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“Nothing but cowboy boots Sets your spirit free.

T H AT W IL D W IL D is the remedy for modesty. W EST ER N It ain’t proper, it ain’t cool But folks remember what you do In nothing, whoa, nothing but cowboy boots.”


The Cowboy 12 16 18 19 21 22 24 26 28

Cowboy Up Get Dirty Definition Language Cowboy Wisdoms Singing Morals Ten Commandments Modern Cowboys

The Boot 32 34 38 40 42 44 48

Origins Anatomy of the boot Custom made boots Factory made boots How boots are made Skins Justin Boot Company

Beyond the Wild West 58 62 64 68

Hollywood Country music Line dancing Dude ranches

Works of Art 82 85 88

Collectors Jim Goode Gary Van Der Mer

Cowboy boots are an enduring icon of the American cowboy, a true free spirit. In a time when tradition is looked down upon and people are trying to rewrite our history, we all want to cling to some vestige of our past. Boots have an ageless appeal: cowboy charisma, cowgirl couture. These are anything but new ideas. The past was a saner time full of hope, prosperity, and heroes. It was a time when things were not discarded without regret. It was a simpler time and everyone wanted to be a cowboy or a cow girl. An independent, self reliant individual, he symbolizes strength, determination, and the American way. After all, we were the ones who got away, and the cowboy is every American’s personal hero. Cowboy boots seem to instill confidence in the wearer; they give you an attitude. Boots can be euphoric.

When a Cowboy’s in a pinch he just tightens up the cinch, spurs his horse and rides right through it cause that’s the way the Duke’d do it.

He’d Cowboy Up. And with our country now in danger a cowboy’s like the old Lone Ranger. Ridin’ hard and shootin’ straight fightin’ those who spread the hate.

He’d Cowboy’d Up. A Cowboy’s ready and he’s willin’ to face the foe, like Marshal Dillon. And when the gun smoke clears away Cowboy Spirit wins the day.

So, Cowboy Up. Pull your hat down tight and don’t back down from what is right. We’ll bring back “Happy Trails” for you like Hoppy, Gene and Roy would do. Think back about Flight 93 and how those heroes came to be. They knew that thousands more could die if they just let that airplane fly

They Cowboy’d Up.


One widow had this tale to share. A husband’s love and one last prayer. And when their sacrifice was done terror lost and Freedom won

“Let’s Roll”, he said and Cowboy’d up. Cause Cowboys fight until they win just like TV’s Paladin. They will not let our flag unravel as long as they Have Gun, Will Travel

And Cowboy Up, hell bent for leather. Cause we’re all in this fight together. We’re ridin’ hard right on their trail and with God’s help, we will prevail. If Gary Cooper, Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott were here today they’d fight for what is right and true like Rex and Tex and Lash LaRue.

Who weren’t afraid to Cowboy Up. So, let’s give Uncle Sam a hand cause we’re all ridin’ for his brand. And with that Texan in the saddle our posse’s gonna win the battle. Let’s Cowboy Up, pull our hats down tight. Be rough and ready for the fight. Our country’s through with playin’ games. We’re kickin’ butt and taking names. Yeah, Cowboy’d Up, pard, that means you.

Stand up tall and ‘fore we’re through we’ll kick ‘em right in their gee-had Cause now, they’ve made the Cowboys Mad. © 2002, Jeff Hildebrandt



The life of a cowboy appealed to young men after the war because it provided a sense of change and excitement. It provided an escape from a future on the family farm and an avenue to gainful employment in economic ventures in other parts of the country. From 1865 to 1890, cowboys drove cattle from Texas to Kansas, it began when Joe McKoy promised forty dollars a head for cattle brought to Abilene Kansas. Historians believe that cowboy life was “dirty and hard�. Many homegrown cowboys appear to have been sons of small farmers. There were not many occupational alternatives available in the West after the Civil War.

The cowboy remains the invisible man in our national past, for, while we know almost exactly what he did, we have no very clear historical idea of who he was. There is evidence that there were cowboys across multiple races, age, ethnic origin, and geographic location. Fewer than forty thousand men with an average age of seventeen to twenty-four ever got to drive cattle from Texas to the railheads and cow towns of the Kansas plains. These cowboys originally wore every type of shoe and boot known to man.



A hired hand that tends to cattle and performs other duties on horseback. A performer who gives exhibitions; of riding and roping and bulldogging.


