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Some basics for bootmen

Cowboy (Western) Boots

Cowboy Boots (also known as Western boots) refer to a specific style of riding boot, historically worn by cowboys. They usually have a high heel, rounded to pointed toe, high shaft, and no lacing. Cowboy boots are normally made from cowhide leather but are also sometimes made from "exotic" skins such as alligator, snake, ostrich, lizard, eel, elephant, stingray, elk, buffalo, and the like.
There are four types of Cowboy Boots:

Western boots can be customized with a wide variety of toe shapes, they are usually made with a pointed toe. However, there are as many as 12 toe shapes, ranging from "X" (very narrow pointed) to "W" (wide, round). Most cowboy boots have the "L" toe, which is pointed but not as narrowly as X.

Another distinguishing factor of a cowboy boot is the angled heel, and heel height. The heel itself is a mark of nobility. The earliest information about the high heel being used for riding describes invading Mongol tribesmen wearing bright red wooden heels. Mongols were consummate horsemen and their easy victories left a mark on European society. Since owning and caring for a horse requires some wealth, and since being on horseback places a person physically above the common man, riders and, consequently, high heels, became associated with nobility. To this day, we say well-heeled to describe someone who is wealthy. Standard cowboy boots of today have heel heights of 1-1/4" to 1-3/4", and most have a thin rubber sole pad. There are as many as 13 heel types, ranging from a straight block (like Frye Boots), to walking, riding, and underslung -- the latter being the most angled and highest.

Soles of cowboy boots are usually made of smooth leather.

The final distinguishing mark of a western riding boot is the scallop, or how the boot shafts are finished at the top. There are as many as eight scallop types. The most common is a full scallop, which is a "V" pattern cut across the front and back of the boot shaft. Flat scallops (or stovepipe style) are also common.

Buckaroo Boots get their name from the men who wore them, the California vaquero, a type of Spanish or Mexican cowboy who worked with young, untrained horses. The California vaquero or buckaroo, unlike the Texas cowboy, was considered a highly-skilled worker, who usually stayed on the same ranch where he was born or had grown up and raised his own family there. Cowboys of this tradition were dubbed buckaroos by English-speaking settlers. The term buckaroo officially appeared in American English in 1889.

The Buckaroo's Boots are tall, ranging from 15" to 20" or up to the knee. They are usually two-tone, and many have multi-colored stitching on the foot and shaft. They usually have a deep scallop and pull holes instead of straps.

Roper Boots The roper style has a more rounded heel, usually one inch or shorter, and will have the heel extend straight down. Roper boots are usually made with rounded toes, but some new styles have a more squared toe.
Packer Boots Packer Boots were originally worn by enlisted soldiers in the U.S. Army in the 1800's who would not make a career out of military service, but muster out of service in the west. The packer boot is suited for farm and ranch footwear, and was made for people in the Rocky Mountains working with packhorses (thus the name). Form and functionality make these boots the preference of outdoorsman everywhere.

These are lace-up boots, and are usually 10" high, but fasion packers can be taller, as high as the knee. They have a kilty (false tongue) and are made of very durable, thick leather. Most packer boots are brown, but they are also available in black and other colors. They usually have rubber, neoprene, or sometimes Vibram® soles.

A cowboy needed to be able to quickly and surely mount and dismount his horse in the course of work. In addition to working cattle, they also worked and trained new horses. Much of their riding was cross-country, conditions were rough and unpredictable, and weather variable from summer heat to winter snow. Staying alive and comfortable under these conditions drove the mutation of the cavalry and other tall riding boot designs into what has come to be called the "cowboy boot".

Most histories of the cowboy boot agree they were derived from the cavalry boot used in the Civil War in the early 1860s and other similar designs. Working cattlemen in the 1870s and 1880s asked bootmakers for modifications to better fit their working conditions. Predictably, most of these bootmakers were in the cattle ranching areas of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The two most renowned bootmakers of the era were Charles Hyer of Hyer Brothers Boots in Olathe, Kansas, and H. J. "Big Daddy Joe" Justin of Justin Boots in Spanish Fort, Texas and later Nocona, Texas.

Read much more detailed history of the Cowboy Boot.

While mounting, the slick, treadless leather sole of the boot allowed easy insertion of the foot into the stirrup of the Western saddle. While an extremely pointed toe is a modern stylization appearing in the 1940s, the toe of the original boots retained the more rounded shape of other boots. A slight point to the toe does make it somewhat easier to quickly insert the foot in the stirrup, but an extremely pointed toe is not helpful and not practical in a working boot.

While mounted, the tall heel prevented the foot from sliding forward through the stirrup, which could be life threatening if it happened and the rider were to be unseated. The tall shaft, comfortably loose fit and lack of lacing might save a cowboy's life since his body weight would pull his foot out of the boot if he were unseated and his boot remained stuck in the stirrup.

While dismounting, the slick sole allows the boot to easily come free of the stirrup.

The tall leather shaft of the boot helped to hold it in place in the absence of lacing. While mounted, the shaft protected the leg from saddle rubbing, brush and thorns. While dismounted, the shaft helped protect the leg and foot from rocks, brush, thorns, and snakes. In wet weather or creek crossings, the high tops helped prevent the boot from filling with mud and water.

Fancy Cowboy Boots Decoration of cowboy boots varies widely. Early boots were plain leather, but as custom boots were made, cowboys asked for decorative stitching, cutouts in the high tops (early on, often Texas stars), and different materials. Modern cowboy boots are available in all colors of the rainbow and a pair has been made from just about every animal whose skin can be made into leather.
Spurred Cowboy Boots One accessory used with cowboy boots is a pair of spurs, which is sometimes attached to the heel of each boot for the purpose of goading the horse while riding. Spurs rest on a ledge called a spur ridge at the top of the heel where it is attached to the boot. The spur ridge keeps the spur from sliding down the back of the heel.
Many cowboy bootmakers have been in operation since the 19th century. Their ability to stand this test of time has often depended on their ability to understand the human foot and how to keep people's feet comfortable. Each manufacturer has developed its own proprietary lasts for producing boots, which are considered trade secrets and are highly guarded. Because of this, standardization has been slow, and fitting between companies is not always consistent. When considering wearing a cowboy boot from a different manufacturer, it is recommended to seek assistance from a knowledgeable merchant who specializes in cowboy boots. Some wearers will swear by one manufacturer's fit, while others will not perceive any difference between brands.

The fit will vary depending on the type of toe that is sought. Pointed toes leave a narrower space between the toes and the tip of the boot which may cause discomfort. This is avoided by selecting a half size larger than the wearer's normal size. A rounder toe (like a roper or a Wellington) will fit more like a regular shoe. Another factor is leather. A cowhide or kidskin boot will become softer with wear, molding to the wearer's foot. That is why it is recommended to select a snug size because the boot will eventually "break in" and a loose fit will become sloppy.

Many men wear cowboy boots with dress as well as casual wear. Cowboys riding horses often will wear their jeans inside their boots which keeps dirt and mud from getting on the jeans.

Content from Wikipedia, D.W. Frommer II, and Booted Harleydude

Text from Wikipedia article on Cowboy Boots and as edited and contributed to by Booted Harleydude. Text of this article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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