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Fashion

How to Find Your Perfect Cowboy Boot

We talked to four local bootmakers and sellers to give us the ins and outs of cowboy boot shopping, from materials and sizing to styling and care.
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Looking for cowboy boots is like shopping for jeans, Miron Crosby co-founder Lizzie Means Duplantis says. Courtesy of Miron Crosby

When City Boots founder Lizzy Bentley was a student at Southern Methodist University, she always walked around in her cowboy boots. “Girls would stop me all over campus asking where they could buy cowboy boots,” she says. Boots were a way of life for the Amarillo native, but after talking to her classmates, she realized how intimating shopping for cowboy boots could really be. 

“I just want people to know that anyone can wear cowboy boots,” Bentley says. “I don’t care if you’ve never seen a horse. It’s a great look.”

A good cowboy boot is a wardrobe staple, says Sarah Means, who co-founded luxe boot brand Miron Crosby with her sister, Lizzie Means Duplantis. “It’s a silhouette that should be represented in your closet.” 

But it takes time to find a style and fit that’s right for you and your lifestyle. “I tell people, it’s a lot like trying jeans on,” says Means Duplantis. 

There are plenty of local spots to find quality cowboy boots, but to help new shoppers, D asked Bentley, the Miron Crosby sisters, and Fort Worth-based custom bootmaker Steven Parker to show us the ropes. 

How Should a Cowboy Boot Fit? 

Understanding fit is one of the biggest issues for new boot shoppers. “It should be just a hair hard to get on,” Parker says, but then once it’s on, it should be comfortable. You want the boot to hug the top of your instep “like a nice firm handshake,” Means Duplantis says. 

“Snug in the instep, loose in the heel, that’s how a good boot is supposed to feel,” Bentley says. Snug because the leather will breathe and stretch. But all four say it shouldn’t be tight. “Squeezes you anywhere? It’s too little,” says Parker. You want the heel to be a bit looser, though, with half an inch-to-an inch slip. Boots are designed to do that, Means says, “so that they sit correctly in the stirrup of the saddle.”

How the tops fit are matters of personal preference, Bentley says. She recommends wearing thick socks—or whatever socks you plan to wear with the boots—when trying pairs on. Also, it’s okay to sit in the store with the boots on for a bit. This gives the boots more time to mold to you. 

When Should You Stretch Boots? 

Ideally, your boots should fit properly when you buy them, Means says. But sometimes the leather needs to be stretched to feel more comfortable. You can often get the shoe stretched in-store, or you can buy a manual boot stretcher and do it at home. Bentley also recommends Cadillac Shoe Stretch Spray. “You just spray it on the inside of your boots and wear them around a little bit,” she says. 

But you should be cautious when stretching shoes. Never apply direct heat, like a hairdryer, to them. Exotic leathers, like ostrich, won’t have as much give. And be careful to not overstretch the boot. “It’s organic material. It has fibers in it,” Means says. “It will tear.”

And never let anyone borrow your boots, Bentley says. “Because they will stretch, and you’ll never get them back [to your size].”

How Are Boots Priced?

“You can buy a cowboy boot for $40 on Amazon, or you can spend $20,000 on a cowboy boot,” Bentley says. “It’s really a wide range.” But for quality, you need to price up. Tecovas boots start in the low $200s, Lucchese in the low $300s. Miron Crosby adult boots start at $895 for shorties. At City Boots, shorties begin at $720, and tall boots begin around $1,000. Parker, who handmakes his boots, starts at $1,100.  

One of the drivers of cost is the leather. Cow, buffalo, pig, and deer hides tend to be on the lower price end, but can be good for new buyers. “Cow is a great starting point for somebody who’s looking for just their first pair of cowboy boots,” says Bentley. They can range anywhere between $100 and $2,000.

The more exotic leather you use, the pricier it gets. Common exotics cowboy boots include ostrich, python, elephant, and alligator. Miron Crosby even has stingray boots. Ostrich leather is known to be durable and comfortable, Bentley says, but prices quickly jump into the $1,000-plus range. Parker charges $2,000 for his ostrich boots. His elephant (his favorite) and hippo boots are a shade cheaper at $1,800. Alligator, which are often used as a dress boot, are typically some of the most expensive.

At Lucchese, alligator and caiman boots run up to $15,000. Parker charges $4,500 for his alligator shoes. “That’s a lifetime boot.” 

How Can You Protect Your New Boots?

A quality pair of working boots, used every day, typically last around 10 years, Parker says. But any pair of boots can last decades, especially if you get them resoled or even reconstructed. “If you take care of it, a cowboy boot can last a lifetime,” Bentley says. “Or multiple.” 

You should always store your boots standing up in a dry place, the Miron Crosby sisters say. They prefer to use cedar boot trees to prop the tops, but cut-down pool noodles inserted into the boots will also work. If the boots get dirty, wipe them down with a dry cloth. Vodka can also remove some scuffs or salt, Means Duplantis says. At least once a quarter, you should condition the leather, Means says. They like Lexol Leather Cleaner—just dab it on a cloth, and rub it in.  

How Do You Style Cowboy Boots? 

Before you shop, look at your closet and personal style. If you’ve never owned a cowboy boot before, try a timeless color, like black, brown, or white. “I think a red cowboy boot is also super classic,” Bentley says. 

Toe shape, such as pointed, round, or almond, as well as height are all matters of taste, but consider what would fit best with your wardrobe. Tall boots can pair nicely with skirts and dresses, but you’ll often find yourself planning your outfit around your shoes, Means Duplantis says. On the other hand, a shortie boot “is easy to throw on, almost like you would a sneaker.”

However, you really can’t go wrong with any pair. Cowboy boots are functional, Bentley says, and go with anything. If you want a pop of color, or a metallic, go ahead and buy a bright boot. Buy what you love and don’t overthink it, Means says. Whatever you pick, “you will figure out a way to make it work in your in your closet.”

Author

Catherine Wendlandt

Catherine Wendlandt

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Catherine Wendlandt is the online associate editor for D Magazine’s Living and Home and Garden blogs, where she covers all…

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