A Cowboy knows when a child, a lady, or an educated man, is around how to bite his tongue. Cursing is not part of his vocabulary around these people. His vocabulary may be a little slower or not as elaborate as those with education. A Cowboy is shy around woman because he spends most of his time in isolation.



Never miss a good chance to shut up.

Never miss a chance to rest your horse.

If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.

Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.

Every trail has some puddles. Don’t worry about bitin’ off more’n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger’n you think.

A bee is faster than a John Deere tractor. Don’t corner something meaner than you. Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then, to make sure it’s still there with ya.

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.

I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.

When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.


The Cowboy would sing while on a cattle drive

BEC AUSE A STA MPEDE The Cowboy would sing day in and day out. WAS M At night while the cows were settling down an unknown noise would spook them, the Cowboy would rise out of the bedroll and begin to sing. This was done because the cattle had grown accustomed to the singing and would soon settle back down for the night.





The morals of the Cowboy are steadfast. He takes on and accomplishes any job given to him, no matter how hard or dangerous this job maybe. He rides and competes for pride, not for the actual belt buckle or title.

A L L T H AT IS PUR E A ND T RUE . He knows that a job must be done. He is never looking for trouble, but when it comes, he faces it with courage and dignity. The Cowboy is always on the right side. He defends good people, who cannot defend themselves, against bad people. He always has high morals. He has good manners and is always honest. 25


a cowboy never takes unfair advantage.

a cowboy always

tells the truth.


a cowboy is from racial and religious prejudice.

a cowboy is a


A cowboy is clean about his person and in thought, word, and deed. a cowboy

respects womanhood, his

parents, and the laws of his country.

a cowboy is a


a cowboy is helpful and when anyone’s in trouble


he lends a hand.

a cowboy never betrays a trust.

a cowboy is kind to small children, to old folks, and to animals.

The Cowboy is more of a mind set now a days then an actual person. He is kind, tough, and hardworking, he stands for morals. People may think a Cowboy is slow, but he is always enjoying the world around him. America needs him to step back in time and pack back up where the last of the Cowboys have left off. The Cowboys won the west with the tools of their time. Their tools were the horse, gun, and barbwire. But it was the determination of the Cowboy that actually made this country as large and as powerful as it is today. Modern Cowboys are not all molded together. Each has its own style and is unique. Some of today’s Cowboys still ride, rope and brand. Some have never even seen a cow up close. To become a Cowboy one does not have to actually ride the range, all they have to do now is listen to Country Music and dress the part. Telling a true Cowboy from a “Dime Store Cowboy” is hard. If you go on the scenario that all Cowboys walk bow legged, have missing teeth, and all spit tobacco, then you will miss out on an awful lot of true Cowboys.

The previous list is not for all Cowboys, just the western community as a whole. Besides family owned ranches and selected country born individuals, the Cowboy of today is trying to grab onto the roots of the past. With the sprawl of the cement world, it becomes harder and harder to find a spot in the world to call your own, and the Cowboy needs his space to ride. He needs his space to call his own. Throughout time, the Cowboy has been a patriot to this country.


It was cattle drives after the Civil War that made them realize what sort of boot they needed. The ones worn during the war just didn’t suit the long hours riding on the trails: blazing through the brush and brambles, splashing through creeks and rivers, and riding with their feet in stirrups for hours at a time.


Around 1870 after reaching Kansas, some ingenious cowboy took his boots to a shoemaker and asked for a pointy toe so he could get his foot into the stirrup more easily; a taller shaft to protect his legs; and a bigger, thicker, underslung heal so his foot wouldn’t come out of the stirrup during the rough riding on the trails. The knee-high design protected his legs from the thorns of mesquite trees, barbed wire, snakes, and other dangers. The cowboy boots were pulled on with long mule-ear straps but were loose enough on the top so that they could be wiggled out of easily if the cowboy was hung up in the stirrup and needed to get out in a hurry. The tough leather that the cowboy boots were made from also protected the cowboy’s ankles from being bruised by the wooden stirrups, and his legs from rubbing against the stirrup leathers. The cowboy boots were stitched on the outside to keep the leather from buckling and eventually rubbing against the cowboy’s leg.

