Cowboy boots are fun to wear, but I recently discovered I’ve been wearing them wrong—all wrong. Fortunately, help is on the way. Some of the top designers including Calvin Klein and Fendi are about to send cowboy boots down the runway this spring and you know what that means; our sacred footwear is about to get a makeover.
To keep you from being out-of-step, here are some tips from fashion experts:
Don’t go for the costume-y look. If you’re wearing boots, avoid cowboy hats, ponchos, spurs, prairie dresses and overalls or you’ll end up looking ready for Halloween.
Leave the accessories at home. (I think this means don’t wear your diamonds.)
Avoid fringes and sequins (ruffled skirts, okay)
You can’t go wrong with jeans (not the faded ones) and turtlenecks. If you’re brave or immune to stares, you can even wear boots with shorts.
Pair cowboy boots with animal prints.
If you’ve been wearing your boots all wrong, chances are the same can be said for the guys in your life. According to fashion pundits, men should adhere to the following guidelines unless working on the range:
Avoid dressing like Woody in Toy Story. Ditch the bolo tie and chaps.
Forget the spurs (unless you’re playing a bad guy in a movie).
Hats are okay if you going to a rodeo or rounding up cattle. Otherwise, leave at home.
Avoid light colored jeans. Dark fitted jeans are best paired with cowboy boots.
If you’re wearing a tux, only black cowboy boots will do (polished to a shine).
Men, if this is too much for you, don’t despair. Everyone loves Woody. As for the rest of us, Happy Halloween.
What is the best or worst fashion advice you ever got?
What happens when four mail-order brides get cold feet?
I’m happy to kick off this Bustles and Spurs week. I just love writing everything about cowboys but especially the little visual details that can add so much to a story. The smooth way they walk. The way they talk—from the hard edge they add to their voice when they have to—to the quiet, gentle words reserved for their lady, kids, and animals. Then there are the sounds—the slap of leather chaps against their legs, their boot heels striking a wooden boardwalk.
Most of all, the clink of their spurs. Oh man! I love that music.
I began thinking about spurs and here are some facts that you might find interesting.
*The earliest spurs found go back to Julius Caesar and his Roman soldiers. Who knew?
*The type of metal used in those early spurs once indicated rank. Gold or gilded spurs were reserved for knights or royalty. Hence the expression, “earn your spurs.”
*The part of the spur that makes noise is the rowel that spins when the cowboy walks. The rowel is also the part he uses to make the horse do what he wants.
*The ornate Spanish influence is still evident today.
*Spurs from the second to about the fifteenth century were buried with their owners which is why few remain today.
*Any knight who failed to remove his spurs inside a church had them confiscated and had to pay a fine to get them back.
*The U.S. Cavalry uniform required boots and spurs and they were also worn during the Civil War. These were made of brass, slightly curved, with a small rowel, black straps, and a brass buckle.
*Today, artisan spurs are big business and depending on what they’re decorated with can be quite expensive. I recently saw a pair online selling for $925. Can you imagine?
*Sometimes cowboys attach jinglebobs to their spurs for even more noise.
I have a new book coming April 30 – SAVING THE MAIL ORDER BRIDE – #2 of Outlaw Mail Order Brides series. Jack Bowdre has been arrested and on his way to jail in a stagecoach the marshal flags down. The only other passenger is Lenora Kane who’s on her way to marry a man sight unseen. When the coach wrecks, Jack finds himself handcuffed to Lenora and they’re running for their lives, afoot, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and five days to safety. This has danger, suspense, humor, and romance and available for preorder.
Leave a comment mentioning some detail about a cowboy that really adds to what you love about him. Maybe it’s a bead of sweat trickling down his neck or the way he tips his hat to the ladies. Something small that gives you that tingle. You know the one. I’m giving away a western movie called Forsaken starring Kiefer and Donald Sutherland. It’s really good. I’m also giving a $10 Amazon gift card to another winner. Drawing will be Saturday.
In historical westerns four things are always in everyone of my stories – Hats (Stetsons usually,) Guns, Horses and Boots. Not necessarily in that order.
But who were the boot makers?
