The history of cowboy boots can be traced back to the mid- to late-1800s, when they were necessary, practical footwear for cowboys herding cattle on the ranch. While cowboy boots are worn for both fashion and work today, their history links them forever with the legend and romanticism of American cowboys and the wild west — and the CINCH way of life.
Cowboy Boots in the Old West
How did cowboy boots rise to such prevalence in American culture? People who headed west after the Civil War did so because land was cheap and plentiful, and wild cattle roamed free. Taming both the land and cattle proved to be dangerous work that required specific footwear, and the cowboy boot fit the bill. The first boots worn by cowboys were custom made by local shop owners in each town.
Once these cattle and ranch workers in the Old West made it to their destination after weeks or months on the trail, they took their earnings into town. It was a status symbol at the time to buy a new pair of boots and a cowboy hat from the local maker to celebrate making it safely with their herd intact. And with that, the cowboy boot began to rise in prominence.
Because their work required long days spent on horseback on sometimes-rugged terrain, the cowboys needed boots that were designed to last and made in cowhide leather to protect their legs and feet. The original design seems plain compared to some of the bold fashion boots of today, but they were extremely functional. The high shaft protected legs, while high heels helped keep feet in the stirrups while riding. The pointed toes of the boots enabled them to glide into stirrups.
Even when the boots were made by hand, the shop owners looked for ways to automate the process. Using patterns to speed up production, they began to create boots known by their name, such as the plain, tall Wellington boot or the Hessian boot with a scalloped design. Automation also kept costs down, which was a plus for ranch workers. The Industrial Revolution soon made its way to the west, and with it, boots began to be mass-produced. It was also around this time that boot manufacturers started advertising their products in fashion magazines. At the end of the 19th century, ranch workers and cowboys were still wearing simple, functional styles as work boots, and additional, more ornate pairs with the new decorative stitching and patterns for dress boots.
Cowboy Boots as Fashion
The cowboy boot continued to be worn by ranch workers, while their popularity continued to grow outside of the ranching lifestyle. Eventually, the cowboy boot trend spread to gunslingers, gamblers, bounty hunters and anyone else who could afford the footwear. They usually purchased the more ornate dress boots as opposed to the more functional riding boots favored by cowboys.
Early cowboy boots were built like most work boots – intended to endure a full day of work. Since most wearers traveled long distances by horse, most riding boots included spurs. The dress boots, on the other hand, were meant for show and were more elaborate in design – with a bigger price tag. As new materials and stitching were introduced, dress boots gained traction, especially outside cowboy circles. Beginning in the 1940s, Hollywood took notice. For the stars of the day, the fancier the boot, the better. Boot makers rose to the challenge by introducing designs with overlays, cutouts, inlays and exotic leathers. Historically, this was the turning point when cowboy boots became more than just workwear, but a fashion statement as well.
Today's cowboy boots have continued to evolve to address market changes. You can choose a stylish pair made from traditional cowhide leather, or a more exotic material, such as alligator, ostrich, kangaroo, snakeskin and even stingray.
Cowboy Boots That Still Function
The 1960s saw another cowboy boot revolution. This time, the pendulum swung back in the direction of sturdy and basic riding boots. Cowboys – and cowgirls – are still an essential part of the American workforce; as such a demand for riding boots will always be present. As a result, both stylized and simple cowboy boots are available today to serve the needs of farm and ranch workers, and anyone else who desires quality like those offered by CINCH Boots. Trends will come and go, but the cowboy boot has secured itself as an integral part of American tradition, and CINCH Boots offers both women's and men's styles. You'll find the biggest difference between women's and men's boots will be that women's tend to be a bit narrower.
CINCH Boots offers quality cowboy boots crafted using traditional western boot-making techniques. Each pair of CINCH boots is made with supreme attention to detail and feature full leather insoles for comfort and breathability, and stylish touches such as stacked leather heels and durable trim and piping. CINCH boots can be worn for a working day on the ranch or farm, while competing at the rodeo, or out on the town. All CINCH products, including men's and women's boots, are built to last.