The cultural reset of the cowboy boot

By Gwen Soriano, November 14, 2023

Taking over the Cal Poly Pomona campus, the Wild West has traded its spurs for style, as the iconic cowboy boot rides back into the fashion forefront.

From the likes of high-end brands such as Chanel and Saint Laurent, retailers started to embark on the redefined cowboy boot trend, and junior contemporary designers like Jeffrey Campbell and Betsey Johnson have followed suit. Even unconventional footwear companies like Croc have released their own line of cowboy boots this year.

Students like apparel merchandising and management major Mikaela Alvarado highlighted the reasoning behind retailer participation of unexpected trends and the importance of atypical approaches within fashion.

“I think it’s sort of a funny way for Croc to try something new,” said Alvarado. “Kind of like when they released the Croc heel, I think they’re trying to cater to a section of the newer generation interested in a wacky and unique twist on apparel that’s currently trending.”

A shoe designed for utility and ease, the cowboy boot has morphed into an everyday staple in today’s fashion.

Emerging in 16th century Spain, vaqueros, or Spanish cowboys, imported much of their culture to the West, including footwear made out of buckskin. After civilians migrated west post-war and were met with difficult terrain, Kansas City shoemaker Charles Hyer created a functional pair of boots for cowboys.

Today, members of Cal Poly Pomona student organizations such as Apparel Scapes and the Chi Omega sorority chapter can be found flaunting their own pair of the trending boot.

The original cowboy boot design was made of leather and involved a pointed toe to mantle the foot into the stirrup and a supporting heel for adjustments — both features made for simpler horseback riding.

Described as “a shoe born out of harsh conditions of the ‘Wild West,’” sellers like Tim’s Boots discerned the cultural shift of importance in the cowboy boot fad in their guest article, “The Interesting History of the Cowboy Boot.”

“Between the silent film era and the 1950s, nearly one-fifth of all feature films were Westerns. And people started to recognize that a cowboy boot could be so much more than a shoe built for function.”

Since then, the shoe’s popularity within Western civilization continued to grow.

With the effects of consumer marketing, many have had the pleasure of seeing the resurgence of cowboy boots in fashion culture more than once.

“It was a big Y2K trend, and we’re just about at the time where the 10-year trend cycle repeats itself,” said President of the Fashion Society and AMM student Alyssa Barajas.

Aside from style and comfort, Barajas also commented on how cowboy boots have become primary footwear in not only casual American fashion but in nightlife culture.

“I feel like there was a connotation with them being very country, but now, I feel like it’s become the alternative to a knee-high boot,” said Barajas. “If you would’ve told me that people were wearing cowboy boots to the club two or three years ago, I don’t think I would believe you.”

In modern culture, renditions of the cowboy boot take elements of the original with new stitching, fabrics and color dyes.

“I’ve been seeing pictures of people posting at Beyonce’s Renaissance tour where they’re wearing these metallic-silver, iridescent cowboy boots,” said Alvarado. “I think it’s very important that these fads are re-infiltrating the fashion scene in realms that aren’t even necessarily Western. Bringing back an old trend and modernizing it into our culture is an important element of fashion.”

The idea of the cowboy boot outgrowing its natural purpose is a common theme in the way apparel is advertised. With a change in look and rise in popularity, cowboy boots now represent a vogue form of cultural nostalgia.

Consumers compare their perspectives on the boot’s transformative progressions, including President of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists and AMM student Malia Chang.

“I grew up in Northern California in an agricultural area, so seeing people in cowboy boots has always been very common in my county,” said Chang. “I’ve always seen horseback riding shoes in the typical brown and black, but lately, I’ve been seeing a lot more cowboy boots with glitter, unique embroidery designs and pastel shades. It’s been really cool seeing the way fashion has modernized them.

The cowboy boot’s transition in trend may only continue to evolve throughout the decades.

Although the boot is commonly worn during the cooler seasons, trendsetters have been pictured sporting a pair with a mini dress or a light skirt during the summer.

Retailing at an average minimum of $200, a structurally-durable pair of cowboy boots can be considered a fine investment. Fast fashion brands sell pairs for less than $100, which are commonly made with cheaper materials.

Maintaining its nostalgic background and keeping its Western origins alive, the iconic footwear has made its mark in history, and followers of fashion are just beginning to see its progressions throughout American culture.

Check out The Poly Post Now for a video on cowboy boots

Feature image courtesy of Andreas Rasmussen, video produced by Gwen Soriano 

Verified by MonsterInsights