'These Boots are Made for Walkin': How the Cowboy Boot has Rode Back into Fashion

Trend feature intended for the Sunday Times Style Magazine on the comeback of cowboy boots as a trend

((HEADER)) These Boots are Made for Walkin’: How the Cowboy Boot has Rode Back into Fashion


Make no bones about it; the cowboy boot has been an integral part of great American heritage. The footwear item has essentially been the foundation of the guts and glory that helped build America and after months of COVID19 uncertainty alongside the dreaded Presidential Election that had the world on the edge of their seats, there now seems to be a strong feeling of national pride on the horizon for both the UK and our transatlantic neighbours. Consumers are now leaning towards styles that symbolise courage, strength and most of all, freedom and the cowboy is having a bit of renaissance right now, from the gun-toting robots in HBO’s Westworld to the outlaw avatars in this year’s most highly anticipated video game- Red Dead Redemption 2. And as we embark on a new year, the “new year, new me” rally cry rings louder than ever. But even as we think of our own resolutions for the year ahead and declutter our wardrobe of overdone trends (or the copious amounts of loungewear we bought over Lockdown), the western appeal is still alive and kicking.

Not one to miss the slightest whiff of a cultural whirlwind, the fashion industry has also deputised the western look with designers upping the ante with creative upgrades to classic staples. Adding bright colours and going total space cowboy, refer to Esseutesse’s metallic leathers as the brand carries western themes into party territory. The cowboy has captivated designer’s attention long before this current phase, and we’re not just talking about Ralph Lauren’s beloved double denim. The rockabilly movement of the 1950s was influenced by the suave, peacocking style of Hollywood cowboys at the time, while buckskin jackets used by frontiersmen were adapted into the suede, fringed jackets- significant in the counterculture movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, think films like Midnight Cowboy. The boots, themselves, though have existed long before the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood made them popular with many cowboy boot companies proudly operating in the US since the 19th century. Fashion historian Sonya Abrego, author of the fourth-coming Western wear and the Post-War American Lifestyle, calls cowboy boots “an icon of Americana” and cites their versatility, near-unisex nature and ease of styling as reasons for their popularity. Cowboy boots are as aesthetically diverse as the American landscape and if you’ve never worn cowboy boots before, it’s important to know about the fit and styles. Traditionally, the cowboy should have a stacked heel (typically, women’s cowboy boots come with a narrower heel as well as a taller arch than their male counterparts), round pointed toe and a high shaft that comes halfway up the calf. The high shaft tends to have significant impact on your trousers silhouette when worn underneath, and as for wearing them over the top, well good luck trying to go incognito in them. As for brands, there are hundreds. One of the world’s most legendary western boot brands is Tony Lama- the place to go when you want to express your inner cowboy or cowgirl persona. Recognised as the boot brand of the American west since 1911, Lama stepped into the boot industry at the age of 11 and began to learn the ins and outs of the leather and boot trade. Each pair of boots are a true work of art, built by hand and crafted of the finest materials. The most iconic celeb to be spotted in custom Tony Lama boots has to be, by far, Lady Gaga and it doesn’t get much better than a stamp of approval from a fashion icon. The star had two pairs of exquisitely detailed boots made for her Born This Way tour. The boots themselves took over 500 hours to make and were festooned with hand-painted unicorns (and 3D wings, of course), gold chains and not to mention a rather untraditional platform. Rather coincidently whilst writing this article, my uncle got in touch with me after discovering his old Tony Lama boots from the 70s in a loft clear-out, telling me they were “very fashionable back in the day” reiterated to me how cowboy boots have really stood the test of time and my response back was “if only they were a few sizes smaller”.

Now, unless you’re going to a five-year old’s birthday party or dressing up as Woody from Toy Story, you might be wondering how on earth you’re going to fit cowboy boots into your daily walk round the common. Fear not, think comfy cowboy! All that loungewear you’ve bought over the last nine months is the perfect partner for your boots. Athleisure still rules and keeping it comfy and cosy has certainly been the slogan for 2020- but it’s nothing new. Princess Diana managed to make sweatpants and boots look highbrow in the 1980s and Kendall Jenner is following (sweat suit). The model (or lil sister of Kim K as we all know her) pulled inspiration from the late, great icon and paired stark white knee-high cowboy boots with blue adidas sweats. So, channel Diana and Kendall’s outfits for stylish hibernation-mode vibes, especially as a more casual festive season looms. Still scared of the costume connotations, though? Don’t be. The western trend is less dress-up and more of a development on fashion’s current craving for hearty, traditional pieces dripping with Americana. With 166K on Instagram, personal stylist, street-style frequenter and entrepreneur Estelle Chemouny seemed like the perfect candidate to ask about the trend. What sets Estelle apart is her love of mixing patterns, prints and colours and her frequent choice to style high street brands with high end designers to achieve day-to-day looks and as luck would have it, it is a trend she is a fan of- yeehaw! “To be honest I’ve been wearing cowboy boots since a really young age, because I was lucky enough to fit in a 39 (tall people problems) at nine years old so I could steal my mum’s boots. To me it is not a trend it is a staple! I think cowboy boots are a must have, I have got around 20 pairs that I’ve been wearing for about 15 years now- they go with everything in your wardrobe.” Estelle tells me that you can “wear them with shorts, sweatpants, leather pants, flare pants, dresses… anything” however her top tip would be to steer clear of wearing cowboy boots with other western style pieces, “the thing I do not like is when people do the whole western look with fringe jackets… it looks like a costume.” So, go at this western wear trend one piece at a time, cowboy, this ain’t no buffalo chase!

The shape of most of the cowboy boots coming off the catwalk is more of a Chelsea boot, making them slightly easier to style, with the only difference being a pointed toe and a slightly higher heel and if Kendall’s stark white knee-high cowboy boots ain’t your thing, opt for a dusty brown or even a snakeskin effect to easily mimic the western look. Cowboy boots in brown styled with denim is a foolproof partnership and Free People’s Vegan Ranch Boots made with buttery soft vegan leather are the ideal pair. For something a little more high octane, Anthropologie X Hudson cowboy boots in the gaudy gold colour way are the excellent partner to ride into the new year with. Couple with your go to ‘LBD’ and accessorize with a glass of champers, for a more paired back at home new year’s looks.

A timeless classic and definitely worth the investment, whether you go for a more traditional or modern style, the cowboy boot is the ultimate accessory for changing up any outfit- adding versatility and edge to your day-to-day wardrobe. So, it seems yeehaw is a style trend we can all get behind- from pop stars to the prim and proper among us. And with there being so many ways to style the cowboy boot and with an assortment of options, the cowboy boot is well on its way to feeling modern again- it’s a new fashion frontier, y’all!


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'These Boots are Made for Walkin': How the Cowboy Boot has Rode Back into Fashion

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