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Walk This Way

Cowboy Boots Raise Your Stature With Style
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

Whether they are made of cow or snake or bird, whether they are black, brown or flaming orange, whether they are round, pointy or square, when you buy cowboy boots, you're buying more than foot protection.

Arnold Schwarzenegger knows it when he buys a pair of sharkskins.

Bruce Springsteen knows it when he buys a pair of vintage boots.

Ronald Reagan knows it when he buys a pair of his beloved Luccheses (if, indeed, he pays for them at all).

Cowboy boots come with more than exotic leather, more than fancy stitchery, more than a high heel, though that high heel may very well have something to do with giving cowboy boots their added dimension--their élan.

These are shoes with an attitude. Built into every pair by its maker is a swagger, an arrogance, a joie de vivre; attributes that are also brought to every pair by its wearer. Step into cowboy boots and you step up, the change in altitude in no small measure begetting a change in attitude.

"I think everybody associates cowboy boots with a kind of manliness," says Tom Gerwing of the Alberts Boot Co. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. "You're advertising that manliness by wearing them."

Whether you are buying a $400 pair of calfskin boots to wear with your denims or a $5,000 pair of black alligator boots as a dashing accompaniment to your tuxedo, you are also buying into the legendary individualism of the cowboy. Cowboy boots are a truly American fashion statement made popular more than a century ago by a small group of dusty roustabouts and the cobblers who provided them with their most important possession.

"They are a part of our life in Texas," says custom-boot maker Jack Reed. "We wear them because our daddies wore them, and everybody around you wears them. They go back to the days of the cattle drives, and they are still used as work boots today."

The origin of the boots was utilitarian and, in fact, protective footwear for horsemen was worn centuries ago by the hordes of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. The American cowboy needed protection on his feet and lower legs for the long trail rides through the Southwest. At some point, he also decided he needed something for his vanity, and the decorative cowboy boot became part of Americana.

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