November 10, 2008

Not Just Boots

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 Kansas or Texas. One of the first and probably the most famous was “Big Daddy Joe” Justin of Justin Boots. Later, influences of Italian boot makers, Tony Lamas and Sam Lucchese made their way into cowboy boot fashions. In the 1870’s, simple decorative stitch patterns began to emerge. By the 1890’s, a more decorative boot was in demand with top-stitching in many designs. Very highly decorative boots were the fashion for the Wild West Rodeos and continue to be popular today.

I still own a regular ole pair of tall ACME boots purchased when I lived in Denver that has seen much wear from dancing many a country western tune in them and they were so comfortable to wear. They are too small now, but I still have them. Along with everything else, my feet grew from a 7 to an 8 in recent years. I’d love to be able to own a pair of custom made ones. I’ll just keep on dreaming. I do sport a western clog, in black or brown from time to time with my jeans. Whether round toed, pointed toes, thick soled or thin, decorative or plain and in a variety of colors, the result today is a very personal taste of one’s love affair with the cowboy boots.

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!

Happy Trails


Vickie McDonough said...

Thanks for sharing this info on boots. It's very interesting.

Tina Dee Books said...

I LOVE my boots, cowboy, of course. They're more comfy than my running shoes. And with the weather cooling (at least I hope it is here in S. CA) I'll be able to wear them more! Can I get a yeehaw?!!

Thanks for the great info, Maggie!


Molly Noble Bull said...

Good info, Brenda.
I like the walking heel style of cowboy boots best. But I also like the higher heeled ones. Boots are just comfortable to wear. But only if you get a good fit.

I so happy about all yor accomplishments.

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Thanks, Molly, Tina and Vickie. I wanted the post to be fun and informative, too. I agree, Molly, cowboy boots are extremely comfortable if you get a good fit!