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Cowboy boots

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by mram65, Mar 6, 2002.

  1. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Here is a scan (sorry about the quality) of a pair of boots from a German Museum catalog. The boots were made in the Balkans (Transylvania) in the late 19th century (about when cowboy boots were really coming into their own) and as near as I can figure out, from the description, are red and green They also sport that box toe that later became so emblematic of the cowboy boot esp. in the '30's and '40's.

    [​IMG]

    PS...these were more or less folk art traditional Sunday-go-to-meeting boots (Trachenschuhe) and the form may have been in the cultural tradition for some time before this particular pair was made.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
  2. emptym

    emptym Senior member Moderator

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    Those are really interesting. Thanks.

    Makes sense about the toe. I thought I remembered reading that the decorative stitching was originally a Muslim influence (Islamic art has lots of geometrical flora arrangements) that came from Spain to Mexico and then the cowboy boot. The Eastern European connection could fit that narrative, since Islam has had a strong role there. Does that sound right at all?
     
  3. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, aside from the fact that this ornamental stitching is pretty far from geometrical (IMO), I think, first, you have to remember that for a maker of anything, ornamentation is a natural progression, a creative expression, and often the first indication of better quality.

    And that only serves to underscore yet another point--ie. that without hard, objective evidence of a connection it is simply speculation and even fantasy. We see this so often with people who are not historians or don't have a deep enough respect for history. Maybe there is Islamic influences but I've never seen a real connection. What's more, the stitching on the Saxon boots is not significantly different than the stitching on at least one pair of boots in my photo montage (last photo-chocolate and tan lace-ups) . I designed that pattern...whole cloth...with no known contact with Islamic or Spanish aesthetics. :tinfoil:

    The whole story of heels illustrates and underscores this point...there is no evidence for heels as we know them until the second half of the 16th century yet common knowledge (and even contemporary literature) is dead certain they were there on the feet of Vikings and the feet of medieval knights and so forth.

    Or kilts being worn by William Wallace and his band of Merry Men.

    Without proof, it is the stuff of RenFaires and nothing else.

    "No photos...it didn't happen."

    --
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2015
  4. emptym

    emptym Senior member Moderator

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    By "geometrical," I don't mean triangles and such shapes, but repeated patterns, symmetry, things not really seen in nature but governed more by mathematical formuals. It's been 20 years since I took a class on Islam, but I remember the prof saying traditional theology forbids representations of people and animals, so repeated geometric or floral figures have long been used for decoration, of rugs, walls, etc.

    I don't know about photos, but a quick Google search shows at least one historian who mentions what I wrote. He doesn't make any strong claim, but rather uses words like "likely" and "reminiscent."

    Quote: From this site fwiw. Again fwiw, Wikipedia (citing six book and journal sources) also says a lot of cowboy "culture" came from Spain and Muslim influences. More reliable, perhaps (I only just found it through Google), The Cowboy Encyclopedia by Richard W. Slatta (p. 180-82) claims this Spanish influence is pretty well documented. I think I first read the claim about boots and other tooling designs in a museum on a trip a few years ago. Would have been either Omaha, Denver, or Virginia City. Not directly related, but I saw firsthand the wide Muslim influence on the world through Spanish culture. When visiting Egypt with a Puerto Rican friend she was constantly struck by how much the place reminded her of Puerto Rico, and I was struck by how much it reminded me of the Philippines.


    It'd make a fun doctoral dissertation to trace the roots.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    M,

    You're not the first to think that.

    I've probably read or run across most of these sources myself. But I don't ever recall seeing a pair of side-seamed Spanish boots with pointed toes and high heels and fancy stitching on the sides that didn't post date the American West. Nothing that could be called antecedent, IOW. Another reason I don't trust Wikipedia or Google or any other source on the internet...or otherwise...short of hard documentation.

    I'd like to see the documentation that your sources claim.

    Again, I can't tell you how many times we've seen this in the shoe histories and how many supposedly reputable sources--books, authors, etc.--that make claims that cannot be verified.

    People...even authors who are not "certified" historians (or steeped in that culture)...speculate--"Well it could have happened this way." Yes, it could. Some Viking with a short leg could have nailed a block of wood to the bottom of his one shoe. Some pre-Bannockburn Scottish knight could have misplaced his leine and wrapped a big woolen blanket around himself on the way out the door to the Battle of Sterling Bridge. The possibilities are endless and mind-blowing and fantastic (in the sense of fantasy) and ninety-nine times out of a hundred dead wrong. There simply is no evidence for any of them.

    "Without photos, it never happened." Without evidence, it's fantasy.

    I don't have a dog in this fight. I want to believe that heels pre-date the 16th century...it would verify some of my own pet theories.

    I don't really care if there are Spanish influences or not. As an aesthetic "meme" there are certainly Spanish influences in Europe going back to a time when the peoples of the Iberian Peninsula self-recognized themselves as a unique culture. There are Islamic influences in Spain dating back to the time of the Umayyad Conquest. The list of English words that have been borrowed from Arabic is long. But so is the list of words borrowed from Latin, or Greek or French or proto-Celtic. Without question, there are Mexican influences in contemporary cowboy boots esp. along the border.

    Regardless, bottom line, none of it is seminal.

    And for all of that, what is "reminiscent" to one person is just as often entirely the antithesis to another. I have a shoemaker friend/acquaintance of Iranian descent who sees Middle Eastern roots in nearly every aspect of shoemaking. And more than a few people (on this forum) are sure that English shoemaking techniques are the be-all and end-all...with everything else beside the point.

