Are cowboy boots really mandatory?

Cox NewspapersJune 25, 2014 

— I hope I’m wrong on this. I hope I’m wrong because this is going to upset some folks and it pains me to upset folks, especially when I’m wrong.

And I hope I’m wrong because I think I might want cowboy boots. But, and I could be wrong, I think cowboy boots might be underwear.

Hear me out. I’ve thought about this for a while but figured this would be a good time to mention it because I’m out of state right now, so don’t bother phoning in your outrage.

I’ve lived in Texas since 1975, starting in East Texas where cowboy boots are common (mandatory?). I’ve long liked cowboy boots but never bought any. I’ve been fascinated by cowboy boots since I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn and being a cowboy seemed exotic. (Living in East Texas also seemed exotic. Then I lived there.)

I’ve admired cowboy boots in cowboy stores – that is the right terminology, right? – but never had the courage or ready cash to buy any. Ditto for those fancy-decorated cowboy shirts.

Recently, I revisited the possibility of a boot purchase.

I’m ready to announce that I will not be doing so. I will not be doing so because my research shows that cowboy boots, for men, largely are underwear.

A male who buys cowboy boots faces three options: Pant legs tucked into the boots. Pant legs over the boots. One pant leg tucked into the boot and one pant leg over the boot – the unbalanced look favored by the unbalanced.

Let’s eliminate the final option as indefensible in a court of fashion. That leaves us with pant legs over the boots or pant legs tucked into the boots (or, I guess, cowboy boots and shorts, an option which, by law, is available only to females). Wearing the pant legs tucked into the boots makes a certain statement, one that I think many men would choose not to make, at least while they’re not punching doggies or whatever it is that cowboys do.

So we’re down to what my research shows to be the most common fashion option: pant legs over the boots. This means that some large percentage of the boots – including very fancy parts – never shows. We have a name for garmenture that doesn’t show. It is called “underwear.”

Defenders of cowboy boots tell me several things. First, they tell me to shut up and go back to Brooklyn. When I don’t do either of those, they tell me that cowboy boots are comfortable.

Underwear can be comfortable.

Then they tell me that the part of the boots that shows looks good. Yes, and that part is called “shoes.”

They also note that when you sit down and your pant legs ride up you can see part of the undercover portion of the boot. Fine. That’s called “socks.” In this case, it becomes high-dollar, hot-in-the-summer leather socks.

Gov. Rick Perry, a Texan, has had a change of heart about cowboy boots. Back in March, asked by ABC if his cowboy boots are gone for good, Perry said, “I wouldn’t say they were gone forever. I’ve found that my shoes are more comfortable. After I had the back surgery, the flatter is better for my back.”

Being a gentleman cowboy, Perry obviously held his tongue and didn’t accuse cowboy boots of being underwear.

Ken Herman is a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman. E-mail:

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