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Jun 20, 2022 - 9:03:51 AM
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rinemb

USA

14737 posts since 5/24/2005

First, I am not a cowboy. In the long ago past, I did wear some mildly western clothing, including cowboy boots. The problem was, that due to my odd foot profile, I was never comfortable in any of them-even higher quality boots. My feet are very wide EEE in the front, but with a narrow-ish heel. And to get the width to work I had to buy a longer (by a full size) to work at all. Then the toes would curl up like pixies.
Recently I bought a pair of western boots (black) with broad flat/square toe. I was not thrilled with the look, but they felt so good on!
My wife hates them, and says that those square toes are worn to make a statement...apparently not a good one? I was so P'd that I did not ask what statement I was making.
So, what statement was I making?
Anyone, ever have custom made to fit cowboy/western boots?

Brad

Jun 20, 2022 - 9:12:01 AM
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1309 posts since 8/7/2017

My guess is that your wife is mad at you for some reason, and she's taking it out on your boot toes.

I'm not a boot expert, but living in Montana for past 30 years, I've not heard of a boot-toe-statement. The only thing I know is that narrow toes are supposed to make it easier to find and enter the stirrups.

Jun 20, 2022 - 10:18:28 AM
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DWFII

USA

435 posts since 1/9/2022

Well, for the last 50+ years, I have made my living making 'bespoke' (custom) boots and them high end men's and women's shoes https://www.instagram.com/dwfrommer/

I am of the opinion that, indeed, narrow toes evolved to allow the boot to enter the offside stirrup easily and without looking. Narrow toes seem to be almost a universal among horse cultures. As do higher heels.

The narrow square toe seems to have originated i Eastern Europe in the 19th century. We have examples that look remarkably like cowboy boots  including fancy stitching on the tops. It probably entered the American culture with a wave of immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe that settled in the vicinity of Fredricksburg, in Texas, in the 19thc.

Broad square toes go back even further with one of the Stuart kings depicted in a very refined pair of knee high boot in white(?) with a broad square toe and high heels. so that's 16th and 17th century. most of the boots worn by officers, on both sides of the Am. Civil War were made with broad square toes.

As far as "making a statement" is concerned all clothing is costume, and all costume is intended to "make a statement." When you choose a blue shirt tommorow morning, you are making a statement... even if it's only "I don't give a damn what I look like."

Jun 20, 2022 - 10:23:34 AM
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1633 posts since 9/6/2019

These are worn to make a statement.


 

Jun 20, 2022 - 10:25:21 AM

7003 posts since 9/21/2007

That "pointy toe stirrup" thing gets said and written a lot. Question, has anyone ever had trouble "finding the stirrup" with non pointed boots?

How about English style riders? They seem to manage just fine.

American Civil War cavalry? Could they find the stirrups? Cowboys in the 1880s must have always been falling off of their horses as they could not find those stirrups.

I believe that reason for pointy toes is a bunch of horse... Nah, it was just a fashion thing that came about in the 1910s and perpetuated with the movie cowboy.

Jun 20, 2022 - 10:29:43 AM

7003 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by DWFII

Well, for the last 50+ years, I have made my living making 'bespoke' (custom) boots and them high end men's and women's shoes https://www.instagram.com/dwfrommer/

I am of the opinion that, indeed, narrow toes evolved to allow the boot to enter the offside stirrup easily and without looking. Narrow toes seem to be almost a universal among horse cultures. As do higher heels.

The narrow square toe seems to have originated i Eastern Europe in the 19th century. We have examples that look remarkably like cowboy boots  including fancy stitching on the tops. It probably entered the American culture with a wave of immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe that settled in the vicinity of Fredricksburg, in Texas, in the 19thc.

Broad square toes go back even further with one of the Stuart kings depicted in a very refined pair of knee high boot in white(?) with a broad square toe and high heels. so that's 16th and 17th century. most of the boots worn by officers, on both sides of the Am. Civil War were made with broad square toes.

As far as "making a statement" is concerned all clothing is costume, and all costume is intended to "make a statement." When you choose a blue shirt tommorow morning, you are making a statement... even if it's only "I don't give a damn what I look like."

 


Interestingly, the pointed cowboy/riding boots did not become common or big fashion until the automobile became more prevalent (and also about the time that movie star cowboys started wearing them.

