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How to Wear Cowboy Boots

How to Wear Cowboy Boots
Image by Rebecca Scholz from Pixabay

You don’t have to be a cowboy to wear cowboy boots. Heck, you don’t even have to live in the American Southwest. 

Sure, Western-style boots are functional, but they also have a place in folk and popular culture. They’re a fashion statement – and one that will get you noticed. As long as you’re wearing them properly, a good pair of cowboy boots can look stylish in many settings. Use these tips to incorporate Western-style boots into your sartorial rotation.

Know Your Boot Styles

When you first start out shopping for cowboy boots, you might be surprised to find several different styles to choose from. There are:

  • Classic cowboy boots, which are 12 inches high, with a tough toe box and a two-inch heel;
  • Ropers, which are shorter and have a wider heel, more like that on a work boot;
  • Stockman boots, which are similar in style and appearance to the classic cowboy but with a wider, shorter heel;
  • Western work boots, which are similar in design to ropers but typically have a steel-reinforced toe box and a rubber sole; and
  • Buckaroos, which are more than 14 inches high and very elaborately detailed.

Regardless of style, all cowboy boots will have the same key features:

  • Cuban heel, at least half an inch tall – “walking heels” are lower while “riding heels” are taller;
  • A lack of laces, for safety reasons – they could get caught in a stirrup if you fall from your horse; 
  • A high shaft, or top part of the boot; and
  • You can use bootstraps or small leather loops at the top of the shaft to pull the boot on.

Different styles of cowboy boots are appropriate for different functions. Ropers, stockmans, and Western work boots are designed to meet the needs of cowhands who spend their days working on their feet rather than in the saddle. With its tapered toe and high heel, the classic cowboy boot is designed for riding to keep your feet firmly in the stirrups. Buckaroos are also designed for riding, but they’re also for show – show riders often choose them, but their looks can make them a good choice if you’re looking for a true statement piece.

Choose the Rest of Your Outfit Carefully

Unless you live in the American Southwest and/or you’re really a cowboy or oil tycoon, you should stick to one Western-themed item at a time in your outfits. Don’t pair your cowboy boots with a cowboy hat, a Western-style shirt, or a bolo tie. If you really want to come across as a cowboy, you can choose a nice, felt Western-style hat, but be aware that you will give people a certain impression with that combo.

Instead of going overboard on Western apparel, pair your cowboy boots with more formal pieces. Cowboy boots are already pretty casual, so pairing them with a t-shirt and jeans just looks sloppy. Jeans are fine to wear with cowboy boots – just make sure you get a boot-cut style that fits over the shaft of your boots. Choose dark colors of denim if you’re going to wear jeans with your boots. You can even wear slacks or chinos with your cowboy boots, as long as the shaft doesn’t create a bulge above the hem. 

Go with a collared button-down for the shirt, whether patterned or plain. The best jacket to wear is a fitted blazer with lapels to counterbalance the casual air of the boots. A leather jacket with cowboy boots looks very James Dean, however. A denim jacket can work too, although maybe not in the same shade as your jeans.

Shop for the Right Fit

When shopping for cowboy boots, make sure you go for a reputable brand – for example, Justin cowboy boots have been around since 1879, so you know they really helped win the West. Cowboy boots tend to be narrower than other boots, especially more modern styles with a longer, more tapered toe. Each boot manufacturer uses its own shoe lathes, and the size and shape of these tools are often closely guarded corporate secrets. That means that a shoe in your size from one manufacturer might fit fine, while one from a different manufacturer could be too big or too small.

So, it’s useful to shop for cowboy boots in person, or if you’re going to shop online, order boots in your size from different manufacturers to see which ones fit best. Stick with cow leather for your first pair of boots – it’s cheap, durable, and versatile. The leather of cowboy boots can be stiff at first and take some time to break in; a brand new boot should fit a little loosely around your heel so that it will break in properly. 

If you’ve never worn cowboy boots before, it might be time to start. Cowboy boots can be a fun accessory that can add a little personality to your outfit – and they’re long-lasting and durable, too. Add a little Western flavor to your wardrobe with a nice pair of cowboy boots.

Featured Image by Rebecca Scholz from Pixabay