The high, underslung heel of the cowboy boot also served to protect the cowboy. He could dig that heel into the ground when pulling a stubborn mule or when leading his horse down a steep and rocky trail. The heel also kept the cowboy’s foot from going all the way through the stirrup so that if he were thrown from his horse he wouldn’t get stuck in the stirrup and drug on the ground. And just like that, the first pair of cowboy boots was born. The first pairs of cowboy boots had very little style and were for working purposes only. They were a tool that helped keep the cowboy safe and quickly became a part of any cowboy’s everyday life. At first, cowboy boots were only custom made. A cowboy would have to go to a cobbler who would measure his feet and make a pair of cowboy boots just for him. Later, the first mail-order boot companies came about. Getting a pair of cowboy boots in this way was much more humble, but a cowboy down on his luck had to do whatever he could to get his boots.

PULL STRAP This allows the cowboy to easily pull on the boots by putting the fingers through the loops. If enough pressure is applied, they can tear.



The finished top of the boot. Cowboy boots have a v-shaped scallop.



The part of the boot that rises from above the vamp. It is the first place the foot enters.

The forepart of a boot upper which is attached to the insole and welting. It is the most important part of the upper possesses the finest appearance and durability. Outermost sole of the boot, which is exposed to wear.



INSTEP The curve in the top line of the shaft that is used for styling. The deeper dips also aid in better fitting.

TOE BUG Fancy stitching on the top of the vamp. This is used on certain leathers to help the boot break over properly.


TOE BOX A stiffener at the toe of the boot to protect the cowboy’s toes and help retain shape and style.

9 10






Decorative material used to give a nice finished appearance. Piping works as a washer to keep leathers from rubbing through each other.



Stitched between front and back quarter. It does not really add any strength. It is decorative and traditional.



Decorative feature on boot.



Forms the support arch of the foot, made of steel, fiber, wood, or plastic.



Strip of leather or synthetic material used for attaching the upper to the sole.



Finished bottom of the heel base which must be very good abrasive material that is long-wearing.

A piece of plastic that serves as a buffer between the heel of the boot and the leathers of the counter and foxing. It helps keep the heavier leathers from wearing through the thinner leathers.

HEEL PAD A heel pad is a thin piece of leather that is glued on the inside of the boot, on top of the insole. It protects the insole at the heel from excessive wear.

LINING Inside of boots, usually made of pigskin, glove leathers, or a heavy twilled cotton or linen fabric. Gives the inside of the boots a neat appearance. Advances in synthetics now give waterproof or sweat dissipating options like Gortex or Sympatex, as well as traditional materials.

HEEL COUNTER The heel counter is placed on the inside of the boot between the lining and the outsole leather foxing. The counter is formed and molded to hold the heel in place. The heel counter provides stability. A high counter sometimes aids in keeping your foot from rolling over the side of the boot.

INSOLE A sole of leather or other material which is attached directly to a boot upper and welt. In some boot construction, the sole surface forms the inside of the bottom of the boots, in others, it is covered with a sock lining of thick leather or other material.

Initially the only cowboy boots that could be purchased were custom made boots. The cowboys had to physically go to the shop and get measured and have them made.


They would often stop on their way down their route to order them and get measured and come back on their way up to pick them up.

The toe shape should have no impact on whether a boot fits or not. The fit starts behind the toe of the boot.

The perfect fit. Does such a thing exist? Yes. It’s a boot that can be worn for eighteen hours without hurting your feet. A custom made boot is made so that you can wear boots all day and forget they are on your feet. No two people have the same feet, and some people don’t even have two of the same feet.

The makers wants to make sure that all twenty-eight bones in your foot are properly supported. A properly fitted boot with a heel no higher than two inches and proper arch support would be far better for your feet and more comfortable to walk five miles in than an average athletic shoe. The slightest sixteenth of an inch difference in a dimension of your boot can make all the difference in it being too tight or too loose. Over time your foot will leave an impression in the boot just as your lower body does in a pair of jeans.

A good boot maker will spend fifteen to twenty minutes with your feet. When custom fitting, a boot maker will also take at least eight measurements. He will pencil outlines of both of your feet while you are standing. The feet will be measured with each leg crossed over the other and the measurements will be rechecked with your feet flexed in a simulated movement position. Some boot makers use giant ink pads to show where different parts of the foot touch the ground.

