy Roper Size 9 D Used PreownedAriat Men's Latigo Caiman Belly Cowboy Boots Square Toe Sz 12 Ee Style 10007000Freebird By Steve Madden Womens 9 Wrang Floral Embossed Leather Western Boots HjVintage Tony Lama Snakeskin J 7392 Mens Cowboy Leather Boots Size Us 12 DOld Gringo Lizard Skin Cowboy Boots "clarita", Golden/tan/caramel, Sz 8.5 Like 8Nocona Exotic Sea Alligator Crocodile Skin Western Cowboy Boots 12d 12.5 12 1/2dCorral Vintage Womens A2840 Antique Saddle Cowboy Western Boots Shoes Sz 7.5 M Vintage Mccoy Pottery Boots Western Cowboy Table LampAriat Western BootsOld Gringo Mayra L601-3 Womens 8 Brass Brown Tall Western Boots No ReserveLucchese Usa Soiled Insole Mens 10 D Black And Russet Leather Cowboy Boots EcNice Brown Leather Ariat Scalloped Top Cowboy Riding Grunge Boots Women 7.5Rocky Womens 7 M Techo-ride Austin 4411 Brown Leather Western Cowboy Boots CgNew - Womens Size 8 Faded Glory Western Style Boots - Cowgirl Cowboy New Old Gringo Klak Sugar Skull Western Cowboy BootsNomad Matador Women's Western Cowboy Boots Cowgirl Slight Imperfection 8Brand New Old Gringo Ladies Cowboy Boots Size 7.5Nomad Mustang Women's Western Cowboy Boots Slight Imperfection 9Womens Nocona 2 Tone Teal Leather Squared Toe Rodeo Fashion Cowboy Boots 8.5 BNocona Boots Snakeskin Cowboy Boots Size 12 Men's 11 D Ariat Cowboy Boots Nitro Weathered Brown / Blanco Leather Square Toe15” Tall Men’s Size 13 Old Gringo Distressed Brown Leather Cowboy Western Boots Justin Men's Black Caiman Exotic Western Boots - J 3462 - Men's Size:10.5dJustin Exotic Elephant Skin Leather Brown Western Cowboy Boots 12d Euc18” Tall Size 10 ½ Vintage Tony Lama Black Label Cowboy Western Buckaroo BootsAcme Men's 12 D Brown Cowboy Boots Cool Boots Check Them Out.Womens Ariat Ostrich Brown Pink Fat Baby Cowboy Boots 9 1/2 BWomens Ariat Red Western Cowboy Boots Leather Size 8 B Womens Justin Gypsy Brown Teal Red Western Cowboy Boots Size 8.5 B Work Or PlayRoper Ladies Womens Buckaroo Brown White Turquoise Cowboy Boots Size 10Justin Bent Rail Men's Cowboy Boots Size 12d Brown And Red Made In UsaVintage Tony Lama Snake Skin Size 10 D Cowboy Western Boots Matisse Leather Cowboy Boots Size 7 Womens (turquoise, Red, Brown)Rod Patrick Exotic Caiman Crocodile Belly Alligator Western Cowboy Boots 12dRios Of Mercedes Men's 11.5d Crazyhorse Rust/navy Square Western BootsRed Wing Brown Leather Pecos Cowboy Work Boots Made In Usa 1155 Sz 9.5Sharp! **michael Kors - Italy** Baby Blue Suede Leather Cowboy Boots! 8Cowboy Short Suede High Heel Shoes Ankle Pixie Buckle High Heel Boots Size 5Girls Macie Bean Western Boots, Size 12, Slightly UsedJustin Reddish Brown Full Quill Ostrich Skin Roper Cowboy Boots Size 11 DPython Cowboy Boots Size 12Beautiful Women's Ariat Western Boots Detailed Leather Size 8 1/2 B Little WearWhite's Leather Packer Lace Up Cowboy Work Boots Sz 9.5 E Logging LoggerAriat Womens 8.5 B #14841 Fatbaby Brown Leather Ropers Western Cowboy BootsOld West Girls Size 12 . 5 Cowgirl Boots Pink Brown Euc Leather Cowboy ToddlerMiss Capezio Vintage Usa Womens 7.5 M Lizard Inlay Tan Leather Cowboy Boots EcLucchese Dark Black Cherry Ostrich Western Boots Ariat Mens Black Square Toe Roper Cowboy Western Boots Size 9ee Style 53411High Quality Larry Mahan Hornback Alligator Cowboy Western Boots 11dWomen's Corral Vintage Pointy Toe Cowboy BootsJustin Womens Gypsy Black Leather Cowboy Western Boots Shoes L9905 Size 10 M Mens 11 D Ariat 37421 Cowboy Western Brown Bullhide Leather Braided Design BootsSteven By Steve Madden Women's Dextir Western Boots Sz 7.5Men's Ariat Cowboy Western Boots Size 10Men's Quality Justin Western Cowboy Boots Brown Leather Size 13 E Style 1949A172 Used Damaged Lucchese (classics) Tan Calfskin Cowboy Boots Men's 9.5 DEuc Golden Goose "golden" Brown Leather Zip Cowboy Boots Eur 36 Us 6 ItalyMen Lucchese 1883 Cowboy Boots 11 EeAcme Vintage Cowboy Boots Western Green Leather Cut-out Inlay Design Womens 8.5Lucchese Classics Chocolate Calf Cowboy Boots

