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    

Womens Ariat Fortress 10010176 Sz 7.5b Distress Western Cowboy Boots LeatherFrye Usa Made Womens 8 B Tall Mahogany Pull-on Leather Cowboy Western Boots -%Yahoo! Tall Sexy Frye Ladies Leather Buckaroo Cowboy Boots 8 B Awesome Patian!!!Frye Usa Made Womens 7.5 M Dark Brown Leather Cowboy Western Harness Boots YrFrye 77031 "carson Short" Womens 9.5 B Distressed Pink Leather Western Boots ZkTall, Truly Outstanding Paul Bond Cowboy Boots! Sz 10.5 To 9 (see Below)Corral Womens Cowboy Shoes Size 7.5 M Rs002047 Black Goat Sequence LeatherAriat Womens Western Cowboy Boots Tombstone Sassy Brown 1008017 Size Us 9bWomens ~ Ariat ~ Fatbaby ~ Heritage Collection ~ Cowboy Boots ~ Size 8 ~ NewLiberty Black Fringe Cowboy Boots Brown Size 7 Tan WesternVintage Exotic Lucchese Genuine Anteater Cowboy Boots Size 10 D Wow! Nr!Vintage Frye Womens 9 B Tall Leather Cowboy Western Riding Boots Frye #77300 Usa Made Womens 7 M Tall Brown Leather 12r Harness Cowboy Boots ^yFrye 77300 12r Harness Leather Cowboy Western Boots 7 M Womens Made In Usa !#Caleb Reynolds Original Beast Mode Cowboy BootsVintage Exotic Lucchese Chocolate Alligator Belly Cut Cowboy Boots Size 10 D Nr!Beautiful Ariat Oiled Leather Ladies Cowboy Boots 8.5 B In Excell. Cond!Womens ~ Justin ~ Cowboy Boots ~ Aged Bark ~ Size 9 ~ L9903 ~ Brand NewLucchese Beautiful Crocodile 8.5 D Western Cowboy Boots Square Toe Ariat 15035 Embroidered Floral Fatbaby Leather Ostrich Cowboy Boots Womens 9 BFrye Veronica Slouch Dark Brown Cowboy Womens Size 7.5 B Used $328Womens Lucchese Red Western Boots Size 9bOld Gringo Embroidered Floral Cowboy Leather Western Riding Boots 8.5 Dark BrownBeautiufl Ariat Oiled Leather Ladies Cowboy Boots 7 B In Excell. Cond!Ammons, El Paso, Alligator, Calf, Handmade, Vintage Cowboy Boots!!!Womens ~ Ariat ~ Fatbaby ~ Heritage Collection ~ Cowboy Boots ~ Size 7 ~ NewTony Lama Mens Cowboy Boots Size 12 D Brown Leather Vintage Sanded Bull ShoulderLucchese Mens Brown Leather Cowboy Boots Square Toe Size 10.5 D NewAriat Men's Outlaw Chico Distressed Brown Leather Western Boots 9.5d 10008799Anthropologie Latigo Boots Bootie Cowboy Real Leather Sz 7.5 Gray Green Cut OutWomans Abilene Brown Leather Cowboy Western Boots Size 8 MJustin "cactus Inlay" #l6327 Womens 9 B Suede Leather Cowboy Western Boots "kFrye Carson Shortie Brown Cowboy Womens Size 10 B Used $348Ariat 14747 Blue Fatbaby Leather Cowboy Boots Womens 9.5 BWomens Dan Post Fleur De Lis Cut-out Snip Toe Cowboy Boots Distressed Sz 7 B Women Corral Western Boots 7 Antique Saddle Blue Jean Wing & Heart A 1976 CowboyOld Gringo Ladies Cowboy Boots - 8.5 GolondritaAriat Black Beige Fat Baby Cowboy Leather Boots Women Size 9 MediumMade In U.s.a. Western Boot Knife, Dagger W75 F .$350 Frye Melissa Button Riding Tall Knee High Western Boots Womens Shoes 6.5mDan Post Vintage Python Full Snakeskin Glossy Knee High Cowboy Boots Women 9 Usa~justin Gypsy Cowboy Boots~womens Size 10~Womens Tony Lama Brown Currant Rodeo 3r Western Boot Size 9 1/2 B Embroidered Steve Madden New Gesar Brown Leather Slouchy Cowboy, Western Boots Shoes 8 BhfoWomens Ariat Brown~green Style 14711 Fatbaby Sz 8b Us 39 Eur Western BootsNocona Leather Size 12 D Colorful Handmade Western Cowboy Boots John Deere Logo Johnny Popper Cowboy Leather Boots Boys Size 13Larry Mahan Leather Size 11 D Cross Cowhide Western Cowboy Boots Women's Ariat Fatbaby Western Boots Cream Suede & Black Croc Embossed Sz 8.5 BNwob Ariat Women's Heritage Western Distressed Brown Cowboy Boots 9.5b 10001021Acme "made In Usa" Cowboy/western Boot Women's Sz. 8 CVintage Western Boot Knife W77 Rosewood Handle UsaDurango Women's 12 Inch Crush Western Boot Style: Dcrd137, Size 7New Tony Lama Men's Brown Ostrich Cowboy Boots Size 10 1/2Twisted X Boots Men's Cowboy Boots Size 10 Ruff Stock Bomber Blue Mrs0027 New12d Black Exotic Fq Full Quill Ostrich Western Cowboy Boots By Ferrini 12 DBorn Shavano Brown Leather Knee High Tall Cowboy Western Boots Womens Size 8Double-h Men's Boots Buckaroo Size 12 Cowboy Western Boot Nice Lqqk Nr!!!!Dan Post #14023 Womens 7.5 M Usa Made Leather & Lizard Cowboy Western Boots ZkSexy Plush Oiled Leather Lucchese Ladies Cowboy Boots 8 B Very Nice!!!

Recent News: Cowboy Boots

Source: Google News

Lexington retailers hope you'll 'show up in boots' for the Garth Brooks concert
Lexington Herald Leader, October 22nd

Above: Vintage boots at High Street Fly. Owner Ann-Michael Rawlings has carried cowboy boots at her other store, Calypso, for the past seven years. Left: For fall, fashion designer Tom Ford offers a high-fashion take on the classic cowboy boot. His...Read more

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

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

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


Schulman Brings Cowboy Boots to PayPal in Return to Tech
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

Auburn fan fashion: Tigers fan kick it in cowboy boots before homecoming game
Press-Register -, 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