Before the late 1910s or so, most riding/cowboy boots were broad or almost squared toed. 

Funny how all that time people were relying on horses for transportation they were having trouble finding stirrups. 

Jun 20, 2022 - 10:38:29 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15714 posts since 8/30/2006

Yes, J-hook, but do you actually make boots?

Jun 20, 2022 - 10:45:41 AM
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7003 posts since 9/21/2007

Notice the cut showing the sole shape on page 18 of this catalog of boots and shoes from 1883.

archive.org/details/bootsandsh.../mode/1up

This shape of flat and broad toe was the common style of riding boot before the movie cowboy.

Jun 20, 2022 - 10:46:02 AM
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DWFII

USA

435 posts since 1/9/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

That "pointy toe stirrup" thing gets said and written a lot. Question, has anyone ever had trouble "finding the stirrup" with non pointed boots?

How about English style riders? They seem to manage just fine.

American Civil War cavalry? Could they find the stirrups? Cowboys in the 1880s must have always been falling off of their horses as they could not find those stirrups.

I believe that reason for pointy toes is a bunch of horse... Nah, it was just a fashion thing that came about in the 1910s and perpetuated with the movie cowboy.


Well, believe what you want. But the American cowboy works differently than English Dragoons or even the cavalry in the Civil War (which, parenthetically probably predates the example we have from Eastern Europe and the German/East European settlements in Texas. 

The American cowboy seldom had a reliably broken or docile remuda. Even today cowboys in Eastern Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada, expect a 'blow-up' when a horse is saddled first thing in the morning.

You swing that leg up over the saddle and try to slip your foot into the stirrup while the horse is trying to throw you off.  You've got no time to look. Saddles are made so that the stirrup is held perpendicular to the 'hang' of the stirrup leathers and the flanks of the horse. Laced into a position that is 'unnatural' to the leather pieces.  Even stirrups evolved to be easy to get into and get out of. Oxbow stirrups (little more than a ring of metal)  are preferred by contemporary working cowboys (in the High Desert. at least) over the 'citified' broad stirrups or the English style stirrup with the little platform that you can stand on.

Like I said, believe what you want but I've been immersed in this culture for over 50 years and first hand experience is usually better than no experience.

Jun 20, 2022 - 10:52:25 AM

7003 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by DWFII
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

That "pointy toe stirrup" thing gets said and written a lot. Question, has anyone ever had trouble "finding the stirrup" with non pointed boots?

How about English style riders? They seem to manage just fine.

American Civil War cavalry? Could they find the stirrups? Cowboys in the 1880s must have always been falling off of their horses as they could not find those stirrups.

I believe that reason for pointy toes is a bunch of horse... Nah, it was just a fashion thing that came about in the 1910s and perpetuated with the movie cowboy.


Well, believe what you want. But the American cowboy works differently than English Dragoons or even the cavalry in the Civil War (which, parenthetically probably predates the example we have from Eastern Europe and the German/East European settlements in Texas. 

The American cowboy seldom had a reliably broken or docile remuda. Even today cowboys in Eastern Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada, expect a 'blow-up' when a horse is saddled first thing in the morning.

You swing that leg up over the saddle and try to slip your foot into the stirrup while the horse is trying to throw you off.  You've got no time to look. Saddles are made so that the stirrup is held perpendicular to the 'hang' of the stirrup leathers and the flanks of the horse. Laced into a position that is 'unnatural' to the leather pieces.  Even stirrups evolved to be easy to get into and get out of. Oxbow stirrups (little more than a ring of metal)  are preferred by contemporary working cowboys (in the High Desert. at least) over the 'citified' broad stirrups or the English style stirrup with the little platform that you can stand on.

Like I said, believe what you want but I've been immersed in this culture for over 50 years and first hand experience is usually better than no experience.

 


I believe you, but still, I am curious why cowboy and riding boots in America were more or less squared toed until the movie cowboys made the pointed toe popular?

There is a pretty clear chronological order of fashion, and pointy boots for riding is a post 1900 thing, at least in North America. 

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Jun 20, 2022 - 10:53:26 AM
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DWFII

USA

435 posts since 1/9/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Notice the cut showing the sole shape on page 18 of this catalog of boots and shoes from 1883.

archive.org/details/bootsandsh.../mode/1up

This shape of flat and broad toe was the common style of riding boot before the movie cowboy.


