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Saturday, June 16, 2018

And then, there was the cowboy boot




The origins of the Cowboy Boot are well researched and started life as riding boots for the marauding Mongol tribesmen. Horsemen wore red wooden heels and conquered all before them. The fashion caught on and was popular for centuries among nobility and horse riders.




English Cavaliers took the style to extraordinary lengths wearing thigh high riding boots with Cuban heels. Once defeated by Cromwell, the Cavalier Stuarts immigrated in their droves to the New World. They took with them their boots and many settled in the south forming the southern plantation class. After the civil war many southerners migrated west to Texas taking with them their noble footwear. Standard cavalry issue during the American Civil War was the Wellington Boot.



In 1815 Arthur Wellsley, First Duke of Wellington, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. The popular victor became a national icon and both men and women emulated his sartorial style of footwear. The modern Wellington had a low cut heel which was calf high and not thigh high. This made them easier to mass produce.



Unfortunately during the American Civil War unscrupulous contractors supplied below par footwear and many of the cavalry boots were mass produced using reinforced cardboard. Climatic conditions took their tool and horse soldiers suffered deep cuts to their feet. A Chiropodist General to the US cavalry was appointed at this time. Our lexicon was enriched with the word shoddy meaning manufacturers willing to compromise for profit. Right and left boots were introduced and they were most unpopular. As a result shoe manufacturers decided not to introduce right and left shoes to the masses for another half century. At the end of the war the federal government had half a million pairs of boots surplus to requirements. Systematically during the following years troops stationed on the frontier were supplied with the shoddy boots. Shoe historians believe the foundation of the cowboy boot trade in the frontier was based on the simple necessity for civilian bookmakers to replace defective military footwear. By the 1880's the cowboy boot was beginning to emerge as a distinctive style. Starting life as a dress Wellington or full Wellington, the fashion merged with the hard wearing lace up boot (or packer), worn by drovers. Later the three piece military boot was incorporated and worn by Hollywood's Cowboys.



Tejas (or Napoleon style boots) with their peacock flair and ostentatious inlays were worn by megastars Tex Ritter and Tom Mix and became incredibly popular during the 30's and 40's. Somewhat surprisingly today’s cowboy boots are really fantasy footwear fabricated by Hollywood but the history of their development mirrors the history of boot manufacture from Genghis Khan to modern man.


(Video Courtesy: Steven Foreman Youtube Channel)


Reviewed 16/06/2018

1 comment:

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