Western boots have come a long way from performance footwear for horse riders to a fashion statement. They were big on the 70s catwalk, adored by fashionable men in the mid-2000s, and made an astounding comeback in the early 2010s. And what do we see today? Cowboy boots are on-trend again! Though generally a cyclical trend, western boots are subject to significant fashion changes that influence what styles of western boots are popular, what decorations fit, and the different ways of wearing boots.
Before we get to the 2022 cowboy boot trends, let us introduce you to different styles and basic characteristics. Skip the first part if you already know everything about western footwear.
Western Boot Key Parts
The cowboys and ranchers didn’t have appropriate footwear for their tasks until the 1870s. It’s believed that one resourceful cowboy stopped at a Kansas or Texas shoemaker and asked to craft boots with the following features:
Cuban Heel. The Cuban heel is just a fancy way of saying high heel. If a boot doesn’t feature one, it’s not really a cowboy boot. A tall heel aided in holding the foot in the stirrup and preventing it from sliding out. However, during the golden age of Western movies, an ocean of different boots, including those with shallow heels, appeared. So today, the heel height ranging from 0.5″ to 2″ is the most common. Short-heeled boots are the most comfortable for walking.
Rounded-to-Pointed Toe. Western boots took inspiration from various footwear of the 19th century, but Mexican vaquero boots and military boots of the Civil War cavalry riders had the most influence. Both footwear were designed with horse riding requirements in mind and, thus, had a somewhat pointed toe that allowed boots to slide in stirrups faster and easier. There’s some debate about whether rounded or pointed is the classic shape. However, modern men’s and women’s cowboy boots can have any toe shape, including snip, square, and broad-square toe.
High Shaft. Originally strictly functional footwear, cowboy boots featured a tall, at least mid-calf, shaft that protected the feet from thorny bushes and snake strikes. As cowboy boots drifted into the fashion world, ankle western boots and buckaroos appeared.
Pull-on Design. The true cowboy and cowgirl boots are designed to be pulled on and off, so they don’t feature laces or zippers. There was a practical reason for this. In case of a fall with the boot stuck in the stirrup, the rider could pull the foot out.
Vaquero culture had a huge influence on western clothing and footwear. It also manifested in lush decoration in western shirts, pants, and, most importantly, boots. That’s why a minimalistic classical cowboy boot is a rare thing. Modern western fashion lovers are offered various designs with contrast-colored piping, braiding, fringing, artistic embroidery, bright dying, tooling, etc.
Cowboy Boot Styles
Classic Western Boots
The design of classic cowboy boots is the closest to the original western boot design. They feature a shaft 11-12 inches high, a moderately pointed toe, and a high-angled heel between 1-1.5 inches tall, and come in various stitchings and leathers.
Ropers emerged in rodeos because cowboys needed multipurpose footwear that would still securely lock the feet in the stirrups but also provide comfort to rodeo cowboys chasing cattle on foot. For this reason, ropers feature a shorter square heel, usually between 0.5-1 inches, a round toe, and a lower shaft.
Their distinguishing feature is an elongated shaft, usually past 14 inches long. Buckaroos are inherently flamboyant and are elaborately decorated to draw attention.
Exotic Cowboy Boots
Their exoticism consists in the material they are made with: caiman, ostrich, bison, snakeskin, calf, stingray, lizard, sturgeon, elephant, and other exotic animals.
Ankle Western Boots
Short cowboy boots and cowgirl booties featuring a shaft resting just above the ankle are more fashion-forward footwear for warmer weather.
Western-Inspired Fashion Cowgirl Boots
Twisted X and Corral boots, for example, have plenty of decorations, but they still fall into one of the mentioned more-or-less traditional styles. On the other hand, Western-inspired fashion boots can play with different styles and elements, mixing western-style shaft decoration with a high stiletto heel or a high-angled heel with a minimalistic glazed over-the-knee top. Fashion cowboy boots for women have no pattern and are meant to break the rules.
Cowboy Boot Trends for 2022
1. By 2022, all fashion rules have already been broken, and, essentially, you can wear whatever cowboy boots you like however you like. It’s true for both women and men.
2. If a high fashion style is not what you’re interested in, you need classic cowboy outfit garments: a denim or plaid shirt, straight-leg or flared rodeo-ready jeans and a suede jacket is great for men. For women, a prairie dress in some floral pattern or solid color, fringe jacket, denim midi skirt, western belt with eye-catching buckle, and a cowboy hat make a fitting look. These will be great for styling your rounded or square-toe cowboy boots.
3. You can also go with western-inspired fashion, mixing and matching bright colors, textures, and garments from different styles. Cowboy boots will match a blazer worn over a hoodie and relaxed-fit jeans for men. For women, a crochet-style dress, a puff-sleeve blouse in bright pink or green, a monochrome Matrix-style outfit, and even more. Let all your creativity and unconventionality out.
4. And don’t forget that Y2K fashion is back. Cowgirl fashion lovers can wear tube tops with belly chains, monochrome mini/micro sets, and low-rise jeans with black or white cowboy boots from Sonora, Isabel Marant, Khaite Dallas, or Johanna Ortiz and look effortlessly chic. Now it’s also on-trend for men to style western boots with a baseball hat, a bomber jacket, slim or skinny jeans, and a neutral relaxed-fit shirt.
5. Since all pant-leg silhouettes are acceptable today, you can wear cowboy boots either over or under your trousers, depending on a particular fit. Tuck your skinny jeans, tapered cuts, and other slim-fit trousers, or leave your wide-leg pants to cover the boot. However, if you want to stand out, you can go with a baggier silhouette tucked into your boots. But, in this case, you should keep your shirt more fitted for a more balanced look.
Remember, women’s and men’s cowboy boots are a trend in themselves, regardless of their style, whether short booties or tall buckaroos. And since no rules are applied, go with any outfit you like. All different types of combinations are in, so don’t be shy to experiment.