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Cowboy Boots

door buttonCowboy boots refer to a specific style of riding boot, historically worn by cowboys. They have a high heel, rounded to pointed toe, high shaft, and, traditionally, no lacing. Cowboy boots are normally made from cowhide leather but are also sometimes made from “exotic” skins such as alligator, snake, ostrich, lizard, eel, elephant, sting ray, elk, buffalo, and the like.

chopper shirtsThere are two basic styles of cowboy boots, western (or classic), and roper. The western style is distinguished by a tall boot shaft, going to at least mid-calf, with an angled “cowboy” heel, usually over one inch high. A slightly lower, still angled, “walking” heel is also common. Although western boots can be customized with a wide variety of toe shapes, the classic design is a narrowed, usually pointed, toe.

A newer design, the “roper” style, has a short boot shaft that stops above the ankle but before the middle of the calf, with a very low and squared-off “roper” heel, shaped to the sole of the boot, usually less than one inch high. Roper boots are usually made with rounded toes, but, correlating with style changes in streetwear, styles with a squared toe are seen. The roper style is also manufactured in a lace-up design which often fits better around the ankle and is less likely to slip off, but these two features also create safety issues for riding.

Riding boots had been a part of equestrian life for centuries. Until the industrial age, boots were individually hand made in many different styles, depending on culture. Early cowboy boot designs, along with other cowboy accoutrements, were also heavily influenced by the vaquero tradition imported from Spain to the Americas, dating back to the early 1500s. The tradition of the cowboy boot also continues in Mexico today, especially in the States of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Nuevo Leon.

Later, the industrial revolution allowed some styles of boots to be mass-produced, particularly for the military. The cowboy boot is often described as descended from the Hessian boot, a boot style that which was common among cavalry in Europe in the 18th century. However, the northern European cavalry boot was not necessarily a direct predecessor. Earlier styles of French boots for men on horseback show a square toe, top decoration and heavy heel in a design where the top was two parts, unlike the Hessian top which was one piece. As the working cowboy was often underpaid, a mass-produced boot style, the Wellington boot, (a shorter but cavalry-oriented boot) was popular with cowboys in the USA until the 1860s.

During the cattle drive era of 1866??884 when the pay for cowboys rose somewhat due to overall increases in the price of meat, better wages, combined with a cowboy’s often-nomadic lifestyle, led the cowboy to invest in portable but excellent quality leather gear such as a saddle and boots. One investment was in high-quality, stylized boots that had once been only within the reach of the wealthy classes. While a cowboy was not apt to ruin a good pair of dress boots while working, basic style elements permeated even working boots, and made the Wellington obsolete. Fashion magazines from 1850 and 1860 show the cowboy boot with topstitching, cutouts of geometric or other natural elements and underslung heel were already in place. Thus, the style commonly known as the cowboy boot appeared in the mid 19th century, with the higher heel, elaborate stitching, and other decorative features distinguishing the new style from the military issue boots that preceded them.

The American-style boot was taken up by bootmakers in the cattle ranching areas of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.[1] Two of the best known early bootmakers of the era were Charles Hyer of Hyer Brothers Boots in Olathe, Kansas, and H. J. “Big Daddy Joe” Justin of Justin Boots in Spanish Fort, Texas and later Nocona, Texas. After Justin moved closer to Dallas where shipping was easier, the Nocona brand of cowboy boots was made by Enid Justin Selzer, eldest daughter of Joe Justin, who stayed in Nocona with her husband, and the couple continued the family business. After the couple divorced, the Olsen-Selzer brand was started by Selzer.


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