Cowboy Boots, Finally

I can’t believe I haven’t written about cowboy boots.

I will admit my bias right now: I don’t like western boots on people who can’t ride western. If you don’t know your way around a trail horse –and I’m not talking seeing Equus a bunch of times and reading a Catherine the Great biography– then you’ve got no business wearing western boots.

Or if you’re a Yankee. Yankees in cowboy boots are sad. Like diet cheese or an ugly girl that really doesn’t have a “great personality.” You have all the cool weather and the good lobster. Let us have this one.

A good cowboy boot –like a good man– is a joy forever, and the worse you treat ‘em the better they act. Unlike a good man, however, getting the exact perfect one straight out of the gate is dead easy, provided you’ve got the cash.

It is not unusual for a good custom cowboy boot to cost north of $3000 and unlike some of the frothier fashion selections that demand $1500 for a slip of leather with two satin ribbons, you can see the craftsmanship and artistry that goes into hand-stitching and inlaying each boot. A pair of world-class custom cowboy boots are a rite of passage for many a successful Texas man and are passed down in wills from one generation to one generation to the next.

Witness the Alamo Boot.

Seen here you have the State Capitol building –which is ten feet taller than the U.S. Capitol btw– the Alamo on the back, plus an armadillo, a mockingbird, and “Remember the Alamo” stitched across the back calf. Yes there’s a lot going on, but that’s part of the cowboy boot charm and everyone knows we Texans are not a people of restraint.

That being said, you can get some perfectly decent –though admittedly less festive– western boots for under $200 and customized ones for about what you’d pay for a pair of Manolos.

This image is courtesy of caboots.com, the ONLY place I would ever trust online for customized boots.

For big girls who want to buy off-the-rack you can just skip right over the women’s section and mosey directly into the men’s boot section.

If you’ve got a wider calf you’ll want to keep your eyes open for two things:

1) a ten inch shaft (much more than 10″ can make a tough fit)*

2) a wide scalloped collar

A roper — a low-shafted boot– is usually your best bet, and provided the scallop is deep enough to spread nice and wide, it shouldn’t be hard to find a pair that fit your calves.

However, if you want a pair that goes OVER your calves, say a 15″ shaft or higher, you’ll almost certainly have to go custom. Custom is worth every penny, but it’ll take a lotta pennies.

You’ll also need a boot jack and boot hooks:

Trust me on this one.

That leather is stiff, it’s only been in the past year or so that I’ve been able to get my boots on without hooks and off without a jack. When my ropers were brand new it took me a good five –sometimes ten– minutes to get them on if I didn’t have my pulls with me, especially since I have freakishly short little Tyrannosaurus Rex arms, which is problematic when it comes to pull-on boots and –in a related vein– mechanical bull-riding.

As you can see, a 26 year-old Miss Plumcake about to be thrown from the mechanical bull at Coupland Dance Hall wearing a lovely pair of Lucchese cognac ropers.

See that glow? That is the patina of a pair of lovingly abused boots.

It might not really work for men, but treat ‘em mean and keep ‘em keen definitely gets the job done for cowboy boots. It’ll take a few months for your boots to get that worn-in character but be patient and don’t worry about some spotting and freckling when they’re new. I wear ‘em in the rain, in the mud, in the snow if we have it (we almost never do) I just give ‘em a good oiling once every few months and they just keep better looking. Not unlike myself, I guess.

ANYWAY if you’re serious about getting a pair of boots, your best bet is to go to a western wear shop –I like Cavender’s but I should also put in a plug for Allens Boots right here on historic South Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas– and get properly fitted. The guys are super nice and knowledgeable and understand that a girl’s first pair of cowboy boots is important.

A good pair of boots with a leather sole will last longer than your feet ever will, so get you some. You know, as long as you’re not a Yankee.

*THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID

9 Responses to “Cowboy Boots, Finally”

  1. Manolo the Shoeblogger July 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    Ayyyy! Many apologies!

    The comments were broken, but now they are fixed!

  2. GoP July 27, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    I mink oil mine up really well to soften them if they are new so I don’t have to spend the requisite two years breaking them in.

    Yaay for cowboy boots post! I <3 them.

  3. ChristianeF July 27, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    I should have stopped reading at “Yankees in cowboy boots are sad.” I’ve never had a particular yearning for cowboy boots, but I kind of do now.

    Curse my New England roots!

  4. Jezebella July 27, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    I haven’t had my ass on a horse since the 1980s, but I acquired some black Justin Ropers during my tenure in Texas. Three heels and two soles later, they are LIKE BUTTAH. They go with everything, have classic round-toe low-heeled styling, and I expect them to last another twenty years.

  5. Beth C. July 27, 2010 at 8:28 pm #

    Since it’s now fixed I’m moving my comment to the right place:

    OK, Plummy, you had better not be counting Californians in with Yankies here. We have just as much claim to cowboys and ranches as you do and I have the 15-year-old Justin lace up Ropers to prove it. ;)

  6. Niki July 28, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    So if I read correctly, I’m basically out of luck in buying off the rack boots with 19″ calves? Pretty sure I can’t talk the mister into a $300 fitting fee on top of the boot price. Do any of the men’s styles come in wide shaft? I’d think so . . . I’d seen my share of fat rancher/farmer type guys in them when I lived in the midwest!

  7. Plumcake July 28, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    @Niki: F for reading comprehension!

    For big girls who want to buy off-the-rack you can just skip right over the women’s section and mosey directly into the men’s boot section.

    If you’ve got a wider calf you’ll want to keep your eyes open for two things:

    1) a ten inch shaft (much more than 10″ can make a tough fit)*

    2) a wide scalloped collar

    A roper — a low-shafted boot– is usually your best bet, and provided the scallop is deep enough to spread nice and wide, it shouldn’t be hard to find a pair that fit your calves.

    I have a 21″ circumference calf and my ropers fit me just fine. It’s only if you want a boot with a 15″ shaft or HIGHER (as in taller, not bigger around) that you’ll have to go custom.

  8. mywhimsey July 28, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    Living in the heart of Manhattan has shown me that my 12 year old Justin ropers well treated with mink oil make pretty great winter boots. They look great, are classic, and as long as I don’t wear them with skirts, they’re chic as well. (I have midwestern and Californian roots, though, so I hope I’m not violating the Yankee exclusion principle!)

  9. Margie July 29, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    I am a Michigander and own several pairs of boots. BUT…. my parents are native Texans, my ancestors are from Mexico, so I naturally feel the need to partake of the boot wearing tradition. We all wear boots in my family! Regardless though, I do also feel the need to defend Northerners wearing cowboy attire including boots. Many, specifically in Michigan, are not native to Michigan, but from Texas. Generations of families migrating North to work the farms and fields are not only trends of the past. That is how my mom moved to Michigan (her father drove families from Texas to Michigan to work the fields during the summer months.) My father migrated from Texas to work in the GM assembly plant over 40 years ago and has since retired. So, because we are either native Texans living in Michigan or Michiganders with Texas roots or native Michiganders who work the fields or on farms (Michigan has a lot of farmers), we proudly wear the boots!