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?