Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be [fake] cowboys
Austin may not be a bastion of Texas cowboy stereotypes, but it doesn’t mean you can’t wear boots. Be it the wild types like western-swing legend Ray Benson or the ultra-conservatives like Governor Rick Perry, we in Austin love our boots. There are, however, some rules. Here, as simply as the AG can put them, are the generally safe moves when it comes to boots.
#1: When the AG—or anyone outside downtown Dallas—says boots, it means cowboy boots (western or roper). The little slip-on booties from Prada, etc. that they sell at Nordstroms? Those, gentlemen, are not boots.
#2: You’ve never roped cattle? You don’t wear a six-shooter at your day job? Don’t worry—you can still wear boots. Saying anything different would be like saying you can’t wear tennis shoes unless you’re running or flip-flops unless you’re on the beach.
#3: Color is important. Keep it laid back with the same colors you would select for your dress shoes—black, brown and cordovan (aka: black cherry).
#4: There are some really talented boot makers out there that work with exotic materials such as sting ray and eel (Heritage Boot comes to mind…), but it’s just overkill. The AG once even saw a pair made from snake skin where the snake’s head was still intact on the toe of the boot—fangs, eyes and all. Please, please don’t be that guy.
#5: You don’t have to buy pearl snaps and Wranglers to wear with your boots, but keep your belt in the same neighborhood as your boots. Rewards is the AG’s favorite place to get simple, high quality western belts in Austin.
#6: If you’re wearing boots with your suit (which should be western; see below), make sure you’ve got a tall enough shaft so that you can sit at a meeting or lunch without your pants getting stuck over the top of your boots. This pisses the AG off to no end. We don’t want to see your pale, I-have-no-social-life skin when your dress socks aren’t long enough, and the same goes for when your boots aren’t tall enough. The end.
And of course… Ropers vs. Western
Generally—and let’s use that term loosely—ropers have a shorter shaft and are less exotic that westerns. Ropers are most often going to be found in plain leathers, oftentimes with leather soles. These are the kind of boots the AG wears to hunt, for example. Wear ropers with jeans or khaki pants; anything casual. Great brands include Red Wing, Justin and Ariat.
Westerns, on the other hand, have much taller shafts and fit a little tighter. Typically hand-made with varying types of animal skin, these are the boots you’ll want to keep shined to show them off. The heel will be noticeably taller, too, unlike the low, level heel on a roper or work boot. Wear westerns with anything, really—jeans, slacks, suits—just so long as you’re dressed nice.
Bottom line? Don’t buy boots with flames or longhorns or any of that crap on the side or you’ll end up looking like the wrong kind of cowboy. Wear ropers casually, westerns more dressed up. Always shine your westerns, just like any other good leather shoe. AND DON’T TRY TO DRESS LIKE A COWBOY JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE WEARING BOOTS.
Put away your Stetson, throw on some ropers and jeans for casual Friday and start living life better.
*Austin-only tip: There are plenty of great boot makers that have come in and out of this town, but for a wide, high-quality selection of every type of boot—including custom work—go to Allen’s on South Congress. You’re welcome.