In the movie Tombstone, Wyatt steps off the train wearing square-toed boots. Aren’t those a 1970’s invention?

Stephen Grady

Cleburne, Texas

Nope, old-time boots usually featured square or round toes. Civil War boots worn by cowboys had flat heels and round toes. These boots gave way to the cavalry boot with higher heels and a reinforced arch.

During the 1870s, toes became more pointed and “mule ear” flaps were added at the tops of boots to aid the wearer in pulling on the boots. These boots were usually pretty plain, although some had Lone Stars or horse shoe cutouts on them. The toes had no cap, the soles were light and flexible, and the heels were either straight or underslung. The high heels were more of an insignia than for keeping your foot in the stirrup or digging your heels. They gave the cowboy a rolling walk that was characteristic of the profession.

Boots featuring fancy stitching started appearing in the mid-1880s. They were expensive; a store-bought pair cost $7, while custom boots set you back $15.

I suggest you get your hands on a copy of Ernest Lisle Reedstrom’s Historic Dress of the Old West. His excellent illustrations will take you from the 1840s-80s. You’ll notice that nearly all the boots featured square or round toes.

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