Cowboy boots arrived in the American West from Mexico, and they had been brought to Mexico by the Spanish horsemen who conquered that country. With sharply pointed toes and a high, angled heel, usually from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half inches high, the tall leather boots slid easily into stirrups and hooked there when a horseman had to stand up in the saddle to rope cows. Early cowboy boots were difficult to walk in, because they were designed for use on horseback. However, even after cars and trucks replaced horses for transportation and work in the West, cowboy boots remained the footwear of choice, becoming a symbol of identity for westerners. In western states cowboy boots are even commonly worn with business suits. The forty-third U.S. president, George W. Bush (1946–), who came from Texas, favored cowboy boots for casual as well as more formal attire.
During the 1940s cowboy boots were in fashion for a brief time, thanks to the popularity of western films at the time, but it was the 1980 film Urban Cowboy that made cowboy boots fashionable street wear worldwide. Both women and men wore cowboy boots, because they seemingly portrayed a tough, masculine image yet were highly decorative. In the United States, cowboy boots became part of a nostalgic celebration of American pride, while in Europe and Asia people wore cowboy boots as a symbol of their adoption of American styles. The prime time soap opera Dallas, which aired on CBS from 1978 to 1991, also helped spread the popularity of the cowboy look, including, of course, stitched-leather, pointy-toed cowboy boots.
Though cowboy boots have remained popular in the American West, their popularity throughout the rest of the world had faded by the 1990s. However, the twenty-first century has seen a revival of the fashion for cowboy boots, especially in Europe, with designer boots made in bright colors, such as pink and turquoise, and using such nontraditional materials as fake fur and sequins.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Fiegehen, Gary, and Jim Skipp. Cowboy: The Legend and the Legacy. Vancouver, British Columbia: Greystone Books, 2000.
Haskett, Tim. "How the West Won: The Cowboy Boot's Ride From Prairie to Pret-a-Porter." Footwear News (April 17, 1995): 67–69.