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    

Durango Sz 8 "lady Rebel Rd4414" Women's 10" Flag Western Boots Brown / MultiWomens Sz 7 Ariat Shorty Western Cowboy Boots Nr Nu Like FatbabyLucchese Mens Western Boots Light Brown/taupe Alligator 10.5dMens Lucchese Classics Handmade Black Cowboy Boots 10 D With Bag WowAriat Fat Baby 16762 Womens 9 B 40 Red & Brown Leather Western Cowboy Boots OoCorral Boots Bone Lizard Outlay Black & White Leather Cowboy Boots 7.5 M 2405Tan Leather Mexicano Buckaroo Cowboy Western Boots Gringo Cuban Heel High 44 10Ariat Mens Western Boot Dark Brown Alligator Size 10.5dTony Lama Mens 10.5 D Buckaroo Rr1002 Leather Tall Round Toe Cowboy Boots XdAriat Cowboy Boots, Woman Size 8.5 *leather*Free Bird Black Leather Bead Stud Embellished Distressed Short Cowboy Boots Sz 9Justin Boots Men's Cowboy Boot Full Quill Black Ostrich Size 13dTwisted X Cowboy Western Boots Brown Green Women's 7.5 DSigned Mens Vintage Rocketbuster Cowboy Boots/ Elpaso Tx / Lone Star Texas New! Ariat Women's Fatbaby Leather Western Boots, Black, Size 8 BJustin Women's Brown Leather Classic Western Boots Size 8.5 Nice Rios Of Mercedes Mens Cowboy Boots Western Boots Size 11 D Usa TexasFry Distressed Purple Leather Block Heel Cowboy Style Fashion Boots Shoes 9bVtg Womens Ariat Ats Cowboy Leather Brown Boots Size 8.5 BWomens Frye Cowboy Boots Size 8.Nwt Pink Suede Ariat Fatbaby Western Boots Women 9 Cowboy Cowgirl RodeoAriat Fat Baby Womens Size 9 Square Toe Boot Brown+nice Stitching/tooled-cowboyTony Lama Cowboy Boots Snake Skin Mens 10 BrownTony Lama Cowboy Boots Snake Skin Mens Size 9.5 D Brown And GrayWomens Old Gringo Western Boots Marico Razz 8 B Chocolate Red L1639-2Frye Billy Short Leather / Suede Ankle Gray Cowboy Boot Women's Size 9m *Kids Girl Boy Anderson Bean Brown Cowboy Boots 12 Square Toe Double StitchedMen's Snake Skin Cowboy Boots Size 13Black Nocona Mens Cowboy Western Leather Boots Size 12 D Vtg Womens Ariat Ats Cowboy Leather Brown Boots Size 8 BMens Olathe Tall Buckaroo Rodeo Stovepipe Leather Cowboy Boots Size 10 DRoper Women's Crossed Out Snip Western Boot Size 8.5 UsTall Proud Black Label Tony Lama Cowboy-worn Buckaroo Boots! Size 11Vtg John Fluevog Angels 90s Glam Blue Leather High Heel Western Boots Womens 7Ariat Brown Leather Ladies Cowboy Boots Size 8 BVtg Tony Lama Black Tag Cowboy Boots Sz 11 D 18.5" Tall Stove Pipe Western NiceMens Tony Lama Buckaroo Cowboy Leather Brown Boots Size 12 DNew Mens Ariat Outlaw Brown All Leather Performance Cowboy Boots Sz 12 DMade In Mexico Women's Leather Western Cowboy Boots Size 7 BDan Post Full Quill Chocolate Brown Ostrich Exotic Skin Cowboy Boots Men Sz 9.5dWomens Macie Bean Western Boots Rose Garden Floral 7 B Honey M9012Vtg Men 10 D Tony Lama Gray Full Quill Ostrich Leather Western Cowboy Rodeo BootJustin Cowboy Boots Womens 10 CoffeeMen's "lucchese" Ostrich Dress Roper Cowboy Boots 10d, ExcellentAriat Fatbaby 16802 Teal Black Patent Rodeo Cowgirl Cowboy Boots Womens 8 BTan Leather Suede Biker Riding Cowboy Western Boots Gringo Cuban Vtg 43 9/9.5Lucches Cowboy Collection Men's Size 9d Lucchese 1883 Classic Brown Leather Cowboy Boots Handmade In UsaLaredo Black Snake & Leather Cowboy Boots Made In Usa Mens 15 DCowtown Hand Made In Mexico Brown Cowboy Western Boots Leather Uk 7 - 67 K08Mens 9 D Lucchese 2000 Brown Leather Crepe Soles Pull On Western Cowboy BootsSize 10 Ariat Mens Cowboy BootsAriat Men's Tycoon Western Boots 10014053 Sz12 DClassic Square Toed Smooth Brown Ostrich Red Leather Upper Cowboy Boots 10.5 DKids Girl Boy Ariat Brown Cowboy Boots Size 3Mens~chippewa~boots~size 10.5 D~leather~western~cowboy~workAriat Sierra Saddle Leather Western Cowboy Work Boots Men's 11.5Vtg Womens Ariat Ats Square Toe Cowboy Bullhide Leather Brown Boots Size 7.5 BNice Rios Of Mercedes Mens Cowboy Boots Western Boots Size 11 D Usa Reptile Mens~dan Post~lizard Skin~boots~size 10 D~western~cowboy~black~euc

