HISTORY OF COWBOY BOOTS
No one really knows who the original inventor of cowboy boots was. According to several different stories and legends, the first pair of cowboy boots was made by either a shoemaker in Kansas, or by one in Texas. Either way, the story is still the same. After the Civil War was over in 1865, the cowboys who were driving cattle across the country discovered that they needed a different style of boots. The ones worn during the war just didn’t suit the long hours riding on the trails: blazing through the brush and brambles, splashing through creeks and rivers, and riding with their feet in stirrups for hours at a time.
Around 1870 some ingenious cowboy took his boots to a shoemaker and asked for a pointy toe so he could get his foot into the stirrup more easily; a taller shaft to protect his legs; and a bigger, thicker, underslung heel so his foot wouldn’t come out of the stirrup during the rough riding on the trails. The knee-high design protected his legs from the thorns of mesquite trees, barbed wire, snakes, and other dangers. The cowboy boots were pulled on with long mule-ear straps but were loose enough on the top so that they could be wiggled out of easily if the cowboy was hung up in the stirrup and needed to get out in a hurry.
The tough leather that the cowboy boots were made from also protected the cowboy’s ankles from being bruised by the wooden stirrups, and his legs from rubbing against the stirrup leathers. The cowboy boots were stitched on the outside to keep the leather from buckling and eventually rubbing against the cowboy’s leg. The high, underslung heel of the cowboy boot also served to protect the cowboy. He could dig that heel into the ground when pulling a stubborn mule or when leading his horse down a steep and rocky trail. The heel also kept the cowboy’s foot from going all the way through the stirrup so that if he were thrown from his horse he wouldn’t get stuck in the stirrup and drug on the ground. And just like that, the first pair of cowboy boots was born. The first pairs of cowboy boots had very little style and were for working purposes only. They were a tool that helped keep the cowboy safe and quickly became a part of any cowboy’s everyday life. At first, cowboy boots were only custom made.
A cowboy would have to go to a cobbler who would measure his feet and make a pair of cowboy boots just for him. Later, the first mail-order boot companies came about. Getting a pair of cowboy boots in this way was much more humble, but a cowboy down on his luck had to do whatever he could to get his boots. Cowboy boots began as a practical tool for the cowboy, but soon became a fashion statement. The stitching on the outside usually done in a plain black or brown soon gave way to more colorful thread, and designs and pictures were sewn into the boots. From there, bootmakers began to experiment with inlays and overlays, and suddenly boot designs became limitless. The more extraordinary the cowboy boot could be, the better.