History of Boots Made in America

Let’s step back in time to the Wild West. Imagine gunshots ringing, dusty streets, and horses tied up outside the local bar. Zoom in on one man walking toward you: sweat-soaked shirt, battered hat, fatigued eyes, and…white sneakers? I bet you had an image of cracked leather cowboy boots, right?  Cowboys and their boots just go hand in hand.

Were boots first made in America?

Did we start the trend? Well, not exactly. Paintings found in Spain show a man and woman rocking pairs of boots. This dates back at least 14,000 years. And Spain wasn’t the only country to think about this fashionable accessory. Historians have found similar items and depictions in many countries. While the Spanish painters may have the oldest-known evidence, other cultures were right on their (low) heels.

Knee-high leather boots made for walking

Tall boots have cropped up repeatedly in fashion history. You may think of the 1960s style paired with a miniskirt. Those often reached the thighs. Consider Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Those movie posters would look different if she wore Converse with her skirt. Thigh-high boots appeared again on every model and Instagram star in 2009 and 2010. A few adventurous folks even bought this trend, thanks to those images.

Perhaps realizing that moving while your knees are encased in vinyl is impossible, the trend of boots settled into a comfort zone. The most common style for women hits the upper calf. Thank goodness! We can walk again.

This roller coaster of tall boots came from the mountains. We can thank the Chinese inhabitants who traveled on cold, rough terrain. They created this type of boot for that purpose. We are now getting closer to modern day attire, as this was a mere 4,000 years ago.

What type of footwear did King Tut prefer?

While the ancient Egyptians were known for their perfectly-applied kohl eyeliner, they usually walked on bare feet. Although they occasionally wore sandals, these lucky folks skipped the age-old dilemma of matching their shoes to their robes. Oddly, boots were found with the body of Khnumhotep from 1785 BCE. Maybe he died before convincing his friends to wear this hot new style.

Boots for soldiers, cowboys, and rainy days

Next to cowboys, soldiers may be the second image when you think about boots. They have long relied on sturdy footwear during battles. The Assyrian soldiers were doing so back in 900-600 B.C.E., and this continues today.

No article about boots would be complete without the Duke of Wellington from the 1800s. He had a tall leather shoe designed to fit over his trousers. I think he just hated having wet feet because these quickly became a rain boot. They were made in rubber and named “Wellingtons.”  Anytime your socks stay dry inside your boots on a soaking wet day, thank him.

Kansas brought us Kate Spade, tons of wheat, and the cowboy boot. Coffeyville, Kansas is recognized as the originator of this style. “Billy the Kid” wore this style in the 1870s, making him a trendsetter. Made in America never looked so dangerous.

Are there still boots made in America?

Our country is much younger than other countries, but we quickly caught up. The Frye Company is the oldest company to have made in America stamped on their footwear. They set up shop in 1863 and remain in business. Their first boot was crafted in 1888. Over the years, Frye created custom pieces for celebrities, such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Barbra Streisand. More importantly, Frye boots were a staple for troops in World War II and kept their feet protected while the soldiers kept us safe.

Today, boots have evolved into every shape, color, and design imaginable. Most are made from inexpensive materials and last a season or two. In fact, we throw away 70 pounds of clothing and shoes per person each year. What a waste! “Fast fashion” is clogging up the landfills at an alarming rate.

Many people now purchase quality clothing and shoes that will last. Instead of being new items every season, consider investing in well-made classics that will stay in your closet, not in the trash.

If you go for durable, handcrafted boots, think about choosing ones that are made right here in America. Oak Street Bootmakers, in Chicago, takes pride in their replaceable outsoles. This is rare. Imagine buying one classic design and keeping them for decades!

Loggers inspired Chippewa to create durable outdoor boots for everyone. This Wisconsin brand teams with big names, such as 3M Thinsulate and Horween Leather to craft their products. Sounds like an excellent choice for hikers!

Are you looking for a variety of designs and styles for both men and women? Well, a (virtual) trip to Texas is in order. Check out Lucchese Bootmaker. Not only are these made in America, but they also boast an impressive catalog of colors, shapes, and heights. And they have been in business since 1883 to boot!

Our journey took us from the frigid Himalayan Mountains to the sandy pyramids and back to the U.S.A. Boots have changed and adapted with each culture and the fashion trends. Look inside your favorites and think about where they were made. Did you buy them on a whim or to last?