Not everyone who wore boots in the 19th century was a horseman. And as I mentioned, most of the boots on both sides of the Civil War had broad square toes.

And FWIW...it's worth noticing where the C.M. Henderson catalog originated--Chicago! That's like buying hot sauce from New York City!!

It's also worth noting that whenever and wherever any tool evolves. it's always gonna be 'in situ'--where the need for a necessary modification manifests itself. Not 1000 miles away and in a completely alien (to the people of a particular culture) environment. 

Jun 20, 2022 - 11:01:25 AM
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7003 posts since 9/21/2007

Jun 20, 2022 - 11:02:23 AM

DWFII

USA

435 posts since 1/9/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by DWFII
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

That "pointy toe stirrup" thing gets said and written a lot. Question, has anyone ever had trouble "finding the stirrup" with non pointed boots?

How about English style riders? They seem to manage just fine.

American Civil War cavalry? Could they find the stirrups? Cowboys in the 1880s must have always been falling off of their horses as they could not find those stirrups.

I believe that reason for pointy toes is a bunch of horse... Nah, it was just a fashion thing that came about in the 1910s and perpetuated with the movie cowboy.


Well, believe what you want. But the American cowboy works differently than English Dragoons or even the cavalry in the Civil War (which, parenthetically probably predates the example we have from Eastern Europe and the German/East European settlements in Texas. 

The American cowboy seldom had a reliably broken or docile remuda. Even today cowboys in Eastern Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada, expect a 'blow-up' when a horse is saddled first thing in the morning.

You swing that leg up over the saddle and try to slip your foot into the stirrup while the horse is trying to throw you off.  You've got no time to look. Saddles are made so that the stirrup is held perpendicular to the 'hang' of the stirrup leathers and the flanks of the horse. Laced into a position that is 'unnatural' to the leather pieces.  Even stirrups evolved to be easy to get into and get out of. Oxbow stirrups (little more than a ring of metal)  are preferred by contemporary working cowboys (in the High Desert. at least) over the 'citified' broad stirrups or the English style stirrup with the little platform that you can stand on.

Like I said, believe what you want but I've been immersed in this culture for over 50 years and first hand experience is usually better than no experience.

 


I believe you, but still, I am curious why cowboy and riding boots in America were more or less squared toed until the movie cowboys made the pointed toe popular?

There is a pretty clear chronological order of fashion, and pointy boots for riding is a post 1900 thing, at least in North America. 

 

 


Well, that's when it entered into popular culture. I don't deny that. I think, however, that the history (as much a 'science' as chemistry) shows  that a lot of things we take granted as true  or that we see in films or read in novels or other forms of popular media and often not true. Even 180 degrees from truth.

I am reminded of Braveheart...history shows (proves, as far as that is possible) that kilts as we know them (not even the  feileadh mòr  which is just a big, blanket-like piece of cloth)  didn't exist until the late 16th century. Boots and shoes didn't have heels as we know them until the same time frame. Vikings didn't have horns on their helmets and Jack Aubrey would not have worn boots on-board the Surprise.

Jun 20, 2022 - 11:07:39 AM
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7003 posts since 9/21/2007

Jun 20, 2022 - 11:12:01 AM
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7003 posts since 9/21/2007

Jun 20, 2022 - 11:19:18 AM

DWFII

USA

435 posts since 1/9/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

I've seen all those photos. With all due respect you're not reading what I wrote. You have an idea in your head and you're trying to prove it. But I'm not disputing that (didn't I say that before?).

I've seen photos of late 19th and early 20th century, working cowboys...at work, not in a studio...wearing low e cut shoes of the exact same style as the enlisted men wore in the Civil War. Not boots.

In the Civil War, officers (not enlisted men)  on both sides, especially cavalry officers, wore broad toed boots. The US military had hundreds of thousands of surplus boots at the end of the War. many were issued to officers and enlisted men being sent to frontier posts and forts. ( Seem Sydney Brinkerhof--Boots and Shoes of the Frontier Soldier

So many of those boots came west. And the style of footwear (including toe shapes) remained in fashion for a goodly amount of time.