There are two different ways cowboy boots can be constructed: welted or cemented. In welted boots, the upper part of the boot has been stitched to the sole. In cemented cowboy boots, the upper part of the boot has been glued to the sole. Both types of construction are solid and will result in a durable pair of cowboy boots. In order to make a pair of cowboy boots, a manufacturer will have several different departments that specialize in perfecting each part of the cowboy boot. First, in the cutting department, the animal skin uppers are cut out, treated, and split if necessary. This material is then sent to the pre-fitting department where the cowboy boots are partially assembled.

At some point, each pair of cowboy boots is sent to the computer fancy stitch department where intricate designs are stitched onto the quarters and vamps of the different styles of cowboy boots. This department is where most cowboy boots get their distinctive styles and patterns. In the last few departments the cowboy boots get their finishing touches, including its distinctive heel, and nice shaping and buffing to make them look perfect before shipping.

Manufactured cowboy boots are less expensive because machines do much of the work of making the boot. Manufactured boots take short cuts and have set molds for the boot. They normally do not fit the wearer perfectly.



Once the leather has been selected, the process of making the top part of the boot begins by cutting out the individual pieces. This might be done by hand in custom shops, but in factories it is done by metal dies, which work like cookie cutters. The top of a boot consists of three parts: the vamp, the counter, and the uppers. At this stage, the lining for the inside of each of these pieces is cut out and then glued into place. The lining is particularly important for boots made of fragile skins such as snake or eel, for the leather backing will provide most of the strength.

If the boot is to have any kind of stitched decoration this is done before the pieces are assembled. In custom shops, the design is sketched on a paper pattern or stencil and then outlined with a series of small holes. This stencil is laid over each piece and then sprinkled with a marking agent such as white powder, so the design can be followed by someone operating a sewing machine. Factories tend to use computerized sewing machines for this task, with pre programmed designs, so marking the leather isn’t necessary. Any additional colors the design requires are dyed into the leather at this stage.

ASSEMBLING THE TOP OF THE BOOT The boot is initially assembled in two halves, front and back. The vamp is sewn to the front upper; the counter, the part that covers the heel, is sewn to the back upper. Excess leather around the stitching is then trimmed off. A long strip of leather called the welt is then attached to the back of the counter and left hanging there. The welt will be used at a later stage to attach the top of the boot to the sole. The front and back halves of the boot are then glued and sewn together. These seams are made first on the inside, so the boot initially takes shape inside out, like a shirt. Leather is, however, harder to work than cotton, and once the seams are made the top of the boot must be soaked in water until the leather is flexible enough to be turned right outside out again. At the end of this stage, the top part of the boot is complete.

ASSEMBLING THE SOLE Because the welt now binds together the insole, the vamp, and the counter, the nails that tacked the leather to the last are no longer necessary. The nails are removed, but the last remains inside the boot until it is finished. A metal shank is then attached to the insole, to reinforce the high arch; it is held in place by a piece of leather. The sole is shaped to fit the insole and then stitched to the welt. The heel is then nailed on, and then both the heel and the sole are shaped by sanding.

ATTACHING THE INSOLE The first step in building the bottom of the boot is attaching the insole to the vamp and the counter. A key component in this part of the process is the last. The last is basically a model of a foot which is left inside the boot during the rest of the manufacturing process. In a factory, lasts are standard sizes and generally made of molded plastic. In custom shops, they are made of hardwood and adjusted to the precise shape of an individual’s foot. The insole is first tacked to the last. Then the vamp and the counter are nailed over the insole into the last—first in front, at the toe, and then working around on both sides towards the back. At this point, a stiff piece of leather is inserted at the front of the vamp to reinforce the boot at the toe. The welt, which has been hanging on the back of the counter since the top was first made, is then sewn onto the vamp and the insole. The boot is now almost complete, lacking only a heel and a sole.

FINISHING PROCESS The finishing process gives the boot its final appearance. The last is removed and a boot tree is used to make fine adjustments in the shape of the boot. Seams are trimmed and stray threads cut short. Final dyes are applied, if necessary, and then the boot is waxed and polished. The boots are checked for quality at this stage, though the standards of quality control vary between factories and custom shops. With both kinds of manufacturing, the number of stitches per inch is important, as is the quality of the leather, and the strength of the welt.

