These Boots Were Made For Ridin’

Today I’ll be taking a peek into some cowboy boot history and will be giving away this cowboy 
boot ornament to one of our comment posters. I have always had a boot fetish, from combat to cowboy, boots are one of my guilty pleasures.  My favorite pair at present are these brown moch side-button boots which I love dearly. The rest are a variety of tall, short and mid-calf boots. Tug on, side-zip and lace-up–I love them all! When it comes to cowboys, boots aren’t just fashion, they’re a necessity and contrary to a certain country song, they’re boots AREN’T made for walking. In fact, the wedged heal and narrow toe encourage them to stay in the saddle  😉 

So why do cowboy boots have those wedge heels? While in the saddle, the tall heel minimized the risk of the foot sliding forward through the stirrup, which could be life-threatening if it happened and the rider were to be unseated. There was often considerable risk that a cowboy would fall from a horse, both because he often had to ride young, unpredictable horses, but also because he had to do challenging ranch work in difficult terrain, that often meant that he could accidentally become unseated by a quick-moving horse. If a rider fell from a horse but had a boot get caught in the stirrup, there arose a very great risk that the horse could panic and run off, dragging the cowboy, causing severe injury and possible death. The tall shaft, comfortably loose fit, and lack of lacing all were additional features that helped prevent a cowboy from being dragged since his body weight could pull his foot out of the boot if he fell off while the boot remained stuck in the stirrup.

When mounting and, especially, dismounting, the slick, treadless leather sole of the boot allowed easy insertion and removal of the foot into the stirrup of the Western saddle. The original toe was rounded and a bit narrowed at the toe to make it easier to insert.

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. As the working cowboy was often underpaid, a mass-produced boot style, the Wellington boot (named after the Duke of Wellington) was popular with cowboys in the USA until the 1860s..

During the cattle drive era of 1866–1884 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 quality leather saddles and boots. 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. 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.

This is a fun tidbit I got off the Hyer Boot site:

“The Hyer Boot Company was founded circa 1880 by brothers Charles and Edward Hyer. As boys they learned boot making from their father, William, a German immigrant who began practicing shoemaking after he came to the United States in the mid-1800s. Charles moved to Olathe in 1872 where he found work at the Olathe School for the Deaf teaching shoe and harness making. He opened a small cobbling shop on the side and hired his brother Edward to help him run it.

Tradition credits Charles Hyer as one of the first to invent the cowboy boot. Company promotional materials state that a Colorado cowboy stopped by the Hyer shop on his way home from the Kansas City stockyards in 1875, requesting a new pair of boots that were different from his Civil War-style boots. He wanted a boot with a pointed toe that would slide more easily into a stirrup, a high, slanted heel that would hold a stirrup, and a high top with scalloped front and back so he could get in and out of his boots more easily. Charles accepted the challenge. The unknown cowboy was so pleased with Hyer’s work that he returned to Colorado and told others about his new boots.”

So there you have it, some cowboy boot evolution—a style that’s still going strong today!

Anyone else remember tugging off your dad’s boots at night?  He’d drop into a chair and sometimes my brother and I would see who could get a boot off first—it wasn’t easy!  Anyone have cowboy boots kickin’ round in their closet?

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48 thoughts on “These Boots Were Made For Ridin’”

  1. I don’t have any cowboy boots around here, though I wish I did. My mom had a pair of plain brown ones that I used to wear all the time- couldn’t bring them with me when I moved though! LOL (she wouldn’t let me drag her boots off)

    When I was little I remember going shopping with my grandpa- I came home a Chip and Dale and Donald Duck toy purse that had a notepad and crayons, a pair of sandals and best of all- a pair of little girl’s black cowboy boots with intricate stitching. I wore them till I wore them out and couldn’t fit in them anymore. One of my fondest memories.

    My dad works in construction, so I remember undoing his shoe laces and helped pull his work shoes off when I was little, but he never wore boots.

  2. I’ve always had a pair of cowboy boots kickin’ around. Except I can’t wear them anymore on account of the splints for my flat feet. But, I sure like looking at ’em.

    My dad was a construction worker, too. He’d take his boots off at the door, but then he sink onto the living room sofa with his feet out and call us kids to take his socks off. It was always a big deal to pull his socks off with all the appropriate noises and gestures of smell gave off.

    Let the good times roll. LOL

  3. My husband has finally given up his cowboy boots. He wore them for years and he liked them for being able to just tug them on.

    But he spends too much time walking and those boots, as you say, are NOT made for walking.

    So now, for arch support as much as anything he wears georgia books or redwings.

    Which, honestly, are also pretty cool.

  4. Same here, Mary. My man walks miles everyday and loves his Doc Martin’s boots. Something about the spongy sole. I’ve never heard of georgia books. Will have to check them out 😉

  5. Fascinating post, Stacey. Love the history of the boot — thanks for posting this. I had always wondered about the slanted heel.

