WORDS BY NERYS D’ESCLERCS
From its 16th-century Spanish roots to today’s catwalks, via American ranch hands and Belgian designers, the cowboy boot has a long and illustrious fashion history. While the traditional Americana style will always be popular, for 2020 your choices are wide-ranging – there are ankle-length, mid-length or even knee-high designs, and second-skin styles alongside a slightly looser, more relaxed fit on the lower leg. Distinctive features are wide-ranging – embroidery and stacked mid-heels are paired with buckles, studs and colored paneling – with designers like Bottega Veneta, Khaite and Ganni all putting their own twist on the traditional Western design. If you need a bit of direction for what’s in style for 2020’s cowboy boots and how to wear them now, our senior womenswear editor, Celenie Seidel, is here to share her expert tips on fashion’s footwear frontier.
Isabel Marant fall/winter 2012
The History Of The Cowboy Boot
Originally, the riding boots we associate with American cowboys came from 16th-century Spanish vaqueros, who were horse-mounted livestock herders. When explorers started looking for the new world and the Spanish monarchy funded Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas, the boot traveled overseas and evolved into what we now know as the cowboy boot. Fast-forward a few centuries and the style is still being used by ranchers all over the States. And while the fashion industry took its time to endorse it, it’s now a firm fixture on the runway, with Isabel Marant being an early adopter: the French designer started with a studded, Western take on the ankle boot for her fall 2009 collection. Season after season, her footwear collections incorporated elements such as buckles and stacked mid-heels, ultimately establishing the cowboy boot as a brand staple. Raf Simons, while creative director at Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, also incorporated the Western staple into his fall/winter 2018 collection, exploring the brand’s Americana roots and putting the cowboy boot center stage. It was presented in metallic silver and camel suede, ankle and knee-high lengths, and always with a pointed toe. Now, for fall/winter 2020, the highlights come courtesy of Bottega Veneta’s sleek interpretation with a stacked wedge heel and square toe; Khaite’s embroidered, more traditional version; and Toga Pulla’s playful takes on the style.
The New Cowboy Boot Details
This season, designers presented us with a reimagined vision of the traditional Western silhouette. ‘Cowboy boots have taken on a new, more refined aesthetic,’ says Celenie Seidel, ‘riffing on the original style via reinterpretations through different toe and heel shapes, and unexpected materials.’
To include the Western style in your fall wardrobe, a couple of distinctive, modern features will stop it from veering into costume territory. First: the right toe shape will make all the difference. For Seidel, there is one update that will ensure your style is right for now: ‘Go for a square toe as an update on the classic almond toe.’ Secondly, when it comes to materials this season, she recommends ‘high-shine and metallic leathers’. These new-season silhouettes, available on Farfetch, should be on your radar.
Versace pre-fall 2020
Khaite fall/winter 2020
The Best Cowboy Boot Brands
‘For the upcoming season, I’m most excited about the versions coming from Bottega Veneta, who have created an ultra-chic, grown-up interpretation, and Khaite, whose gold metallic version is super key this season,’ reveals Seidel. ‘Other brands offering great interpretations are Acne Studios, Sunflower, Toga Pulla, Versace, Maison Margiela and Ganni.’
Bottega Veneta fall/winter 2020
How To Style Your Cowboy Boots
‘The cowboy boot is handily trans-seasonal, in that its height on the leg allows it to be worn with mini skirts and long shorts during the in-between fall and spring seasons. In the wardrobe it can act as a real go-to option, adding an unexpected element to many looks.’
If you want to pair the style with jeans, ‘the classic cowboy jean – a Wrangler Cowboy Cut’ is Seidel’s suggestion. ’I would always recommend going with super-clean washes of blue and indigo denim to keep things elevated,’ she adds.