Nov 24, 2011

REVIEW | Cowboy Boots The Art & Sole, Jennifer June, Universe Publishing, 2007

Cowboy Boots Art & Sole, Jennifer June, Universe Publishing, 2007
Being born in Texas and also being of Hispanic heritage, boots have always been a very common accessory in the daily wardrobe in my family and people around me. Personally I have never owned a pair or have been interested in them, but nevertheless I have learned through this book that owning boots is just a way of living for some people. Jennifer June the writer of this book is a boot-maker herself and historian and has brought to my attention of how boots can change the way a person can feel just by wearing them or even just owning a pair, they give a sense of  pride. Cowboy boots are both function and art that are all around America so why not give them credit. The book is filled with amazing colorful photographs that illustrate the fine craft and art of boot-making. When you open the book right away on the right side note she gives us a test we should try that reads:
Stare at a cowboy boot. If you are swayed by its realism and its stitches’ twists and turns, the boot may well be the product of unparalleled craftsmanship. If, however, you look at a boot and find it impossible to concentrate-your mind hopelessly wanders to memories of a road trip, a lover who broke your heart, or a personal dream left unfulfilled-then the boot before you is most likely a work of art. Either way, it needs to tell a good story. 
That little paragraph made me buy this book and read more just because I found it very interesting how boots are viewed from someone elses' perspective. She starts off with an introduction that consists of various questions that say something like why do people love cowboy boots?, and answers that specific question with “ Because when you put them on, you can do anything you want to... all by yourself.” June gives a brief history about the boot that covers just about everything you need to know, starting with how the boot is made and what materials are needed to build a custom made pair. Did you know that there are 372 steps to building a cowboy boot? It consists of measuring, last-making, pattern-making, cutting, and assembling pieces, lasting, in-seaming, bottoming, and finishing. It is said that you can identify some of these steps when you hold a boot in your hand.
She talks about each structural element of a cowboy boot that includes the boot-heel, shank, toe-box, shaft, and also discusses how they are both functional and stylistic. As a boot-maker herself, she describes the steps of cowboy boot, and covers the full range of embellishment techniques, from inlay/overlay to leather tooling, painting and dyeing, stud and stonework, conchos and toe-caps, mule ears, and ornamental stitching. Best of all she talks about the boot imagery and what they symbolize such as roses, eagles, skulls, among many others.

60's Cowgirl, Liberty Boot Company

Flowers were among the first inlays stitched on a boot top, one of the most popular Nocona boots has a simple star-shaped posy which has been reproduced by boot-makers over and over. Many flowers tend to be very simple and basic in design, linked leaf shapes, floating petals, stems and leaves are drawn with erratic stitches. Flowers can represent transience of earthly existence as well as the promise of eternal life.
Red Roses, Corral

 Roses have been important artistic symbols for hundreds of years and they look beautiful on a cowboy boot. A yellow rose on a cowboy boot has taken on the broader symbolism of home. By using roses in various stages of bloom, a boot-maker can create an artistic design and a subtle allegory of an individual life. Roses in full bloom can imply beauty, luxury, or even sexuality, depending on their owner. Sometime when roses are strewn at one's feet often symbolize a short life. 

Vintage Butterfly, Liberty Boot Company
Butterflies invoke the feeling of wide-open spaces and freedom of movement, they are also symbols of personal transformation, of metamorphosis. Cowboy boots featuring butterflies have been around since the 1920's, appearing first on custom boots, then on factory boots such as Acme and Texas Boots. 

Love Birds, Rocketbuster

Birds symbolize freedom of movement, speed and grace. Birds on boots are virtually always shown in flight. Birds mock our fence-posts and barbed wire, for they are not restricted by boundaries or borders. A blue bird symbolize optimism in the man that wears them. 
These are only a few examples she mentions in the book and there are many more, from venomous critters to having your initials stitched on the boot and of course what it all means. Towards the end the book contains an extensive glossary of boot-making terms, suggestions for finding antique and vintage boots, and museums that feature cowboy boot collections. Who knew that just like an artist exhibiting their work in a museum, ordinary people can show off their own artwork through a boot! In my opinion this can definitely be considered as contemporary art especially since anybody can make their own custom designs and call it their own. This book is great for anybody who is interested in buying their first pair of boots, I know I will use it in the future. 

-Clara Moreno


  1. I enjoyed your blog post. I myself am a boot connoisseur, and loved reading about how artists design their boots. I might have to pick up this book and read it myself. I think that designing anything yourself would be considered art, if you are expressing yourself.

    Great blog.

    -Jennifer Perry

  2. Nice blog! I have been wearing boots my whole life and I love boots especially the more decorative ones! Boot making is a very cool art. Thanks for posting this!

    -Hannah Klaus

  3. Wow, this is a type of art I never would of thought of. I love finding new mediums that artists are using, but I never would have thought to look to cowboy boots. They are really stunning, and what a unique idea. Thanks for sharing!

    -Sarah Shackelford

  4. Clara,

    I think you should look into your first pair of boots sometime in the near future. I was put into cowboy boots(little bitty ones)as soon as I could walk. Did you know that the average price for most handmade boots can be anywhere from $1500 to $3000? There is a lot of work and creativity put into boot making. Boots tell many stories and show a persons character, so I think it's time you start your story with your first pair.

    -Devin Glenn

  5. Clara, I’d never thought of boots as an art form before reading your post. I’ve seen boots used as decoration: from my best friend’s Dad’s Aggie boots proudly displayed in their kitchen with their deep burgundy leather polished to a rich warm glow. The quote you chose from the author reminds me how much there is to admire in a great pair of boots. Like you I’m a native of central Texas where boots are a way of life. We need to remember not to overlook the artistry of the everyday. Boots can be beautiful – seeing the boots you chose to illustrate your post reminded me of shopping for my first pair of grown-up boots at Allen’s on South Congress Avenue in Austin. I was immersed once again in that moment – it all came back: the wonderful smell; the designs from simple to elaborate; the wide array of colors from buff to black; the feel of the leather in your hands and on your feet. I’d like to go back there now and look at the iconography again knowing what you shared about roses, butterflies, and bluebirds in flight.

    -Victoria Eastman

  6. I was very close to choosing this topic for my book review blog because boots are something that I love. I'm so glad that someone did this topic and that you did it very well! You chose beautiful images and described the meaning of them wonderfully. I thoroughly enjoyed this blog and all its southern glory!

    -Lucretia Long

  7. Devin and Victoria, I am actually now on a hunt for my first pair of boots. I'm ready to start creating my own story with a pair of these bad boys. I am very happy I found this book because it got me thinking about where I come from and show me how its almost essential for me to get a pair, and the best part of all show off my artwork.

    -Clara Moreno

  8. As a true born Texan I must say thank you!! I love my boots and anytime someone walks by in boots, which is alot, I always try to look to see what design they have. I have never seen two people with the same boots, which you think would be amazing but I believe after reading this book you understand why its not a hard thing to be true. Every time I put my boots on I remember all the memories they hold. By the way Cavenders has some pretty good deals and have some beautiful boots, hope you get your first pair soon.

    -Miriah Borden