The Magic Of Cowboy Boots

There is something truly magical about cowboy boots, although most people really have no idea what that is. It may be the reminder of the romantic version of the Old West, populated by movie stars in their worn denim and cowboy boots who are always accompanied, in the end, by a good, strong woman. It is strength of character that carved the west into what it became, and America has not forgotten the appeal of leaving the crowded, dirty city to go start a new life in a land as vast and spacious as it is uncharted. Or maybe it's just that cowboy boots have come a national fashion. You don't need to be out west to see people in western apparel. It is sold in big cities and the country alike and western wear, whether it's a belt or a pair of boots has become a natural part of the American lifestyle.

So, where did this magic come from? Well, cowboy boots as we know them today supposedly originated in the mid-nineteenth century. Prior to this, equestrian footwear had predominately come from the Wellington style boot, which was mass produced and marketed as a cavalry boot. One of the most remarkable changes from the Wellington to the cowboy boot was the longer shaft. As cowboy boots have no lacings, this tall leather shaft is what helped to hold the boot onto the foot. When dismounting a horse, the shaft served to protect the the ankle and lower leg from the thorns, rocks, brush, and of course, rattlesnakes. They also help prevent the leg from rubbing uncomfortably against the stirrups. When walking through water, the high shaft also protected them from getting wet as a lower boot would be prone to fill with mud and water.

There is something even more important about that wide high shaft without lacings- in the event of a fall or being thrown from a horse, the weight of the body would be enough to pull the foot from the boot, preventing the cowboy from being dragged. Of course, in the world of western apparel, you don't just find one version of such an item. There are also what are known as roper boots, which have a lower heel and a shorter shaft. This design was developed out of the modern rodeo lifestyle, calf roping in particular, in which the need to run is present alongside riding. In some cases, lacing has become popular for roper boots because the shorter shaft allows for the boot to come off more easily. This does have safety issues, though, in that a rider whose foot got caught up in the lacings would not be able to pull themselves free from the boot and the lack of a smooth upper could actually make it easier for the boot to get caught up in the stirrup to begin with.

Early bootmakers distinguished their brand by using unique stitching patterns on the toe wrinkle, which is the line of stitching along the top of the toe of the boot. Others place images on the sides of the shaft, or used cut-outs such as the lone star (think Texas). While traditionally made of leather, cowboy boots have been made of just about every animal whose hide can be tanned into leather and come in most, if not all, colors of the rainbow. They are worn by everyone from celebrities to farmhands.

By: David Tang

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