The evolution of the cowboy boot dates back to the time of the America Civil War. In fact, many boots from the 1860’s are indistinguishable from those issued to the military. These boots were plain and utilitarian with low heels and squared-off toes. In early boots, it is impossible to determine the left foot boot from the right.
As time went by the cowboy boot became more and more distinctive. Because of their constant use on horseback, a reinforced arch and higher, under-sloped heel evolved. This style of heel and the pointed toe not only made it easier to enter the stirrup and keep the foot securely in place, but also prevented the cowboy from getting hung up in the stirrup and possibly dragged after being thrown from a bucking horse. Thin leather soles enabled a surer fit in the stirrup.
Later, boots became more decorative with fancy stitching and long pulls known as “mule ears,” Early mule ears were long, overhanging pieces of leather and are quite rare. .Later, pulls were made of woven fabric and did not overhang the outside of the boot.
The height of a man’s boot was usually determined by the type of topography he rode, but they were generally about 17” tall. Higher boots provided more protection. After the turn of the century, boots became more decorative with V-shaped tops, more elaborate and sometimes multi-colored leather and fancy stitching, and various heights. The side stitching on a boot is not purely decorative since it gives greater stability to the uppers and prevents wrinkling at the ankles. Beginning in the 1920’s bookmakers made use of various colored leather pieces by stitching them together to form designs which were often quite elaborate and beautiful.