by Maggie Brendan
I love the rich smell of leather and the way a man looks in jeans and his cowboy boots. Today boots are elaborately decorated or plain if you choose, but it wasn’t always so.
Next to a cowboy’s hat, the second most important symbol of a cowboy’s identity was his footwear. Cowboys wore heavy-soled boots of any style prior to the end of the Civil War. With the beginning of cattle drives, working with cattle and riding his horse for months at a time, the cowboy realized his need for a better and more comfortable boot. The cowboy got together with boot makers and came up with what we now call “cowboy boots.” The cowboy was very vain about his boots, hat and general attire. By the 1870’s, he could mail order them, buy them off the shelf or save for a custom made pair. The first cowboy boots were black and called “stovepipes” and had 2 ½” to 4 ½” heels. The heels prevented the cowboy from getting his foot hung up in the stirrup, and also allowed him to “dig his heels in” while working the cattle. The tall knee-high shaft was designed to protect him from barbed-wire, mesquite trees, snakes and other hazards.
Most influential boot makers hailed from
I still own a regular ole pair of tall ACME boots purchased when I lived in
Whether roping steers, riding in the saddle all day, pounding dirt or snow slush, the cowboy’s best friends are his horse and saddle, his hat and rope, and a blazing fire at the end of the day to warm his feet and dry out his indispensable boots!