I am not sure that narrow square toes were known prior to the late 19th or early 20th century. But I am near-as-nevermind sure that they didn't evolve on some Hollywood lot nor in Chicago Illinois... or New Hampshire. And I have evidence from museum photos that narrow square toes predate Hollywood (and if my rudimentary German is accurate--19Jahrhundert)-- the turn of the 20th century).

So...I.v told you (and the OP)  what I know from the heart of the subject--both historically and geographically. Believe what you want.

Edited by - DWFII on 06/20/2022 11:45:22

Jun 20, 2022 - 11:21:47 AM
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7003 posts since 9/21/2007

Jun 20, 2022 - 11:27:30 AM

1666 posts since 10/12/2011

I used to work at a western retail store many moons ago and often heard the pointed boot stirrup story. I've worn cowboy boots since I was 4, and I'm 47. All my boots were a rounded toe, back in the late 80's- 90's boots got pointy, and walking heels. More of a fashion thing in my eyes. But from my training in boots they were mostly a U toe or square toe back in the actual 1880's . Today I wear a U toe horsemen boots which offers plenty of toe room and can take away from the length.

I'll speak for myself but when I see a square toe book I think of the old biker boots. If you want a good comfortable boot that's not a square toe go with an U toe. And many come in EE, and some up to EEEE wide. I really like Ariat boots and have had good luck with them.

Jun 20, 2022 - 11:30:40 AM

7003 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by DWFII
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

I've seen all those photos. With all due respect you're not reading what I wrote. You have an idea in your head and you're trying to prove it. But I'm not disputing that (didn't I say that before?).

In the Civil War, officers on both sides, especially cavalry officers wore broad toed boots. the US military had hundreds of thousands of surplus boots at the end of the War. many were issued to officers and enlisted men being sent to frontier posts and forts. ( Seem Sydney Brinkerhof--Boots and Shoes of the Frontier Soldier

So many of those boots came west. And the style of footwear (including toe shapes) remained in fashion for a goodly amount of time. I am not sure that narrow square toes were known prior to the late 19th or early 20th century. But I am near-as-nevermind sure that they didn't evolve on some Hollywood lot nor in Chicago Illinois... or New Hampshire. And I have evidence from museum photos that narrow square toes predate Hollywood (and if my rudimentary German is accurate--19Jahrhundert-- the turn of the 20th century).

So...I told you what I know from the heart of the subject, both historically and geographically. Believe what you want.


 

I'm not trying to disprove you.  My point is that it seems strange that for all the time that horses were a big part of travel, square toed riding boots were popular. 

Pointed toe shoes were also popular, particularly in the 1890s with the "opera toe" which came to a point like a needle. 

I'm not trying to disprove you.  It just seems strange is all.  If there was a strong advantage to pointed boots one might think it would have caught on earlier during the height of the cowboy era.

BTW, don't let my current state of residence fool you about where I am from. 

Jun 20, 2022 - 12:42:06 PM
Players Union Member

rinemb

USA

14737 posts since 5/24/2005

Iquote:
Originally posted by Banjonewguy

These are worn to make a statement.


surprise

Jun 20, 2022 - 12:51:48 PM
Players Union Member

rinemb

USA

14737 posts since 5/24/2005

And what about the curved sole right in front of the heel? Round stirrups?

Jun 20, 2022 - 1:21:38 PM
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DWFII

USA

435 posts since 1/9/2022

I'm 76 years old. I spent my teenage years wearing boots with needle toes (we called them cockroach killers) When i came Back from SE Asia, i spent some time in Colorado up in th emountain country on the edge of the palins.One day I saw an old guy walking down the street He was not too spiff...making not attempt to look particularly Sunday-go-to- meeting. He had on a pair of jeans with the cuff rolled up about 2 inches and a pair of well worn, but not abuse boots that had a high heel and a square toe.

To my eye it looked true and authentic and...good.

When I trained with the guy who taught me (Mike Ives of Billings Montana), that was the toe I wanted to learn.

In the fifty years that I've been making boots for real authentic working cowboys of the Great Basin, I've never been called on to make a wide square toe. I've made that wide box toe, as well as 'coffin' toes and wide round toes for ranchers (them as manage but don't wrangle or go out with the wagon) but never for the guy riding and roping. And FWIW, although the extremely wide toe (mostly square) is back in fashion (has been for about a decade) I see more running shoes on the real cowboys than the wide toes boot. Might be a geographical thing. 

