When you think “cowboy boots” what comes to mind? Maybe you envision a simple tan pair with brown stitching or a cowboy riding his stallion off into the sunset. While this traditional style that you’re likely visualizing definitely has a concrete place in history (they were invented in 1875 for cowboys with functionality at the forefront of the design), the modern day fashion industry has given the formerly workaday footwear a revamp suitable for 2023 — that’s where the modern cowboy boot trend comes in.
The cowboy boot silhouette dominating in 2023 is a bit less wild, wild west and a lot more Kacey Musgraves, but if she was an ‘80s country music star. The present day iteration embraces the baseline elements of western riding shoes — pointed toe, slanted heel, and a high chiseled top — while bringing in traits of more on-trend fashion, like metallics, abstract patterns, unique heel forms, and even a vibrant Y2K-inspired color or two.
The cool cowgirl aesthetic has been adopted by Gen Z and Millennials alike, who utilize the eccentric boot to add a jolt of excitement to their personal style choices. Just look on TikTok, where the piece is having a major moment: to date, there’s been 379.7 million views on the hashtag #CowboyBoots. But that’s just a tiny piece of iconic footwear’s longstanding place in the fashion world, which spans across generations, styles, and aesthetics.
Ahead, let’s dive into what the trend really means.
The Origins Of The Trend
A brief history lesson: In the 1800s, Charles Hyer, a German immigrant shoemaker, was commissioned by a Colorado cowboy in need of new boots after the Civil War. From there the unique design was born and was quickly adapted to fit the needs of rodeo performers, ranchers, cattlemen, herders, and even popular western film stars of the time.
Fast-forward to 2005, Selena Gomez wore the chunky shoe in her Disney Channel days, Taylor Swift opted for them in her Speak Now era, and Rihanna showcased them for a “Hope Rocks” benefit concert, paired with a lime-green lace cami and a denim mini skirt.
But these days, you’ve likely seen cowboy boots as an essential off-day apparel option for celebs including Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Priyanka Chopra, and so many more.
Cowboy boots also have a longstanding reputation of appearing on the runways, from Ralph Lauren circa the ‘70s to Givenchy’s Spring/Summer 1998 show. And in the early 2010s, every fashion girl had a heeled western-inspired bootie in her wardrobe (Rachel Comey made, and still makes, a fabulous one with major Serena van der Woodsen vibes). Tall cowboy boots also popped up in the 2017 shows at Calvin Klein, Celine, and Ganni, continuing the western-style frenzy. Because of brands like these, the shoe continues to feel fresh to new generations of fashion lovers.
Cowboy Boots In The Social Media Age
While stars and designers certainly have helped the rise of the cowboy boot, lately it’s been social media influencers driving the aesthetic forward. Take TikTok content creator, Lily Chapman, for example, who tells TZR that the modern cowboy boot trend showcases “independence, strength, and a ‘take no shit attitude.’” Chapman owns two pairs of Jeffrey Campbell cowboy boots — a bright green metallic pair and an unforgettable platform black pair — which you’ll spot throughout her TikTok videos, which focus on fashion, vintage clothing, and upcycling her many unique thrifted finds. The neon lime metallic pair is giving Spice Girls energy, but if they had a sixth member called “Cowboy Spice.” (What do you think, Victoria Beckham?)
“My favorite cowboy boots are my black platform ones. I wear them with everything, but my favorite way to style them is with a hyper feminine mini dress,” says Chapman. “My boots fit into all of my aesthetics because they're badass and make every outfit feel more powerful.” Her followers can’t get enough of her modern cowboy boot outfits, either: One video of her unique take on a western look — complete with an upcycled two-piece crop top and skirt set, pink cowboy hat, and those lime green stunners — received 524k+ views and 99.2K likes.
The State Of Cowboy Boot Brands Today
Established in 2017, Miron Crosby combines the legacy of cowboy boots (the label manufactures in a 160-year-old factory) with of-the-moment details, thus pulling the traditional design into today.
Lee Searcy, marketing director of Miron Crosby, attributes a sudden interest in the silhouette to an appreciation of individuality. “There is something undeniably romantic about the cowboy boot, something evocative of bygone eras full of trailblazing and wildness that appeals to all of us,” she tells TZR. “They allow for individuality, too, and since fashion is the best form of self-expression, this western-adjacent aesthetic is always appealing to creative souls who, ultimately, make brave choices — in fashion and beyond.”
Searcy also believes that cowboy boots can work for every sensibility, from minimalism to maximalism, and everything in between. “We’re playing so much with metallics and textures as a way to make them modern,” explains Searcy. “But you won’t lose the authenticity because the silhouette, no matter how you riff on it, is cemented.”
Similar to Crosby, cowboy boot brands Ranch Road Boots and CITY Boots encourage their customers to experiment with playful exploration. “There’s no right or wrong way to wear boots and with that there is so much freedom to play. Cowboy boots in essence, outside of their traditional or functional purpose, are a fun and bold statement piece,” Sarah Ford, the founder of Ranch Road Boots tells TZR.
Lizzy Bentley, the founder of CITY Boots believes their younger customers appreciate a more personalized, colorful, statement piece — boots that more youthful generations can invest in and wear for years to come. Meanwhile, millennials and on are gravitating toward neutral, everyday boots.
CITY Boots, in particular, is pushing to add femininity into the cowboy boot world, which was originally a place specifically for men. “CITY Boots has made our mark by taking the authentic, traditional cowboy boot which has historically been designed with men in mind and structured it for a more feminine appearance. You don’t have to be on a horse to to own cowboy boots,” says Bentley. Ahem, calling all horse girls: Get ready to embrace your inner equestrian in a whole new way.
Now that you understand the modern cowboy foundation, here are some tips to get your shopping started on the right (steel-toed) foot. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind, never seen before, personalized design, consider customizing your very own pair with Miron Crosby. Or simply fulfill your maximalist dreams with avant-garde shapes, patterns, and colors from CITY Boots (this writer loves styling them with a leather miniskirt and a corset top.) Prefer a minimalistic look? Try a brown tall boot from Ranch Road Boots paired with your favorite sundress and maybe even a cowboy hat (if the mood is right). Cowboy boots hold so much potential and there are a million ways to make the style chic, unique, and individualized to your taste. It’s just a matter of finding pair that calls your name. Yeehaw.