The Trendy Boot Everyone Should Be Adding To Their Closet In 2023

From the pasture to the runway, cowboy boots were made for walking — and they sure have come a long way! As far as rebrands go, the cowboy boot might have had one of the most dramatic transformations of any shoe in fashion, perhaps, aside from Crocs (see the real reason Crocs are back in style.) In fact, cowboy boots have become such a part of the current lexicon that stylists forecast the popular boot is here to stay (via Insider).

So how did we get here? Cowboy boots have indeed been on a long and deeply fascinating journey to the closets of TikTok fashion influencers everywhere. And countless "it-girl" celebrities have been seen in them: from Emily Ratajkowski and Dua Lipa (via Instagram) to Emma Chamberlain (via Heatworld) and more; there is just something special about the boots that make us want to put them on. Cowboy boots have substance and style and come in all different colors, patterns, and textures to be tailored just for you. No need to hold your horses: Keep reading to find out more about why cowboy boots are here to stay.

Cowboy boots then and now

First, a little history. According to fashion historian Sonya Abrego (via InsideHook), cowboy boots as we know them today were borrowed from Mexican vaqueros, cattle wranglers who expanded into the American west — thus, cowboy boots were integrated into American culture. Abrego also cites the popularity of rodeos as a contributing factor to the proliferation of the shoe. "Rodeo has a lot of pageantry and style," she said. And cowboy boots can definitely have personality. Readers might have seen the Comme des Garcon super long and pointed "Guarachero" cowboy boots walk the runway and think, why (via Grailed)? But the boots draw from a rural Mexican trend turned global high-fashion, per NPR

And the rarer the leather, the more expensive the boot. While cowhide boots are perhaps the most popular, a brand new pair of caiman leather boots could quickly cost you more than $1,000. For example, this pair from Texas-based bootmaker Lucchese is priced at $1,695. Considering the craftsmanship and made-to-last toughness of the boot, a pair of artisan cowboy boots might be worth the price. We recommend researching and buying from a shoemaker whose ethical practices you feel comfortable with.

But there are other ways to get jump into the world of cowboy boots, whether you're vegan, if artisan boots are cost-prohibitive, or if you're looking to make a slightly less conventional statement. We've broken down your options below. 

The anatomy of the cowboy boot

First, it is wise to know your cowboy boot anatomy before you go on the prowl for a pair (via Alvies). The most basic features of any cowboy boots are their front and back shafts, the heel, the toe, and the pull strap. Some cowboy boots also include some kind of embroidery or stitching. Specific styles of cowboy boots place varying emphasis on each of these features that differentiate one from another. Even still, all of the features of the cowboy boot are, at their core, tailored around the practicalities of riding a horse. For example, a tapered, more traditional Western heel keeps the boot locked into a stirrup (via Horse Racing Sense), while a flat heel can be more comfortable to work in. But for our intents and purposes, a cute heel is just as practical for a cute picture. 

Cowboy boots also feature a large variety of toe styles, from the traditional pointed and rounded, to the more modern square toe, R-toe, D-toe, J-toe, or U or W-toe, per Sierra. R-toe shoes are among the most common toe, which are rounded and arch slightly upward for a fashionable fit. D-toe shoes are pointy but feature no arch, while J-toe shoes are more pointy and feature an arch. And U or W-toe shoes are the roundest toe shape. 

Traditional Western boots

On the commercial market, traditional Western boots tend to be some of the most popular and therefore come with the most variety. According to Ariat, an American outdoor footwear company, traditional Western boots could be considered the true neutral of cowboy boots, made to be both durable and comfortable without sacrificing aesthetics. They typically feature a medium-height shaft, short heel, no taller than two inches, and a standard pointed or rounded toe. These suede, powder blue traditional Western boots from Tecovas are a perfect blend of modern fashion and classic shapes. Because the shoes are handmade in Mexico, the price tag skews a bit high. For a cheaper option, check out these traditional white leather cowboy boots from Steve Madden. While we think these shoes are best styled to show off with a skirt, shorts, or tucked into skinny jeans, they can also be worn under a long skirt or pants. 

Riding boots

When we think of riding boots, we think of Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, the horse girls of the high-fashion world (via L'Officiel). Like a traditional Western boot, riding boots are characterized by a similarly tapered heel, pointed and rounded toe, and a higher shaft that stops below the knee. While these classic black leather riding boots from Sam Edelman (via Zappos) might be more of the fashion adaptation of an actual riding boot, we love them all the same. And these equally chic black leather boots from Frye feature a slightly shinier finish for more of a nighttime look. We recommend tucking these boots into your favorite pair of jeans to show them off. 

Short Western boots

Like the name suggests, traditional Western cowboy boots are also made with a shorter shaft, bootie style, for those who might be looking for a more understated shoe. This style is more on the casual side and can be a perfect opportunity to add some playfulness to your outfit. This pretty pair from Dingo is both simple and versatile while featuring statement embroidery that is sure to have passersby looking, per Boot Barn. But if you're shooting for something even more out of the box, check out this silver rhinestone pair from Dolls Kill for an added sparkle in your step.

Over-the-knee cowboy boots

What's sexier than an over-the-knee boot, cowboy edition? While traditional Western cowboy boots or riding boots might just make it to the knee, this looks takes it there and then some, perfect for both a night out and a coffee run the morning after. When it comes to this style, the shape of the toe will have an impact on the overall look of the shoe. While a pointed or square toe skews more formal, a rounded toe will feel like more everyday wear. This pair from Zodiac features a tapered heel and a slightly higher front shaft to cover the knee, per Macy's. And these over-the-knee cowboy boots from Boot Barn feature a pointed toe, high front shaft, and beautiful embroidery. 

Foldover shaft

Now, if you're after flamboyance, look no further than the foldover shaft cowboy boot. These boots are for the fashion-forward risk-takers who aren't afraid to try something different. These boots are like a traditional Western cowboy boot, but as if the shaft had been turned inside out, creating a flare, almost sleeve-like effect. We are obsessed with these flaming red foldover boots from Dolls Kill, which also come in magenta and black

Care for leather cowboy boots

While leather is known for being extremely durable, taking proper care of your leather cowboy boots ensures that they will last for years to come. First, brush off any dirt with either a leather brush (like this $5 natural horsehair brush from Leatherology) or damp cloth. If the dirt is really packed on, use a soap specific to leather cleaning, like this saddle soap (via Amazon). Then, you can use a small amount of leather conditioner, massaging the product into the shoe to keep the leather hydrated. And as a final touch, apply a matching leather polish with a cloth if the boots have a finish. Just remember that this cleaning guideline does not apply to suede. This is the easiest way to clean your suede shoes.

Vegan options

But perhaps you're vegetarian or vegan and refuse to purchase real-leather cowboy boots, despite falling in love with the style. There are still plenty of non-leather options on the market. This traditional Western pair from Dolls Kill features black faux leather, grommet details that mimic the traditional embroidery of Western cowboy boots, and a playful strap across a tapered heel.