CALF skin leather is the most popular choice

CAMEL hides are scarce because camels

for cowboy boots. People who wear their cowboy boots for doing messy, outside-type work choose this type of leather more often than not. It is very durable, looks nice, and allows your feet to breathe, which keeps them healthier and less smelly. Cowhide leather is more affordable than the exotic leathers and it wears well. If you want the durability of cowhide, but the look of a more exotic leather, cowhide leather can be printed to look like buffalo, elephant, snake, lizard, or crocodile.

are only skinned when the animal dies, and camels alive are worth much more in their own country than the skin. It has a very hard f inish that resists scuff ing completely, and reminds me of linoleum. Camel skin has a faint vain effect running through its surface. It comes in many colors, and again is fairly hard to f ind.

ALLIGATOR skin is another popular choice for cowboy boots. It is very distinctive and can be quite expensive. The trademark squares of the alligator skins are called tiles. The more f lexible part between the tiles is called the hinge. It is this part that gives this kind of leather its f lexibility, and it is this part where the drying and breaking can occur if the cowboy boots are not well-maintained. Alligator is great for dress cowboy boots because the skins have an especially high gloss f inish and a deep, rich color.

ANTEATER is another very intriguing choice for cowboy boots. It has a look similar to alligator with the tiles and hinges. When cowboy boots were f irst made from this type of skin, it was taken mainly from the belly of larger animals and the tiles were very f limsy. Today the skins are taken from smaller, younger animals and can be more durable over time when cared for properly. Due to their rarity, anteater skins can be very expensive which makes them a status symbol in the world of cowboy boots.

ARMADILLO skin looks sort of like lizard and sort of like nothing else you have ever seen. Armadillos are very easy to f ind but hard to skin.

BOAR skin is a soft leather that has a pronounced grain to it which has a triangular appearance and is easy to spot. This skin is tough and can be used for a work boot. Most boar has been treated for water repellency but will not get a high-gloss sheen because its heavy grain. Boar is uncommon and few boot makers carry the skin.

BUFFALO is currently one of the most popular boot leathers. It is a very tough skin available in dozens of colors, and is soft and supple, yet has good tensile strength and provides long wear. It resembles waxed, French calf and is resistant to scuff ing, peeling, and scratching.

BULLFROG was a popular novelty for boot 44

wearers years ago. It is hard to f ind now and is not worth looking for.

CROCODILE skins are also hard to f ind because they live in remote fresh water rivers. Their skins are virtually identical to alligators. The only difference is a tiny pinhole in each scale that would only be detected by a boot maker or hide expert.

DEERSKIN is very soft, when you wear these boots it feels like you are sliding your feet into a soft glove. They are available in a wide variety of colors but they are not popular with boot makers because they scratch, scuff, and tear easily. Most deerskin or elkskin boots today are found in the dress or fashion market.

EEL comes from Korea and the Philippines mostly. The skin is thin and fragile and like alligator, should be used for dress boots only. It comes in a wide variety of colors and should be cared for like alligator.

ELEPHANT is another exotic skin that is used to make cowboy boots. The skin used has a slightly bumpy, crisscrossed pattern unlike any other type of animal skin. Cowboy boots made from this material are very scuff-resistant. To keep elephant boots supple, they do require a little bit of care and maintenance, but they are def initely worth it. Eel skin boots are also a very popular choice. These cowboy boots are soft and supple with a very smooth, sleek look. Although eel-skin cowboy boots are lightweight, they have very good strength.

GALLAPAVA is basically a turkey. It closely resembles ostrich skin, only with smaller bumps. The skin is from North America. It comes in many colors, but is recommended for dress only. Unlike ostrich, the skin is somewhat fragile and should be cared for like alligator.

GOATSKIN is similar to kangaroo but is not quite as strong. Goat is soft and has lots of pores, which makes it cool and very breathable for your feet. Goat can also be tanned in many different ways which gives it many different looks and color options. The skins come from North America and France. Maintenance consists of a light washing with saddle soap or a damp cloth, followed by a light oiling with olive oil or a neutral boot cream.

KANGAROO is the most popular skin with

SNAKESKIN cowboy boots could be made

boot makers today. Although kangaroo is actually tougher than calf, it never feels that way. It’s a very soft skin that is both durable and f lexible. Most inlay work is done with kangaroo because it is generally thinner than calf. It is available in a myriad of colors ad is cared for the same way as calf.

from any of several types of snakes. Among the most common are python and rattlesnake. In a pair of python boots, a “back-cut” pattern features the large tiles found on the snake’s belly. These boots are made by slicing the snakeskin down the back so the belly pattern is featured on the front of the boot. In the same way, a belly-cut pattern would feature the back part of the snake on the front of the boot. This belly cut pattern features the ornate smaller tiles in various shapes found on the snake’s back. Rattlesnake boots are made from three different species of rattlesnake – Eastern, Western, and Cane Break. These types of skins produce very beautiful and complex patterns that can’t be duplicated with any other type of skin.

