Although they are considered more of a fashionable item today, cowboy boots were designed to be a practical and protective type of footwear back in the day. But when exactly did they first appear? And how did they manage to become so popular over the years that people are still fascinated with them even in this era?
While today we can easily purchase cowboy boots in a matter of seconds with the help of specialized country clothing stores online, in the past people didn’t exactly have this modern advantage. But as it goes to show, great designs always have their moment. Even if takes them centuries.
The Earliest Record of Leather Boots
Let’s start at the very beginning. Strangely enough, the earliest appearance of the leather boot, which was the predecessor of the cowboy boots, can be traced back to Genghis Khan’s invasion of Europe in the 11th century. So, it wasn’t exactly the cowboys from the Wild West that came up with the idea, as historical records clearly show that medieval Mongolians were the first ones to wear distinctive leather boots with wooden heels. And over the next centuries, designs of leather boots started to appear all across Europe, being used solely for horse riding.
The Trip across Continents
But it was a special type of leather boot that made the most impact – the Wellington boot named after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. This battle brought attention to Wellesley’s boots, who were designed to fit closely around the leg and stopped mid-calf. This design ensured the boots were tough enough for battle but still comfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time. And then, when the Europeans colonized North America, they took their culture and footwear with them and that’s how the Wellington boot made the trip across the continents.
The Final Design
It was there, in North America, that the Wellington boot became popular with cowboys as its slick, threadless leather sole allowed for easy insertion and removal of the foot into the stirrup of the horse saddle. As cowboys were known for their unique clothing, which is not only practical and protective, but also stylish, the boots also got their stylish upgrade. During the golden cowboy era (1866-1886), cowboy boots became increasingly fashionable, commonly including decorative stitching and metal elements.
But the extremely pointed toe that has become a symbol for cowboy boots today, is only a recent stylization that appeared in the early 1900s, which adds no practical benefit at all. Nevertheless, all these different factors were brought together to create perhaps the most popular type of shoe ever designed. Even we here in Australia can shop for genuine western cowboy boots thanks to the large number of country clothing stores online.