The first boots, and for sure the forerunner of the western kind, were reportedly worn by Genghis Kahn way back in the Mongol Empire. He wore a pair of red boots with wooden heels. But definitely the Wellington boots worn in 17th and 18th centuries of England were a precursor of the boots cowboys wear. They rode high on the leg, had a low heel and were made of the same four part construction as cowboy boots. Soldiers in the Civil War preferred them and when they went home from the war, they took their boots with them.
One on the earliest known cowboy boot makers was Charles Hyer in Olathe, Kansas in 1872. He and his brother Edward founded the Hyer Brothers Boot Company and outfitted many a trail driver.
Down here in Texas as the cattle drives accelerated, bootmakers popped up in the towns along the trails. The Justin Boot Company and the Nocona Boot Company in Texas are among two of the earliest makers of western footwear. I’m sure there were many others. Justin Boots is world famous. It was founded in 1879 and George Strait still wears them today.
Nocona boots were long made by H. L. Justin before he ever formed the company. He was a maker of fine boots in Spanish Fort, Texas which was on the Chisolm Trail. Cowboys would stop on their way north and let him measure their feet and pick up their boots on the way back.
In 1911, Italian immigrant Tony Lama, who learned the trade at age 11, set up shop in El Paso, Texas and began that lucrative business. Today there are many, many brands.
Boots are worn by rich man and poor, presidents, country singers and the cowboys of today who work the ranches, herding cows and riding the rangeland.
I have three pair of western boots– an old pair I bought in Reno, Nevada in 2002, my Justin Ropers and a new pair I bought last month to wear to NYC to a writers’ conference. The new pair is made by the Abilene Boot Company and they’re as comfortable as my Justins. I’ve always had trouble finding shoes that don’t hurt my feet. I never have to worry about my boots.
So what about you? Have you tried cowboy boots?
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I’ve always heard that the first thing a cowboy puts on when he rolls out of his blankets is his hat, followed immediately by his boots. After reading about the care John B. Stetson took to create a hat that demanded that kind of respect, I now believe it.
Stetson learned the hat trade from his father. In a time when being a hatter wasn’t considered a respectable trade, Stetson took his trade seriously. He wanted to make a durable, high quality hat best suited for the rugged west, thecowboy, and the plainsmen who flooded west in the 1800s.
In 1865, Stetson headed west, and in a small rented facility, with his tools and barely enough money to purchase the fur he needed, he made his first hat that would eventually become known as the famous “Boss of the Plains”. The Boss became synonymous with hard-working, rough-housing, loyal cow punchers the world over, but especially in the American West.
At first glance, the “Boss of the Plains” doesn’t look like what we think of as the traditional cowboy hat. But that was the beauty of the design. Men could shape it however they wanted to. Picture a cowboy grabbing that hat over and over with three fingers. Eventually, the crown and the brim would crease in exactly the way the cowboy wanted it to.The high crown provided insulation and a bit of air-space for ventilation for the top of the head. The wide brim offered protection from the harsh sun, rain, wind. But probably the most innovative part of the Boss was that it was made from the underbelly of 42 beaver pelts and was extremely durable, lightweight, and waterproof.
While I haven’t tested a Stetson myself, I’ve seen movies and read books that made me wonder how someone could continue to ride in the deluge of hours and hours of rain and not get soaked through. According to history, some Stetsons were so waterproof, they could be used as buckets, and at least one story tells of a cowboy whose canteen sprung a leak, and he used his Stetson to carry water across the desert. And while I’ve never seen someone offering water to another person out of a hat, I’ve seen it many times in movies. I might have scoffed at that before I discovered how watertight these hats were.
The Dodge City Peace Commission, some wearing The Boss
Not only could the Boss double as a bucket, the wide brim served as an umbrella against rain and shaded the eyes against the relentless sun. The brim could be tented to provide a drinking cup as needed, or pulled down and tied over the ears to protect against frost-bite.
It was the bellows that fanned many a campfire into existence and, in reverse, was also the bucket that carried the water to douse the fire when breaking camp. The hat was doffed at pretty ladies, and swatted against a pokey horse’s flank to escape a raiding war party.