LIZARD skin boots are usually made with skin from an alligator lizard or a hornback lizard. Alligator lizard cowboy boots are very easy to shine because of the hard tiles on the surface. Hornback lizard cowboy boots are very distinctive in that the pattern of tiles is overlapping, much like the staggered rows you might see in a brick wall.

NORWEGIAN OX skin is waterproof, especially when worn rough side out. It comes in a variety of colors and is a heavy, rugged, no-maintenance skin. Ox has a textured appearance on the grain side; on the reverse side it looks like heavy suede. It has a medium-sheen f inish, can be maintained like elephant, and almost as durable.

OSTRICH is one of the most desired exotic skins for cowboy boots today. It has a very unique grain and comes in several types. You can make cowboy boots from full pin quill which has all bumps; partial quill, which has some bumpy parts and some smooth parts; smooth, which has no bumps at all; or ostrich leg which has a pattern. This skin is not only unique, but is fairly durable and breathes well too.

PIG has a taught skin which is usually tanned to suede. This durable, full-grained hide makes a tough boot. Pig comes in all the colors of the rainbow. The suede side, like the rough side of any skin, can only be maintained with a soft wire-bristle brush to remove dust and dirt. No polish, oils, or anything else should be applied to a suede f inish. The smooth side can be treated like an exotic skin.

SHARK skin is extremely rough and rugged. The surface has raised sections which allow the skin to be dyed so that the highertextured areas will be lighter than the background. Shark is a long-lived skin and is virtually scuff-proof. It comes in an array of shades and colors and also possesses water shedding qualities. Shark is primarily imported from Japan, Central America, Australia, and Mexico. Care for Shark the same was as Alligator.

STINGRAY skin looks like it was imported from another planet. It is so tough, and breaks so many needles, that not all boot makers will work with it. Stingray is available in many colors, and has marbled, gravellike texture, resembling thousands of tiny pebbles glued to a leather backdrop. The skin is maintenance free, durable, and can be worn for work or dress.

WHALE skin is no longer available, like seal and walrus. The skins were very similar to elephant except they were never considered pleasing to the eye. Whale is tough, durable, and waterproof, but I am sure we are all glad that it can no longer be used.



H.J. “Joe” Justin’s frontier spirit pulled him away from his home in Lafayette, Indiana in 1879. Traveling on the train bound for Texas, Joe got as far as Sherman, which was then the end of the line. He spent his last five dollars to continue his journey on a freight wagon. He ended up in Spanish Fort, Texas where he found work in a barber shop.

While working in the barbershop Joe learned how to repair boots and in no time he made his first pair of boots at home. Shortly after, he opened his own shoe repair and boot shop. Cowboys passing through town could order boots from Joe and pick them up on their way back down the trail. A local store owner offered to stake Joe thirty five dollars for materials, that money started Justin boots as we know them today.


Joe and his wife Annie would work together at night and cut boot tops by the light of a kerosene lamp. Annie helped stitch the tops and also thought up a made-to-measure boot mail-order kit, which had never been attempted before. The kit contained a brown paper with a twenty-inch ruler and a chart diagraming foot and boot parts and how to measure them. There was also a handwritten letter, stating the prices of the few leathers that were available for boots. By 1908 Joe had brought his two sons, John and Earl, into the company as full partners, and it became H.J. Justin & Sons. Joe would travel the railroad towns, advertising in advance of his arrival. The quality of his boots made these trips successful.


By this time the boot shop had more than ten boot makers. In 1911 new equipment and machinery increased the output of the twofold. An average pair of boots from Justin cost eleven dollars. In 1915 the business did a staggering $180,000 in sales from thirty-six states, Australia, the Argentine Republic, Brazil, Central America, Canada, Mexico, and Cuba. In 1916 Joe handed the company over to his sons and he passed away two years later. In 1925 John and Earl moved the company to Fort Worth, Texas Their sister, Enid Justin stayed in Nocona and continued in the boot making business as Nocona Boot Company.

