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The quickest way to spot a tourist or transplant to Texas? In the capital city of Austin at least, you can find one hobbling down South Congress Avenue (or cooling their heels if they’ve had enough pain) in a brand new pair of cowboy boots. And who can blame them?
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The allure of the Wild West is enduring, something that continues to influence everything from literature to fashion. What began as a utilitarian necessity for anyone getting around by horse, the earliest cowboy boots took inspiration from the footwear worn by Spanish vaqueros in the 17th century. The boot’s tall shaft protected the calf, while its angled heels prevented slippage in the stirrups. Later evolutions include the roper style, which features a shorter, flat heel for quick dismounts and was spurred by the popular rodeo event. Decorative stitching was primarily functional in order to hold the boot’s shape, though these days it’s more of an opportunity for designers to add a creative flourish.
Regrettably, many of the best known brands have suffered a reduction in quality as production has been outsourced. Still, there are a handful of highly skilled custom bootmakers such as Lisa Sorrell in Guthrie, Oklahoma, who can make your cowboy dreams come true while commanding as much as $10,000 (that’s the starting price). But if you’re looking to buy something now, these are the best cowboy boots around.
The recipe for the best cowboy boots? A blend of form, function, and adherence to tradition—but with some room for artistic license. Some of the names may surprise you, but these picks demonstrate that there are truly all kinds of styles. Whether you’re a city slicker looking to channel J.R. Ewing or are fresh off a Yellowstone binge and wanting to summon your inner John Dutton, there’s a roper, dress boot, or even a western-influenced Chelsea boot to suit your taste.
Just don’t forget rule numero uno: Break them in before you head out two-stepping—your feet will thank you in the morning. Happy trails.
The name that needs little introduction, the El Paso–based bootmaker founded by Italian immigrant Salvatore “Sam” Lucchese has been outfitting legends from John Wayne to LBJ since 1883. While the company does offer custom options, the off-the-shelf styles are among the finest you’ll find on the market. Case in point: This sleek black dress boot featuring crocodile overlays and inlays. This is the one you’ll reach for when you snag that invite to the Cattle Baron’s Ball (and don a Texas Tuxedo).
Let’s face it, few celebrate western fashions quite as stylishly as New York-born cowboy at heart Ralph Lauren. The designer’s RRL line (also the name of his Colorado ranch) is rooted in frontier nostalgia. But even Lauren leaves the bootmaking to experts, relying on a 160-year-old Texas workshop to craft these rugged ropers with an added rubber outsole for comfort and grip in and out of the saddle.
Founded in Austin in 2015, it’s no surprise that Tecovas emerged right around the time Silicon Valley workers began immigrating seemingly en masse to Texas. Its founder, a former management consultant, eliminated retail markups and chose to focus on classic designs (see the bestselling Cartwright) and manufacturing in Leon, Mexico. Now with over $200 million in annual sales, Tecovas’s investors include Warby Parker cofounder Andy Hunt.
Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, at least as far as these boots are concerned. Saint Laurent has been toying with the cowboy aesthetic for a bit, more frequently with a Cuban heeled cowboy-Chelsea hybrid (think Lenny Kravitz). The Wyatt (find me a better cowboy name) marries a western crown with a moto-inspired harness for an unexpected twist.
Think cowboy culture is limited to the American West? Think again. Since 1932, the Adelaide-based bootmaker has been outfitting Outback cowboys, cattle ranchers, and countless celebrities. A perfect blend between a dress boot and riding boot, this yearling leather number is one of the brand’s original styles (they’re best known for Chelsea boots) and is still manufactured in South Australia.
Oui, you heard right. The Los Angeles (by way of Paris) brand founded by Henri Alexander Levy is known for its celebrity fan base and artist collaborations. But even the provocative purveyor of $800 T-shirts isn’t immune to the cowboy myth. Levy’s version is another Chelsea-cowboy mash-up and features a sharp snipped toe and contrasting suede panels.
“Damn Comfortable Cowboy Boots” is the slogan for Chisos Boot Company, named after the mountain range near Big Bend National Park. When founder and native Texan Will Roman set out to build a better cowboy boot with a focus on comfort (styles run the gamut from ropers to exotic dress boots), he headed to Mexico to learn the craft and still works exclusively with the same Guanajuato-based family factory. The self-funded company, founded in 2019, also prioritizes sustainable practices and donates a portion of sales to conservation organizations such as the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation.
Atlanta-based Mashburn honed his skills as a senior design director at Polo Ralph Lauren (the RRL line was launched during his tenure) before starting his own burgeoning clothing empire. Having long been celebrated as a style oracle in the menswear space, Mashburn places a premium on sourcing the best materials and manufacturers for his namesake line. That said, it should come as no surprise that these easy-to-wear (and weather-friendly) boots, which land about halfway between a classic cowboy and a chelsea boot, are pretty darn perfect.
Handmade in Houston, Republic was founded in 2011 by entrepreneur Chris Conrad who was called to save what he viewed as a dying art. The company offers custom options (starting at $1,800) as well as the 1836 Collection of stock boots. By cutting out middle-men, Republic clocks in at about half the price of many of its competitors and the Milam style (inspired by Texas revolutionary Ben Milam) is about as classic as it gets with just a touch of flair courtesy of a dragon-corded upper.
Don’t be fooled by the brand’s more adventurous styles, founders and sisters Lizzie Means Duplantis and Sarah Means were practically born in boots, having grown up outside Marfa on one of the Lone Star State’s most storied ranches. After stints in New York City, the women identified a hole in the market for authentic cowboy boots made for a more contemporary fashion customer. Fortunately, their uncle just happened to own Rios of Mercedes, which was founded in Leon, Mexico in 1853 and originally specialized in making cavalry boots.
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