In the world of cowboy boots, beware of impostors. Authentic cowboy boots matter.
Let’s make an analogy, shall we?
Lucille Mulhall is to real cowboy boots as Jessica Simpson (Daisy Duke) is to impostor cowboy boots.
I’m not trying to be mean or spiteful about Ms. Simpson in any way. She’s beautiful and talented, has a great voice, and definitely makes our list of top 5 women who successfully pulled off cut-off jean shorts on the big screen. In fact, Jessica is THE reason that women flocked to stores to buy red cowgirl boots and the appropriately named “Daisy Duke” shorts back in 2005.
But while Jessica may look way better than the rest of the population in a pair of cowboy boots, she’s no cowgirl. She may be from a small town in Texas and may be able to belt out a country song like no other, but unless there is some portion of her childhood involving a serious stint in 4-H, we doubt she spent much time on horseback.
For purposes of this post, real cowgirls actually tend to cattle while riding a horse. You may live in Texas, you may love country, you may even wear cowboy boots to bed at night. For this blog post though, unless you actually participate in the daily operations of a ranch or farm and are frequently in a saddle, then (just for this post, swear) we’re not talking about you. Every other hour of every day, you can say you’re a cowgirl. Today, I’m writing about the profession of cowgirl rather than the lifestyle of cowgirl.
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s talk about “real” cowboy boots.
Authentic cowboy boots are designed for (you guessed it) riding horses. The design of what is today known as the “cowboy boot” is thought to go back to the boots worn by Spanish conquistadors who came to North America back in the day to search for gold and “civilize the savages,” etc., etc. What most people don’t know is that the Spanish conquistadors got the design from the Spanish Moors who got the design from the Huns (yes, those Huns). If you’re interested in the history of cowboy boots, check out this post.
Back to the boots. The Spaniards wore boots that had pointy toes that could slip in and out of stirrups easily. Their boots also had slightly taller heels than normal boots. These heels were tapered inwards as a riding safety precaution. This special heel shape meant that a rider could get a good grip on the stirrups with his feet while also greatly reducing the risk of his foot going through the stirrup and getting stuck. If a rider’s foot went all the way through, then he would be very likely to wind up with a dislocated leg (or worse).
Authentic cowboy boots also have a leather sole and stacked leather heel. This too is a safety measure. The leather will get roughed up enough to give the rider a little traction, but is not as likely to become stuck in a stirrup as an aggressive, knobby rubber sole.
Speaking of leather, let’s clear something up once and for all. Real cowboy boots are made from animal hide. Period. That animal can be a cow or a snake or stingray, but you will never find a real cowboy wearing “imitation leather.” The tall part of the cowboy boot (the shaft) is made of leather and goes up the leg a bit in order to protect the rider from the brambles and thorns that he would encounter while herding. Plastic “leather-looking” materials just won’t cut it out there on the range. We may not experience too much open range these days, but a pair of plastic cowboy boots are going to be a) uncomfortable b) really stinky and c) not durable. If you are thinking about buying imitation leather, just wait and save up. A good pair of authentic leather cowboy boots will literally last for your entire life.