Cowboy Boots: A Social Experiment

Cowgirls at the Triangle Ranch Rodeo in Cedar City, Utah, circa 1924.

There’s no footwear that epitomizes America like the classic boot originally worn by cattle drivers in the 1860’s in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Influenced by the “vaquero” tradition imported from Spain, boot makers like Justin and Hyer (who still make boots today) took advantage of the influx of cowboys and made simple, utilitarian boots that later, due to Hollywood’s glamorization of cowboys, became more ornate, surprisingly colorful and wildly customized.

Modern cowgirls.

Vintage cowboy boot display at my (now closed) vintage clothing store, Laurel Canyon.

This was the only mention I could find on the internet about turned-down cowboy boots. So historically, it was done.

Like other equestrian footwear, there was a reason for cowboy boots’ style. The sleek, treadless leather sole and pointy toe allowed the foot to be easily inserted into the stirrup. The tall heel made it unlikely that the boot would fall out of the stirrup (which could pose a danger to the rider.) And the tall leather shaft of the boot helped to hold the boot in place without laces; when dismounted, it protected the leg from snakes, brush, rocks, thorns and mud.

I’ve always loved cowboy boots, and  I can vouch for their versatility, as I wear mine with floral dresses, shorts and jeans. Our most American (and democratic) shoe is worn by men and women of all ages, economic means and lifestyles. They’re worn by trendy celebrities in Hollywood, conservative Texans, country singers, and yes, us city dwellers. And although there are still quite a few cowboys out west, today they are more often worn for fashion, not function.

I thought I knew a lot about cowboy boots until I saw a guy in New York City wearing his with the shaft turned down. I had never seen that before and decided to keep an eye out for this possible fad. Two weeks later, in New Orleans, I saw a woman wearing her boots the same way. I was convinced this was a trend and did some serious googling…fashion blogs, cowboy boot sites, photos of celebrities…and found nothing. So, because I like the way it looks, I decided to turn down the shaft of my Justins and see if it’s possible to start the trend myself. If anyone has seen this done before, or wears their boots this way, please inbox me!

My turned-down vintage Justins, purchased in wild, wild…Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Vintage customized cowboy boots on eBay that I’m currently obsessed with.

About Elisa Casas

ELISA CASAS (that’s me) was born and raised in New York City. I have a BFA in Photography from NYU and worked as a photojournalist and talent scout for major record labels before opening Chelsea Girl in 1993. I also owned Laurel Canyon Vintage, Clutch! and a popular cafe, City Girl Cafe, and I starred in the groundbreaking Sundance series, “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys” with my best friend, David Munk. I like pomegranates, clouds, “Exile on Main Street,” birthdays, ancient ruins, the beach, abstract art, cypress trees, “Annie Hall,” old diamonds, Almodovar, clam shacks, surprises, Anne Boleyn, popcorn, “Rebecca,” margaritas, pugs, apple pie and castles in Spain. I live in TriBeCa with my fashionable daughter, Ruby. Follow Chelsea Girl on Facebook- and Instagram-ChelseaGirlVintage
This entry was posted in "vintage is green", cowboy boots, cowgirls, elisa casas, folded down, history of cowboy boots, rodeo, turned down, Uncategorized, vintage boots, wear vintage, wild west. Bookmark the permalink.

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