History of Cowboy Boots

History Of Cowboy Boots

Classic. Western. Practical, with some flair. These words, and many others, may come to mind when you think of the modern cowboy boot. But – you may not realize what a rich history this shoe rack staple boasts. While nobody really knows exactly who invented the cowboy boot, or where it was invented (some say Texas, others say Kansas), the story is always the same. 


It all started with the end of the Civil War in 1865. The military boots issued to cowboys during the war weren’t great fit for riding in stirrups for several hours through creeks, bushes, and brambles. As reported in Texas Monthly, cowboys between 1866 and 1890 “started asking cobblers for boots with a slimmer design, higher heels, more rounded toes, and a sturdier instep than were available at the time.” A typical custom boot order often required several of the following characteristics: 

  • A higher top to protect his legs from snakes and thorns;
  • Thicker leather to protect his ankles from bruising against wooden stirrups; 
  • Scalloped leather in the front and back to make pulling the boot on easier; 
  • A looser fit on the top in case of emergency that would require getting out of the boot quickly; 
  • A pointed toe to make sliding in the stirrup easier; 
  • A high, slanted heel that would hold onto the stirrup during those long, rough cattle drives;
  • Stitching on the outside of the boots to keep the leather from buckling and rubbing against his leg from the inside. (Information courtesy of Buffalo Jackson Trading Co.


The result? A functional, practical piece of footwear that every cowboy had to have. Cowboy boots spread like wildfire, prompting cobblers to innovate and streamline as much of the boot making process as possible. While custom handmade boots remained the obvious choice for those who could afford it, the emergence of mail-order boot companies made cowboy boots more accessible. 


Hollywood’s portrayal of Western life in the 1930s and 1940s transformed the image of the cowboy boot, giving the shoe a whole new dimension. What once functioned as a practical piece of footwear for cowboys, ranch hands, and outdoorsmen became a fashion statement for celebrities and the everyday person looking to shake up their style. Colorful stitching and designs sewn on to the boots replaced the plain look of older boots. “Keeping up with the trends” required bootmakers to experiment with and become skilled in hand tooling, patterned stitching, and colorful designs. 


Cowboy boots today come in a variety of styles and leathers. Declared Texas’ official footwear in 2007 by the Texas Legislature, the cowboy boot belongs to each Texan. As stated by Alex Via for Buffalo Jackson Trading Co., “a good pair of cowboy boots is still like the cowboy: practical. Hardworking. And a little rough around the edges.” 


Our cowboy boots are manufactured in Leon, GTO, Mexico. Leon is commonly referred to as the footwear capital of the world. With many of the best leather craftsmen and bootmakers, high quality techniques, leather tanneries on site, and generations of experience, R. Watson is proud to offer our legacy footwear at the best value on the market.