Rolled up, it became a pillow at night, or the extra bit of padding to ease a sore shoulder or aching back. Waved over the head, it was easily spotted from long distances. In a shoot-out, it was hoisted on a stick to draw fire to scout out the location of the enemy. And it was removed and held over the heart when saying goodbye to another cowboy as the final prayer was said over his grave.
It’s no wonder that a cow puncher forked over as much as two to six months’ wages on his hat. And not surprising that he’d defend such a purchase with his life and his Colt 45!
Pam is giving away an autographed copy of Stealing Jake to one lucky reader. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. If you had to pick someone from movies, TV, or your own backyard who looks great in a Stetson (or any cowboy hat), who would you pick?
STEALING JAKE by Pam Hillman. When Livy O’Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-Fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.
Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy?literally while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town?as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off?Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.
CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com
If you’re like me, you love to watch historical shows and movies, but really crave anything with a western flair. There have too little of them lately, too few and far between. My latest fan crush is OUTLANDER (Scottish–not western but wonderful) and my biggest gripe is that there were only 7 made for Showtime and the next full season doesn’t start until April 2015! That’s a long time for an avid fan!
Here’s a list of IMDb’s (Internet Movie Database) Highest Rated Western Television Shows. I think you’d be surprised with some of them.
1. Deadwood 2004
2. The Adventures of Brisco County 1993
3. Trigun 1998 Animated
4. Have Gun Will Travel 1957
5. Saber Rider and The Star Sheriffs 1987 Animated
6. Hell on Wheels 2011
7. Zorro 1957
8. The Rifleman 1958
9. Maverick 1959
10. The Wild Wild West 1965
11. Rawhide 1959
12. Longmire 2012
13. Gunsmoke 1955
14. The Big Valley 1965
15. King Fu 1972
I was surprised Bonanza wasn’t in the top 15. It came in at #17, while Little House of the Prairie was #19 and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, was 20th. Looks like westerns rocked the television screens in the 1950’s. Now, occasionally a good western will come our way, but not often enough if you ask me.
Is your favorite on this list? What are your top 5 westerns, movies or television series?
I have a great two-in-one Desire to give away to one blogger today! (Suddenly Expecting and The Texas Renegade Returns)
LOOK FOR MY NEW HARLEQUIN ONLINE READ coming in January to kick off my Moonlight Beach Bachelors series! TITLE TBA
I was writing a ranch wedding scene in the 3rd. book in the Big D Dad – The Daltons series the other day and decided to do a little research on the history of bolo ties. I found some interesting material on the Internet. The matter of where and when they first appeared seems to be a subject of debate, though all agree the ties in one form or another have been around for quite a while.
It appears that part of the confusion about the ties’ origins stems from the different varieties that have been popular through the years. A few things most agree on are that the ties are worn beneath the shirt collar outside the shirt. The bolo slide may be made of stone, metal, or plastic and can be in different shapes. A thin strip of leather or other fabric which is frequently braided has tips on both ends to allow it be strung through the slide.
Some people have dated the bolo ties back to the 1860’s. Others date its beginning to the 1900’s. One report is that the tie was created by Silversmith Victor Cedarstaff. It is said he slipped his hatband around his neck to keep from losing it while riding his horse on a windy day. Someone commented that he was wearing a nice tie which inspired him to create the bolo tie.
Bolo ties are especially popular in western states. Arizona named the bolo tie the official state neckwear in 1971. In 2007, both New Mexico and Texas named it their official state tie. (Who knew states had official ties?)
One of the most interesting bits of pop culture concerning the bolo was that John Travolta wore one in Urban Cowboy. I do think I remember that.
On another note I want to remind you that Trumped Up Charges, book 1 in the Big D Dads – The Daltons series will be available on June 1.
WHEN A MOTHER’ LOVE MEETS A FATHER’S INSTINCT
Ex Marine Adam Dalton once dreamed of a life with Hadley O’Sullivan, but war and a near-fatal injury cost him dearly. Now he returns to Dallas to discover the unthinkable—Hadley is the prime suspect in the disappearance of their twin baby girls…the daughters he never knew he had.
Beyond Hadley’s terror of having her children kidnapped is the shock of seeing Adam. Yes, she had kept him from his daughters, but now, when he insists they work together as a united front, she knows she is still in love with him. Despite their past, finding their children is their only hope of finally becoming a family—if time doesn’t run out first.