    FWIW, I've been "caught up" in popular myths and suppositions too often. And corrected by real historians almost as often ...esp. when it comes to shoe stuff. Now I only trust that for which there is real concrete evidence.

    --
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2015
    1 person likes this.
  6. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Thinking about this, I want to reiterate that I am not suggesting that there is no Spanish influence on cowboy culture...the language is replete with it--riata, remuda, tapaderos.

    But of all the paraphernalia/gear associated with the American cowboy, there is little in the way of direct association, linage, or evidence to suggest much...if any...Spanish influence on cowboy boots prior to the late 19th and early 20th century. And that's where this strand of the conversation got started--with the suggestion that a pair of Full Wellingtons...not immediately or unrecognizably different from the boots that Wellesley himself would have worn...were a "Spanish style."

    The point being that Full Wellingtons, ala the Coffeyville Boot...were the original cowboy boots and the fundamental template for every cowboy boot since. Everything, by way of ornamentation and/or styling (the pointed toe, for instance), comes after...sometimes considerably after.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2015
  7. emptym

    emptym Senior member Moderator

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    Sounds good, DW. I certainly wasn't thinking that full wellingtons were originally a Spanish style, or that cowboy boots as we think of them now were originally Spanish, just that there was some Spanish (and thus Muslim) influence on cowboy boots as we think of them now. But exactly what that influence is or when it occurred, I don't know.
     
  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    MT,

    I think I read somewhere that needle pointed toes (cockroach killers) didn't really show up until the 1950's although I know that "half-box" toes were there in the '30's.

    And parenthetically, although it's not really my remit, from talks I've had with western saddlemakers and silversmiths...as well as my own observations...I suspect most of the ornamental engraving and tooling on saddles and buckles, etc., owes as much or more to Greek and Roman Acanthus ornaments than anything Spanish or islamic.

    My decorative scroll stitching on the boots in the last photo of the montage above, is an attempt to capture some of the acanthus aesthetic that is found in Western silver engraving. In fact, I have always called it the "Silversmith" pattern.

    The inlaid scroll work on the 4th and the 13th photos above are also acanthus themed. And of course, there's the Greek Key in the 7th photo.

    My work is pretty "classical" and pretty much in the classic Western aesthetic. I am not really an Artist and so what I have produced is heavily influenced (even if only subliminally) by vintage boots. Given that, I'd be hard put to point to any motif in my work or vintage work to which I could ascribe Spanish or Islamic influences. Maybe the crescent moon (and it is a moon) and star but even that is a bit of a stretch given that both are "universal" ornaments.

    --
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2015
  9. emptym

    emptym Senior member Moderator

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    Thanks DW. There certainly is a large variety there in your work. I love the black and whites.
     
  10. greeneye

    greeneye Active Member

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    I have a query, rather need help from the experts here regarding sizing in cowboy boots.

    In dress shoes I wear 8-9UK/ 42 EU. And in my Asics running shoes it is 28.5 cm. I have flat feet aka low instep. and I like my shoes to be tight on instep.
    For past 2 months I'm reading about different cowboy boot brands, and visited sites how to measure your feet etc.
    I also wrote to Justin boots, who replied back saying trying in person would be better. Ariat don't seem to entertain my queries so far.

    Since I'm located in India, trying the cowboy boots in a store is impossible, hence I'm seeking your help/advise.
    Can you suggest any brands or models which can fit me? something that is medium on toebox but narrow on instep? Will you suggest me to go for bigger size with narrow width or same size with wide width?
    Also I found on some blogs that Ariat runs almost 1.5 size larger, and Justin suits for high arch support... I'm confused.
    A close friend of mind has traveled to US and would be returning in next couple of weeks so I'm planning to request him to buy the boots for me.

    Please help.
    Thanks a lot in advance.
     
  11. Chawk806

    Chawk806 Senior member

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    Loves good broken in pair of cowboy boots
     
  12. Chawk806

    Chawk806 Senior member

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    Good morning boot buds!!
     
  13. roadworrier

    roadworrier New Member

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  14. Chawk806

    Chawk806 Senior member

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    Hi, I have several of both brands Ariats and Justin boots. Love both brands! All my dress shoes are size 11.5 and my Nikes are size 12. Keeping that in mind all of my boots are size 11D or 11 E. I had to go down 1/2 size with all my boots. Hope that helps boot buddy!
     
  15. Chawk806

    Chawk806 Senior member

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    Nice heels. You should post a pic with them on
     
  16. robster35

    robster35 Senior member

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    hey guys. not many boot forums out there that i could find. good to find one that still sees a little use. love a good pair of western boots
     
  17. Chawk806

    Chawk806 Senior member

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    Same here rooster. What size do you wear?
     
  18. robster35

    robster35 Senior member

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    usually a 9.5D sometimes a 10D. ive acquired a couple older pair recently and now have an obsession with vintage cowboy boots lol.
     
  19. Chawk806

    Chawk806 Senior member

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    Size 11 here roster. I have about 30 pair and still growing :$
     
  20. robster35

    robster35 Senior member

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    ive got 6 pair now. picked up a pair of vintage tony lama recently but ended up selling just a tad too large. the first 3 pair i bought new within past couple years and now wish i hadnt. ugly square toes. the one pair i dont mind out of those is a pair of rios of mercedes caiman belly. its a square toe but not too wide. my other 2 pair i may sell off. i like finding older boots still in good shape at a nice price

    and 30 pair??? dang man i bet u got some nice stuff
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2016

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