The movie, television, rodeo, and country music, even the high fashion industries have embraced, interpreted, and popularized cowboy boots. This has been going on since the 1930s. We are told every few years that western wear and cowboy boots are “out�, but we just keep on wearing them. Then every so often the whole world of fashion explodes with the American west influence and the cycle starts all over again. In Texas alone there are over twenty million head of cattle on over 150,000 ranches. Just these families and the people who work there could keep a small boot industry going.


Most people agree that Hollywood, rather than the stirrup, is responsible for the pointy toe. As the number of actual working cowboys diminished, Hollywood hired actors and filled movie and television screens with larger-than-life renditions. It could be argued that it was then that cowboy boot’s function shifted from fact to fantasy. Silent movie stars like Tom Mix brought boots to the big screen throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The boots were often stitched and inlaid with white flowers, stars, and moons. Film icons of this era typically kept their pants tucked into their boots both on and off the screen, giving decorated cowboy boots a star status all their own. Soon after their Hollywood debut cowboy boots appeared in the closets of the general public. Films such as Top Gun and Urban Cowboy (1980) started a widespread boot craze throughout America. Boot companies ramped up production of boots worn mostly on city sidewalks and dance floors. Light-colored leathers, wing tips, and buck stitching got noticed in dimly lit honky-tonks, and rounded toes were forgiving when worn by inexperienced dance partners. When the craze faded it took many long-standing trademark factories and America’s capacity for mass cowboy-boot production with it.

The popularity of TV westerns peaked in 1959, with no less than twenty-four shows on prime time each week. “This meant over fifty million Americans were watching westerns each night of the week,” according to Michael Marsden and Jack Nachbar in their article “The Modern Popular Western: Radio, Television, Film, and Print.” Cowboy boots have since walked straight from the choreographed steps of Hollywood to the runways of New York and Paris. They can now be found on the streets of London and for sale secondhand at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market.


“Cowboy boots provide the


ND COUR AGE that go well beyond our everyday needs.�

Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music. The term country music gained popularity in the 1940s in preference to the earlier term hillbilly music. The term country music is used today to describe many styles and sub genres. In 2009 Country music was the most listened to rush hour radio genre during the evening commute, and second most popular in the morning commute.

Beginning in the mid 1950s, and reaching its peak during the early 1960s, the Nashville sound turned country music into a multimilliondollar industry centered in Nashville, Tennessee. Under the direction of producers such as Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley, and later Billy Sherrill, the sound brought country music to a diverse audience and helped revive country as it emerged from a commercially fallow period. The growing popularity of country music throughout the nation has increased the consumption of cowboy boots and other western wear.

Country singers publicize the western style to a broad range of people, possibly even broader than the big screen. People purchase these items for concerts and other events as well as to look like the country superstars they look up to.


Originally line dances were choreographed to all different types of music. It became linked with country music when Billy Ray Cyrus wrote Achy Breaky Heart in 1992. A clever marketing trick, Melanie Greenwood’s dance was written to promote the song. Five years later and Achy Breaky Heart has

SNOW BA L L ED IN TO T HE line dancing choreographed to country music Enjoyable, straightforward to learn and not requiring a partner, line dance was bound to spread. Line dancing bars have begun to appear throughout the country in urban areas.




These boots have counted off many a band Playing one night roadhouse stands For tips in empty rooms These boots have stood toe-to-toe with the biggest baddest joes Like they had some things to prove These boots Yeah these boots more than once have saved my ass Like the time they hid that grass From those cops in Tupelo And these boots have danced with the devil and nearly lost that battle to a Wild Irish Rose I wore out more soles than I care to count Done more stupid things than most would dare to I’ve kicked myself more times than not for the roads they led me down but the damndest thing I’ve ever seen them do is walkin’ out on you. These boots had to see California

and an Arizona morning where God paints the sky And these boots had to spur that beast in Cheyenne Thought that bull’d make me a real man I still drag that leg sometimes I wore out more soles than I care to count Done more stupid things than most would dare to I’ve kicked myself more times than not for the roads they led me down but the damndest thing I’ve ever seen them do is walkin’ out on you. Now these boots are one step from the door They walked out of years before I can almost see her now These boots ought to kick that door aside Stomp out my foolish pride But they just turn around Damn these boots Damn these boots These boots


During the mid 1930s struggling cattle ranches discovered a new source of income by becoming tourist destinations. These “dude ranches� were not intended for the middle class; they catered directly to wealthy easterners.