    Don’t have any cowboy boots, but I do have a couple of pairs of moccasins. My husband has a beautiful pair of cowboy boots that he wore on our very first date all those years ago. He still wears them. : )

  6. Cool post, Stacey! I never would have thought to find out the history of cowboy boots, but now I’ll have something to talk about to my rancher cousins this year at the Christmas festivities. They always wear the most elaborate boots and now I’ll be able to wow ’em with my knowledge of why they’re shoes are designed like they are. 🙂

  7. I have two pairs of cowboy boots and love them. They are so comfortable to wear, but a challenge to get off and on. A friend who owned a western shop gave me a wooden wedge to use and that makes it a lot easier. Of course, Ken rolls his eyes when I wear them, but who cares…..

    Fun reading the history of boots!

  8. Hi Paisley! My dad has that wedge…had to get something once we lost interest *ggg* My hubby rolls his eyes at my boots, too 😉 Mostly when he’s standing the closet and they’re spilling over onto his side *g*. I have to remind him I don’t like jewelry–he’s getting off cheap! *ggg*

  9. Great post, Stacy. It’s helpful to know why cowboy boots were designed the way they were.
    I do have a pair of cowboy boots in my closet. Don’t wear them a lot because they’re a little stiff around the ankles, which makes it hard to go up and down stairs in them. But I sure do like the way they look!
    🙂

  10. Hi Stacy – I love a man in cowboy boots, and my in-laws from Texas (need I say more) wear them all the time. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen my father-in-law wear anything else. But I’m not a tall boot person. I wear the short boots with my jeans. The only boot I have in the house was given to me by Tanya, and it holds my “sold” book red roses. I love it!!
    Great info today on the history of boots!

  11. I remember Doc Martins. They were all the rage when my oldest daughter was in high school. She’s almost 30 now. and those boots cost a FORTUNE. Over a hundred dollars a pair.

    I pointed to the expensive suckers one time when I was with my husband at the mall…….

    …….. I will pause to insert here that the words “With My Husband” and “At The Mall” have never before appeared in a sentence together. We do NOT shop together. I made that decision about 31 years ago to save my marriage………

    ……..back to my point.

    I pointed to the $125 books This is over ten years ago too……and my husband with his work boots, stares at them a second and says, “Seems like a fair price.”

    Well, I had never before really thought of those Doc Martins as real boots. I’d just seen them as ridiculously expensive footwear. Walmart has perfectly good shoes for a tenth the price.

    I don’t think my girls ever got a pair of Docs.

    Which brings me to my next point………

  12. Hi Stacey,

    Excellent subject! I love cowboy boots and actually have a pair in my closet. I love to wear them but rarely do because I don’t have too many outfits they go with. I do have a long suede skirt that matches but it’s dressy. Mostly I wear jeans and keds.

    We have a place that makes boots, The Nocona Boot Factory, that’s about thirty miles from here. It’s pretty well known. Cowboys come from all over to get their boots custom made.

    Oh, a bit of triva–the high tops of cowboy boots protected the cowboy from snake bite. It served a very real purpose and kept many a cowboy from dying.

    Loved your blog!

  13. When my oldest daughter was in high school these were the things that were in style.

    overpriced blue jeans that went to her waist. Calvin Klein, Chic, Mossimo
    overpriced Doc Martins and Eastland shoes
    overpriced thermal shirts
    overpriced flannel shirts.
    overpriced sweatshirts with team names
    Starter Jackets.

    When my youngest daughter was in high school here’s what was in style.

    over priced T-shirts that revealed six inches of her belly
    overpriced bluejeans that were low enough to reveal the thong underwear in back.
    Lucky was my personal nemsis brand…you’d unzip them and the fabric that was revealed inside the zipper said, “Lucky You”
    thong underwear
    Bra straps that show
    flip flops

    Compare those two lists.
    One is suited modesty, warmth and comfort-wise for a lumber jack.
    One is suited for Britney Spears.

  14. When I lived out West, my hubby and I wore cowboy boots all the time. They’re not so popular in the city, though! :-/ They’re so comfortable, and after a while, mold into the shape of your feet. I can’t even find a store around here that sells them. Very interesting post, Stacey!

    Mary, LOL on your daughters’ lists. I’m currently battling all the things on the second list. Very frustrating!

