History of the Cowboy Boot

A Brief History Of The Cowboy Boot

By Jakki Francis

Historically horsemen have always needed protective footwear as well as preferring boots with a higher heel. Their origin that we know of today comes from various styles including the Wellington, which originated from Britain's Duke of Wellington. At the time it was made ofstraight plain leather with one-inch heels and straight tops. Cowboys also wore the Hessian boot, which had a V-cut in the front, and some of these had a silk or leather tassel hanging down in the V.

The Coffeyville-style originated in Coffeyville, Kansas around 1870 and were normally black leather with a low Cuban heel. The front of the boot, known as the "graft", was higher than the back and was usually a different color. Texas cowboys were known to have a lone star inlaid in the graft.

They continued to evolve through the late 1800s and the designs were influenced by the European cavalier style, which were characterized by higher heels and better-quality leather.

The toes were square or rounded and this did not change to pointed until the 1950s.

The straight lines of stitches across the top of the toe are called a toe wrinkle. Boot makers in the early 1900s started to add decorative stitching on the toes in addition to the wrinkle and these designs became and have remained to this day the personalized signature of custom-made.

In the 1920s and 1930s they became a fashion item as a result of the movies and radio shows about the Wild West.

After 1940 designs became more colorful and intricate incorporating images of the west such as cacti, eagles, horses and horseshoes.

In the 1950s when rodeos became a popular form of entertainment and country music started being heard, their popularity skyrocketed and millions of pairs were reportedly being made in all shapes, colors and styles.

After this the designs followed the fashions and styles popularized in the movies - if John Travolta or Tom Cruise wore a particular style then they were immediately in demand.

Since the early 1990s makers have become even more adventurous and we are now seeing styles incorporating studs, conchos, rhinestones and precious stones, no doubt partly as a result of the interest in line dancing. Of course it is still possible to buy an attractive pair in plain leather.

Part of their enduring appeal is that they can be worn by anyone.

There is an excellent book called appropriately The Cowboy Boot book, that covers everything you need to know, available for purchase from Amazon.

Copyright © Jakki Francis,(UK), 2005

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