Little did I know that when writing Jackson Worth’s story that he’d have a weakness for a woman in boots. Enter, Sammie Gold, just your normal run of the mill wholesome girl, who is a good friend of the Worth family. Not only is our Sammie, Callie Worth’s best friend, she is a girl who is down on her luck and hoping to start a new life, with a brand new boot boutique.
The boots Sammie wears turn Jackson’s head. Whether stylish and sleek or sweet and innocent, to confirmed bachelor Jackson Worth, on Sammie they all look hot! And that’s where the trouble begins! Remember the coined phrase…what happens in Vegas?
Well, what happened in Vegas didn’t stay there. It followed Sammie and Jackson to Arizona.
In honor of boots all over the world, here’s a bit of boot trivia:
The Brooks and Dunn song ‘Boot Scootin’ Boogie’ on their 1994 album, ‘Brand New Man,’ resurrected the popularity of country music’s nearly defunct line dancing. The hit spurred the country duo to fame and other than Simon and Garfunkel, they’d come to sell more albums than any other recording duo in history.
The popular “ugg” boots made of sheepskin were first became popular in Australia and New Zealand by local surfers who used the furry shoes to keep their feet warm after they exited the surf. It is rumored that the manufacturer named the boots so because his wife said the first pair he made were ugly, thus “uggs”.
Go Go Boots were named from the French word “a gogo” which means “abundance or galore”. In the 1960’s go go boots and mini-skirts changed everyday fashion. Nancy Sinatra wore knee-high boots and sang these famous lyrics:
These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.
Boots were originally designed to keep the feet protected and warm, but boots have come back in a big way not just for function but for style. Cowboy boots, field boots, military boots, riding boots,work boots, Victorian ladies boots, rain boots – whether midcalf, knee-high or thigh-high, boots today are designed to make a statement. Boots have attitude!
Unfortunately, my own two feet don’t do boots well, but I was able to live out my boot fantasy at Sammie’s Boot Barrage in Worth The Risk. And I had fun researching and designing my own pair of Marianna boots in the story. Tell me what you think? Would you wear outlandish boots? What’s your favorite type of boot? Are you a style or function type of boot wearer?
Please also, take a moment to check out my Worth The Risk..Risky Release Party and you can win $25 Gift cards and an ereader!
*** I was thrilled that an excerpt to my story was added to Diana Palmer’s, Betrayed by Love.
Adding just a cooool note: Today is 10-11-12.
And tomorrow, look for our new Petticoats and Pistols Contest!!
From a distance, you might think one cowboy looks pretty much like another, but on closer inspection, you’ll find that though their gear contains the same staples, a cowboy finds a way to make his equipment truly his own. From the type of horse he rides, to the tool work on his saddle, to the way he shapes the brim of his hat–a western man can tell you a lot about himself without ever opening his mouth.
One prime example of this is how the man wears his gun. In the 19th century, it was unheard of for a man to ride the range without a weapon within easy reach. Dangers abounded. Wild animals. Snakes. Not to mention the trouble that originated on two legs from rustlers or Indian raiding parties. Some carried rifles in a scabbard attached to the saddle, but after the advent of the Colt Single Action Army revolver or Peacemaker in 1873, most cowboys carried a sidearm either instead of a rifle or in addition to it. It was always at hand, even if one’s horse was not.
But how a man chose to wear his Colt, well . . . that was a matter of style and expediency. The leather holster could be plain or decorated, usually natural or brown-colored leather, though sometimes black. Some men stamped their initials or their ranch’s brand into the leather. Holsters in the 1870s were open at the top and had a belt loop on the backside which slid over the cartridge belt. By the 1880s, holsters tended to be made from a single piece of leather with a back that looped over the belt and provided slots to secure the front. The holster at the top of this post shows this later style with a double loop holster.
Gun belts usually ranged from 3-4 inches wide, and the number of catridge loops on them depended on the caliber of the revolver as well as the length of the belt. Most carried between 40-50 loops. Since ammunition came in boxes of 50, one box could generally fill the belt and the revolver, leaving one chamber empty for safety purposes.
