After learning all about the art of shaping cowboy hats while in Wyoming a few weeks ago, I was struck by all the innate elements of life in parts of our country that I know nothing about. When the idea of “traveling” comes up, I don’t think I am the only person who automatically thinks of wandering through ancient cities abroad as opposed to exploring this diverse country of ours. So when I found myself in Austin, Texas this past weekend, I sought out another local institution to get an education on an item that is a staple in many areas across the nation: the cowboy boot.
It didn’t take much time or effort to identify the perfect spot for my boot-u-cation: Allen’s Boots has been the place to go for boots for over 30 years. To say that their selection is extensive is an understatement; Allen’s has over 10,000 pairs on display at any given time. The incredible knowledgeable sales staff can also help you create custom designed boots through Lucchese, the legendary Texas boot-maker.
Two of Allen’s best, Andrea and Carole, gave me a history lesson on cowboy boots before helping me find my own perfect pair; my first pair ever. I learned that cowboy boots evolved organically. After the Civil War, Americans traveled west where cattle roamed the plains. The traditional Wellington style of boot worn by soldiers morphed into the cowboy boot we all recognize today out of practicality. For example, the heel allowed a better grip for the foot while in the stirrup, and the leather sole made it easier to get out of that stirrup quickly. Today, cowboy boots are still worn for practical purposes, but also for fashion reasons. Cowboy boots come in a variety of colors, with elaborately stitched designs, including studded versions that are better suited for a strutting down a catwalk than tending to cattle.
As I wandered up and down the aisles in a trance-like state, I didn’t know where to begin, so I do what I do best: talk to strangers. I decided what I needed — in addition to the experts at Allen’s – was advice from my fellow-shoppers; smart and savvy ladies who have picked out boots before. One woman urged me to choose based on comfort, nothing is worse than boots that hurt. Another wise sage recommended I wait until a pair “spoke to me.” So tried to channel my inner boot whisperer to make contact with my perfect pair of boots.
And it worked, I found them! They were gorgeous; supple buffalo hide in a shade of auburn the color of port with leather embellishment along the toe. They fit perfectly, and felt incredibly comfortable as I sauntered up and down the aisle. Then I checked the price tag. Of course, the boots that spoke to me were $1,500 Lucchese masterpieces. I decided that I could not speak back to this particular pair. I quickly yanked them off my feet before I fell deeper in love. No need to waste my time on something that will never work out (words to live by in many areas of life, don’t you think?). I had to balance my love with both fiscal responsibility as well as the practicality of the situation. I live in Boston, not fertile soil for cowboy boots. Maybe simple was the way to go for my first pair, to ease into the trend, and see how I incorporate them into my urban wardrobe.
In far less dramatic fashion I chose an all-black pair of Ariats. The brand was founded by two former Reebok employees who brought their knowledge of sneaker technology to cowboy boots in the form of an athletic show insole. And they did feel like slipping into a pair of broken-in running shoes. Now, I know what you are thinking, practical, shmactical. If I am going to get a pair of cowboy boots, why not go big or go home? Well, it is precisely because of the fact that I do have to go home (to Boston) that I wanted to get a pair that I may actually wear, as opposed to just collect dust in my closet. The boots I decided on are simple enough that I feel confident I will be able to integrate them into my existing wardrobe, which leans more toward colorfully refined than country rugged.
This is where you come in, I hope. I’d love to hear how you suggest I wear my new cowboy boots! Leave a comment below, send an email, tweet or tag me in an instagram picture bringing your suggestion to life. I will try out some of the suggestions and post pictures. Giddy up!
Many thanks to Andrea and Carole, and all the wonderful people at Allen’s Boots, who were so generous with their time and knowledge during my cowboy boot education session. If you find yourself in Austin, you need to visit Allen’s Boots. It’s a must!