The mystery of the history of cowboy boots in the shoe fashion world is almost as fabled as the Old West itself. Stories are abound that a shoemaker from anywhere between Kansas and Texas came up with the invention that would be a cultural icon. No matter who is credited with the original creation, cowboy boots remain a staple in our society…and the only form of footwear for some traditionalists.
When the Civil War ended, cowboys found themselves in different terrain than during the battle. Instead of remaining temporarily stationary, now settlers found themselves putting in long hours and hundreds of miles on the trails. Battle boots just didn’t hold up to the rigors of this new lifestyle and a new alternative had to be formed.
Since Cowboys spent long hours perched atop their favorite horse, they wanted a boot with a pointier sole so that it would slip in and out of the stirrup a lot easier. They also optioned the shoemaker to make a thicker, more rugged heel so that the boot wouldn’t slip through or out of the stirrup on long rides. Finally, the calf-length design protected their legs from the elements such as burs and brush as well as snakes and other trail varmints.
The cowboy boot design was the ultimate of form and function. The thick leather material prevented the cowboy from getting rashes from rubbing on the stirrup and the loose top of the boot enabled an easy slip-off in case of getting tangled up in something. The thick heel also made it easier to dig into the ground when pulling a stubborn mule or when walking through an unsettled trail.
The basics of the cowboy boot remain the same to this very day. While at first they were used simply for work and had the same basic leather design, now cowboy boots have also evolved into a fashion statement. You might find a pair of cowboy boots on a ranch in Minnesota, on a Harley rider in Wisconsin, or on a young celebrity on Rodeo Drive. Today cowboy boots come in a number of different colors with elaborate designs on the outside. While the first cowboy boots were made to protect trail riders from snakes, now cowboy boots are made out of snake skin materials. If the settlers of the ancient West could see some of the fancy designs today, they’d shake their head and just continue eating their can of beans.