Look at the two men pictured below. Both wear their guns on the right hip. However one man is left-handed. Notice the butt of the pistols. The man in black is wearing his in the usual fashion, with the handle pointing backward. In contrast, note how the man in white shirt sleeves has his handle pointing forward. This is called the “cross draw” position. While most preferred drawing their weapon from the same hip as the dominant hand, some found it easier to reach across their body to draw their weapon, hence the outward facing handle. In fact, if you look carefully at the picture above with the four cowboys together, you’ll notice the third man from the left wears his pistol in the cross draw position.
Despite what we see in the movies, a working cowboy rarely if ever wore more than one gun. If he did wear two, usually the second was simply to have on hand to save the time of reloading as a man would not be nearly as proficient a shooter with his non-dominant hand. And those holsters that tied down to a man’s thigh? Well, those were usually reserved for professional gunmen whether on the right or wrong side of the law. The tie served to anchor the holster so that no slip of the leather would impede a fast draw.
So do any of you have antique holsters or gun belts in your family treasure chest? The wearing of sidearms waned after the end of the 19th century. As populations grew, towns passed ordinances against carrying weapons. But some die hard cowboys never gave up on packing their Colt when riding the range.
Besides the trademark hat and boots, the item of clothing that says Cowboy more than any other has to be his chaps. Evolved from the chaparejos of the Mexican vaqueros, chaps were originally designed as part of the saddle. Made of animal hides, these armas, or shields, attached to the horn of the saddle and wrapped around the rider’s legs as well as the horse’s chest.
Now, if you’re like me and didn’t grow up around authentic cowboy culture, you probably pronounce chaps like I do with a ch sound like in the word cheek. However, it truth, it is pronounced with an sh sound like in the Spanish word chaparral, which interestingly enough is the scrubby vegetation that motivated the vaqueros to create chaps in the first place.
In the 1830s and 40s, the first full-length leather britches were created that completely encircled the legs (although the seat remained uncovered). By the 1870s, these garments came to be known as “shotguns” because they were basically two leather cylinders belted together resembling the double barrels of a shotgun.
The waist belt was square cut and buckled at the back. Many came with pockets that closed with a flap and a cowboy could personalize his set by the way he dressed up the outer seams. Many had fringe or conchas. Although, most working cowhands weren’t too concerned with appearance. All they cared about was the protection the leggings provided against not only vegetation, but weather as well. They kept a man’s trousers dry in rain and afforded an extra layer of warmth in wintry conditions. In hot months, though, a man often removed them and worked without. Some men claimed they gave a firmer seat in the saddle since leather clings to leather and afforded a stronger grip with the knees.
Shotgun chaps were put on like a pair of pants. They flared a bit at the ankle to allow a cowboy to put them on without having to remove his boots or even spurs.
In the 1880s, due to the popularity of Wild West Shows and rodeos, a new style of chaps came into fashion. This variety featured wide leather wings that flapped out to the sides. In the beginning, batwing chaps mimicked the step-in style of the shotguns with buckles running the length of the outside seam. However, by the turn of the century, fewer buckles were used and more leather was added. The open leg style took precedence with the chaps only being fastened to the back of the knee. They also became highly decorated with colored leather designs, silver conchos, fancy stitching, and all kinds of custom leather tooling.
This is the style you continue to see along the rodeo circuit today.
Around the same time as the introduction of the batwing, another style emerged on the scene. Woolies became exceedingly popular among cowboys who worked northern ranches, like those in Wyoming or Montana. Most were made from Angora goat skin, but they could also be made from bear, buffalo, or even mountain lion. The wool helped to repel water and added a significant layer of warmth. They were fashioned like the shotguns, as a step-in model, and usually were found in solid colors, white and black being the most common. They had a canvas lining which aided putting them on and taking them off, as the rough leather on the opposite side of the fur would not slide easily over a man’s trousers.
So which style of chaps would you prefer your hero to wear? Have any of you worn them yourself? I’d love to hear about your experiences.
I’ll be in and out today since I’m at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference, but I’ll check in as often as possible. Blessings!
(Reference – I See By Your Outfit: Historical Cowboy Gear of the Northern Plains by Tom Lindmier & Steve Mount)