One of my dearest friends in the Trade is one of the the foremost shoe historians in the world. He was mentored by June Swann  of the Northampton Museum, in England. I've seen the shoes and the boots and own most of the important books on making and more than a few Museum Collection catalogs.

Here's the boot from the Deutsches Schumuseum of a boot circa late 19th century made in the Balkans. narrow square toe, ornamental stitching, high heel:

(on the right)

And an advertisement from the W. Higgins Leather catalog circa 1900 or before. Same narrow square toe that was once called the "snip toe" and is known among makers as the 'half box' toe.

(on the left)




Jun 20, 2022 - 1:44:18 PM
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Helix

USA

15714 posts since 8/30/2006

DWFII Hang in there, he does this every full moon

Anyone, ever have custom made to fit 

Brad

 

sure , I would have custom boots when I could

DWFII sounds more rational about the subject

Edited by - Helix on 06/20/2022 13:50:42

Jun 20, 2022 - 2:12:18 PM

Brian T

Canada

19327 posts since 6/5/2008

Half a century ago, I had the Austin Boot Company make 3 pairs of stove pipes for me, green, brown and black, white stitching. Walking heels. Small square toes. They were no more than trendy footwear in that day and time. Much to my surprise, they were that most comfortable boots I ever owned.

Jun 20, 2022 - 4:04:27 PM
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DWFII

USA

435 posts since 1/9/2022

Re: custom boots...the foot is one of the most architecturally complex structures in nature.

Few people ever get a precise fit for several reasons: First, the factories have eliminated most of the common sizes of potential fit. Shoes and boots are made on 'lasts' that represent a gamut of sizes from 3 (in adult sizes)  to 14 and AA to EEE . And actually more than that--those are just the sizes that a century ago most commercial makers were expected to offer. Nowadays, sizes (lengths)  6 or 7 to 12 is pretty much the standard and only widths  D and E are offered. Nothing for the EE forepart and B width heel.

That's a very common set-up for factories. 

Most people have never been fit properly because very, very few salesmen really know how to fit a foot. They may measure the length from heel to toe. But many people have long toes or short toes or some variation. The correct parameter for determining proper fit is to measure from the back of the heel to the ball of the foot. Any other approach is simply wrong. Smoke and mirrors--you cannot put a size 9E foot into a 10C shoe and call it a fit. But that's the pitch.

Another reason people don't get a proper fit is along the lines of "the man who decides to be his own lawyer has a fool for a client." Most people just try shoes on until they find something that feels good relative to all the others they've been trying on, or the foot (and the brain)  gets so numb, they just settle for what's easy or looks good to our 'magpie eyes'.

And when we are young our feet adapt to anomalies in fit fairly quickly. Of course, even if your feet don't hurt, a bad fit can cause structural problems over the long term that can last a lifetime.

That said, bespoke shoes/boots aren't a guarantee of a good fit either. Not all bootmakers are fitters and vice versa. The nuances of fitting have, more or less,  been lost to time. We like eye candy  and put practicalities second. And the factories --the factory mentality that we all buy into at some level--encourages, pushes even,  that attitude. You have to do your research, your due diligence just to find  a maker that will take the time to really consider the foot in detail.

But if you get a good fit from a bespoke maker, chances are they'll be the most comfortable footwear you'll ever own. And given proper maintenance, the longest lived as well.

Edited by - DWFII on 06/20/2022 16:16:26

Jun 20, 2022 - 4:51:35 PM

204 posts since 3/25/2016

Wow, Joel.  Quite the show!

A lifelong horseman, I was an outfitter for some years with thousands of miles horseback.  Your notion of "equine transport = square toes" demands quiet horses.  Many cowboy strings, however, typically are NOT so amenable, and a smooth offside toe entry can be very important.  Such horses may have no comparison to "civilian" horses or even to military mounts.  Most real riders can identify a poseur at a glance by stirrups which are not twisted to hang perpendicular to the horse for easy entry (the technique is not complicated), as well as to limit twisting knee strain.  I wore custom boots for many years and can attest that they can make a huge difference.  I never had any Frommers, but I can say for a FACT that his work was VERY highly regarded.

You might learn more listening to expert contributions than by chasing around the 'Net via Google, just as many of us can learn from your commentaries on those topics in which YOU are expert.

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