  15. I should have mentioned we NEVER shop at the mall for work boots, *lol* We get our Doc Martin’s on clearance out of Campmour or Sportsman’s Guide. That’s how my hubby came across his first pair—he got them out of Campmour for $50. And now he hates to wear anything but. He welded through a pair a few years back…and as our luck had it, there were no Doc’s in any sale catelogs, so he bought another brand, and he was hunting the mailbox like mad for those sale catelogs and was dialing the number the moment they had the Doc work boot on sale again 😉

    As for name brand, I get lucky with my boys. My oldest does like the Lucky brand shirts, but for the most part it’s cheap music t-sheets 😉

  16. Ages ago we took a visit to Arizona and my husband fell in love with these gorgeous cowboy boots. They were expensive but he got them. Well he assumed they would stretch, they didn’t and he only wore them a few times. They make a wonderful doorstop lol. I also collect ornaments and that one is adorable 🙂

  17. Thanks, Linda!! And thanks for the added info 🙂 I did a hodgepodge from Witipedia (likely should have mentioned that in the blog!) and I missed that snippet 😉 Snake bites and thorny scrub were big hazards! I’d sure love to visit that boot factory 😀

  18. Hi Jeanne! OUCH on the non-stretching boots!! They do make those wooden crank boot stretchers, should he want to try again 😉

    I’m of the opinion that a shoe should feel good the moment you put them on 🙂

  19. Hi Stacey! What a great post. I am considering getting a pair of cowboy boots…and breaking them really in. We are doing a faux covered-wagon trip next summer in Wyoming. Our kids had Doc Martens but the only boots I currently own are some Uggs and a pair of zip-up-the-side black dressy ones.

    The Boot Barn in town is having a 50% off sale so I better hurry on over 🙂

  20. Kate, good luck with the battle.

    It’s never ending.

    They tell me the thong underwear is about not showing dreaded panty-lines.

    I say, we should be proud of our panty lines. We WANT the world to know we wear panties.

    So their solution? Okay, then you don’t mind my bra straps showing, right mom? Right? Right?

    Not my point!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Dad and my 2 brothers wore cowboy boots; I owned a pair of brown leather riding boots at one time and I loved them. They were so comfy. I love the giveaway and right away thought of my brother who loves cowboy things – this Christmas I have a cowboy boot mug for him but as for the ornament, if I won I think I’d keep this one- it is so unique.

  22. I haven’t worn cowboy boots since we used to go dancing – and that was before country music was *IN.* LOL Don’t know if I still have a pair around somewhere – still have my hats for sure.

    My hubby wears Redwing steel-toed boots. So does my son. Work pays for them. *g*

    Remember when we all used to wear thongs, and they were flip-flops?

  23. No cowboy boots here,but my daddy did use to wear his when he dressed up and not for work!He had a pair of really nice gray cowboy boots!

    I had a pair of “cowgirl” boots when I was little and dearly loved them…I think every child should atleast have one pair of them!

    ok..now-speaking of boots..I’ve been dying to get this off my chest and I think this might be the perfect place to do so

    I personally find it amusing that there are scenes written into books (usually Regency or Georgian/England type books)…..where the hero of the book needs his valet to help remove the boots or sometimes the heroine and then of course, she has a really hard time getting them off ….now, fast forward on to a nice, steamy, sexy love scene where the hero is still wearing his boots and he just very casually and easily toes his boots off….OK-now…does anyone else see this as being funny?? LOL I just love that about fiction/romance!!! 😉

  24. I’m a native of Houston, Texas yet I never had a
    pair of boots until senior high school! Our drum
    & bugle corps at Jefferson Davis HS wore a western
    style uniform with western boots. I’m sad today thinking about those boots. During one of our
    several moves, the boots lost their way home. I
    guess they just kept walkin’!

    Pat Cochran

  25. I have a pair of cowboy boots in the back of my closet. Can’t bring myself to get rid of them. I used to wear them all the time, but now have bunions and they make my feet hurt.

  26. I have a pair of cowboy boots somewhere around here. I have never been able to throw them out. I wore them for a couple of years but had to give them up when I started having foot problems. I also wore moccasins for years and loved them.

  27. We’re big DCI fans here, Pat!! Love the drum and bugle corps!! We went and watched the DCI finals in LA last year–fun stuff 😉 Your boots ran out on ya, huh? *g*

  28. And the ornament winner is….. MELISSA D!!!!!
    CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’ll be giving FIVE boot and star ornaments over the next month, and another cowboy boot ornament this coming Tuesday at WAP 😉

  29. HEY! i love this! i’m only 13 and i have gone through at least 20 pairs of boots in my life time already! i live in louisiana where the only boots you see are shrimp boots or as we call the down here, cajun reebocs! lol my current pairs are: my black good pair for church and dress up events, my riding pair that are so streched that my foot falls off the side of the boot, and my worn pair ya know the ones with 10 holes in them(tip: dont try to ride a dirtbike with them on!) lol! i love my boots! im looking for a new pair because my good ones are falling apart! lol im trying to save up money to get a pair of alligator skinned ones. know any good places?

    ps: they really do protec against snake bites! i was almost bit by a cotton mouth snake (kills!!) and the reason i didnt get bit was because it bit my boot! boots are real lifesavers!!!!

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