Recent News: Cowboy Boots

Source: Google News

Grass Roots and Cowboy Boots fundraiser to take place September 12
Journal Pioneer, July 4th

The Grass Roots and Cowboy Boots fundraiser is taking place on September 12 in the Eastlink Arena at the Credit Union Place. Warren Ellis and Brody Ellis with the car dealership donated a Jeep Wrangler Sport for the event. Over the past six years...Read more

The Strange-But-True Story of How a Cowboy Boot Startup Took Over Facebook
Racked, June 18th

Three summers ago, Acumen Brands, the online retailer's parent company, doubled down on plans to make Country Outfitter the internet destination for cowboy boots and all things Western wear. Intending to bring industry to Fayetteville, Arkansas, Acumen ...Read more

America, these cowboy boot sandals are now our official shoe
Mashable, June 17th

Scotty Franklin, the mad man behind this fashion monstrosity, customized cowboy boots that even he calls "Redneck Cowboy Boots." By taking away the material surrounding the toe and arch of the foot, you can finally keep your ankles warm and your feet ...Read more

Cowboy Boot Sandals? These Customized Mandals Defy Categorization And ...
Bustle, June 16th

Fashion mashups are so commonplace, especially with high x low collabos, but some things just don't go together, like, say, cowboy boots and flip flops. They are either one or the other but can't be both… until now, because cowboy boot sandals are a...Read more

At Ham Lake church, it's cowboy boots and no-nonsense sermons
Post-Bulletin, June 15th

HAM LAKE — Even in the most liberal translations, the Bible doesn't mention 10-gallon hats or roping cattle. Nevertheless, Minnesota's first cowboy-themed church is thriving in Ham Lake. The Open Range Cowboy Church drew 60 wild-west worshippers last ...Read more

Their (Cowboy) Boots Dug In, the Owners of Flaming Saddles Push On
WEHOville, June 12th

They've dug in the heels of their cowboy boots and insist that people are coming to understand that Flaming Saddles is what West Hollywood's gay community needs. No, they don't mean the Country/Western music, but the neighborhood ambiance. “We want ...Read more

Perfect weather for 'Cowboy Boots and Down Home Roots'
Daily Journal Online, June 11th

The rain thankfully stayed away and the skies were clear in time for a full weekend of "Cowboy Boots and Down Home Roots" as Country Days 2015 wrapped up another banner year. Doug McDermott, president and CEO of the Farmington Regional Chamber ...Read more

At Ham Lake church, it's cowboy boots + no-nonsense sermons
TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press, June 5th

Linda Penrose, left, wife of Pastor Joe Penrose, worships with others at the Open Range Cowboy Church in Ham Lake on Sunday, May 31, 2015. Minnesota's first cowboy-themed church, Open Range drew 60 wild-west worshippers last Sunday to hear a ...Read more