“Dudes� spent their days taking trail rides and having cook outs, not breaking horses or cutting new paths through the brush. Western wear was associated with adventure and fun. Easy on and off short-top boots gained popularity with the wannabe cowboy crowd. Boots and western wear were required for ranch activities and made stylish souvenirs to bring back home. Dude ranches are a way to bring back the desire to be a cowboy and experience their way of life. Dude ranches are still a popular vacation spot today and provide an extra income for ranchers out West.


Cowboy boots began as a practical tool for the cowboy, but soon became a fashion statement. The stitching on the outside usually done in a plain black or brown soon gave way to more colorful thread, and designs and pictures were sewn into the boots. From there, boot makers began to experiment with inlays and overlays, and suddenly boot designs became limitless. The more extraordinary the cowboy boot could be, the better.

A boot can be a personal tattoo, but you can take your boots off at night. With an ever-increasing selection of leathers, colors, and exotic materials, and a resurgence of the old boot styles, we are experiencing a renaissance of artful boot making. You can buy your boots right off the shelf and that may satisfy you. But if you really need to let the world know who you are, or if you need to express yourself or take a stand with what you stand in, go to a custom boot maker.


“To a collector, a good story can be worth more than the boots themselves.�

Jim Goode Jim Goode is famous in Houston for his barbecue restaurants as he is a lover of all things Texan and western. Jim sports a full beard, a cowboy hat, boots, and fancy western shirts. He is definitely one of a new breed of Texas eccentrics keeping Texas history and tradition alive. Jim Started out as a commercial artist, working in Houston from 1969 until 1977. He used to eat in an old barbeque joint on Kirby Street. One day the woman who owned it decided to get out of the business and Jim bought it. He renamed the place Goode Co. Barbeque. The place is old but stylish. The walls are lined with cowboy memorabilia, photos, old beer ads, boots and saddles, chaps, longhorns, and anything else that strikes Jim’s eyes. The barbeque is so good Jim has catered barbecues in London, Paris, and Spain. Jim’s boot maker is Dave Little in San Antonio. His boots have very ornate inlays with decks of cards, longhorns, cactus, even Goode Co. Barbecue on the front of one pair. Jim prefers the ten-inch-top boot from the 1950s, with a lot of flash and lacing.




Gary Van Der Mer As manager of the world-famous Billy Martin’s Western Classics in New York City, Gary sees a lot of boots. He is the lucky guy who gets to design all of Billy Martin’s boots. He also handles custom-boot orders for customers all over the world. He chooses leathers, stitch patterns, and inlay designs, pulling from vintage boots, old catalogs, and his own imagination. Gary is definitely a boot maniac. Over the years he has accumulated over seventy-five pairs of boots. When the news of Imelda Marcos collection surfaced, Gary was amazed at how one person could have so many shoes. At the time he owned seven or eight pairs of boots, one pair of black penny loafers, and five pairs of running shoes, and thought this was all anyone could ever want. Now, years later, even with all the boots he has, at any given time he is ordering, designing, or thinking about four or five new pairs.


Gary guesses his interests in boots started when he was a kid in Pennsylvania. He used to watch Chuck Connors of “The Rifleman” on TV. He and his brother chased each other around on the hardwood floors so much, running on the heels of their square-toed boots, that they actually wore flat areas along the sides of the heels. Gary says, “For me boots have never been a choice. There isn’t any other option. My dad still yells at me every time I tell him I am ordering a new pair of boots. A lot of people just don’t understand, but although I don’t have a picture of Imelda Marcos on my wall, I now know the answer to the question of how many shades of brown there can be. As many as you can afford.

BOOKS Art of the Boot Text by Tyler Beard Photography by Jim Arndt

Cowboy Boots Text by Tyler Beard Photography by Jim Arndt

Cowboy Boots, The Art and Sole Text by Jennifer June Photography by Marty Snortum

The Cowboy Hero: his image in American history & culture By William W. Savage

The Cowboy Boot Book Text by Tyler Beard Photography by Jim Arndt

WEB A History of Line Dancing Country Music Cowboy boot Cowboy Cowboyup America


This book was designed by Brittany Mikottis in Spring 2012 for the Informational Books studio at Washington University in St. Louis. Fonts used were Scala OT, Scala Sans, and Universe. No part of this book may be copied or reproduced without the creators consent.

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