Recent News: Cowboy Boots

Source: Google News

Police recover missing 14-year-old girl, cancel missing child media alert
wtvr.com, April 30th

She has blue eyes and black hair and was last seen wearing a white sundress and cowboy boots. Police said Hughes needed required medication that she does not have with her. Police believed she might have been with a 24-year-old man named Seth ...Read more

Dust off your cowboy boots for UNM's 2016 Homecoming festivities
UNM Newsroom, April 28th

Break out your denim and cowboy hats — Homecoming 2016 “Happy Howls to You” will be a western affair. Save-the-date for Homecoming week this fall: Sunday, Sept. 25 to Sunday, Oct. 2. A campus decorating contest, dance, appreciation luncheon, alumni ...Read more

A weekend of cowboy boots and music salutes
Saskatoon StarPhoenix, April 24th

Kelsey Fitch holds her first two Saskatchewan Country Music Association Awards after winning both best video of the year and best song of the year categories at the awards show held at TCU Place on April 23, 2016. Kayle Neis 2013 / Kayle Neis...Read more

Alessandra Ambrosio wears crochet dress and cowboy boots at Coachella 2016
Daily Mail, April 18th

Boasting a deep tan, the mother-of-two wowed in the skimpy dress which featured a plunging neckline and a draped asymmetric hemline that flaunted her toned limbs. She layered a tasseled tan waistcoat with ethnic-inspired embroidery over the top and ...Read more

Get out the cowboy boots for Country & Western Festival
Fairfield Daily Republic, April 14th

The merchants of the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District do and invite you to get some country at the annual Country & Western Festival, which takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. April 29 and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 30 in Town Square. Things kick...Read more

Cowboy Boots and the Memories of Life
Huffington Post, April 11th

My daughter just received her first pair of cowboy boots and when we opened the lid, the smell of leather brought Grandpa into the room. I watched as my daughter inhaled the smell on the boots. It made me remember that my IMPECCABLY dressed grandpa ...Read more

Pete King Tells New Yorkers To Send Cruz And His Cowboy Boots Packing
TPM, April 7th

"We're tough, and to have some guy like Ted Cruz with cowboy boots walk around criticizing us. Listen, I hope he gets the cold shoulder and other things from every New Yorker. Send him back where he belongs," King said. "He's a phony, and that was all...Read more

5 Ways to Wear Your Favorite Cowboy Boots for Spring
Huffington Post, April 6th

I'm a Southern Girl who loves herself a good pair of Cowboy Boots. If I could I would probably wear them every single day. That's why I decided to stretch our imaginations a little and try them out some different ways! Check it out! 1) Add some flair...Read more