June 1, 2017

The Cowboy Boot Experiment: Part 1 - Social Observations

A long time ago, I was contacted by a representative from Russells Western Wear asking if I would review a pair of Ariat cowboy boots.  I promptly said no thank you, I ride English so this blog is not the right demographic for you, and I only review products I personally use and feel strongly about.  I'm not out to make a buck or be bought by manufacturers.

But he persisted with some pretty good arguments, and after giving it some thought, I decided to agree and treat this as a long term experiment, by using them for months before I reviewed them.  I'm under no obligation to them, so if I didn't like them or use them, I can say so.  Although I'll foreshadow this by saying I've surprised myself with how often I choose to wear them.

My premises: Would I, an English rider, find a use for cowboy boots?  Would people treat me differently wearing them around town?  What kind of comments would I get from my English friends?  Could I really wear them to a formal event the way people do around here?

All that in mind, I chose a pair of boots that I thought could take a beating at the barn with zero regard to keeping them nice, then clean up nice enough to wear to a social event.

Although I had never had an occasion to wear boots to a wedding before, it's somewhat common in the Midwest for people to have "Sunday boots" that they wear to church and less nice boots for every day.  Or at least that's what I learned from my dad, who grew up in Southern Missouri.

Spoiler alert: I did actually have to wear them to a wedding.

I'll do a separate review of the actual features of the boots I chose, the Ariat Probabys, but the social experiment ended up being pretty interesting.  Some observations:

- When I'm wearing boots and breeches around town, I tend to get a lot of raised eyebrows and puzzled looks - no one knows I'm an equestrian.  When I wear cowboy boots, people immediately identify me as someone who rides horses and strike up a conversation about horses.  This has probably been the most interesting part of the whole thing - it happened A LOT.  People treat me completely differently wearing cowboy boots than tall boots or paddock boots/half chaps.

- My trainer (who is from the UK, I feel like that's important here), gave me a "Cowboy boots, eh?" with a raised eyebrow when she saw them the first time.

Why yes, I will rock breeches and cowboy boots.

- I was so grateful I had them when a friend got married outside on a cold, wet, muddy May day recently.  Let's face it: no boots that English equestrians wear would look appropriate at a wedding.  Maybe Dubarrys, but even those don't fit in quite as well (at least in the Midwest) as a nice pair of cowboy boots.

And socks, because it was damn cold.

- I wear them more often than I thought I would.  It's so nice having something I can just jump into and still look socially acceptable.  I wear them to the store, to the bar, to walk the dogs, and to the barn, so I don't have to wear my paddock boots in the wash rack (may they last forever amen).

Now, the one argument against these that you could make as an English equestrian is that an "equestrian lifestyle" boot like the Dubarrys could also be what these are to me.  But, I can't stomach the idea of paying more than my monthly board for a pair of boots.  Fauxberrys are an option, but I've been wary of them after having a couple of friends wear through theirs rather quickly.  And, my TuffRider Tundra winter boots that lasted three weeks made me even more wary of not buying quality footwear.

Although fitting in is not my top priority, it was truly fascinating to note that in this part of the country, people ONLY associate "western wear" with horses.  And it's not like we're in Texas here!  Which, if we're talking about why the English equestrian sports can't get traction with a wider audience, says a lot.  The general public, in my extremely limited and unscientific experiment, doesn't even recognize the most basic accouterments of the sport.

Does anyone else wear cowboy boots?  Do you feel like you get more easily identified as a rider wearing them than you do boots and breeches?  Would your English friends laugh you out of the barn or think you've lost your mind if you showed up in cowboy boots?  I'm sure this is somewhat regional, which makes me even more interested to hear others' perspective.


  1. It's a shame you feel that way about Fauxberrys...I've had my Dublin River Boots for 3 (maybe 4?) years now. I beat them up and treat them like crap and don't ever clean them, and they're still holding up great!

    When I moved to Austin, I knew I wanted to buy a pair of real cowboy boots, and was willing to shell out the money for a pair of Ariats. I ended up wearing the boots all the time, and totally understand how people live in them because they're so comfortable! I never felt out of place wearing cowboy boots as an English rider, but I'm also a country music fan so I kinda felt "normal" in them. Plus, Texas.

    1. Ditto this re: the Dublins. I've had mine for 3 years of heavy use and they've held up great. Never been tempted by cowboy boots, but I'm in search of pull-on dog-walking shoes...hmm.

  2. I bought a pair of Justin cowboy boots to wear on a trail ride with friends (using western saddles) a few years ago and was surprised as well as to how useful they are. I use them for stacking hay, most yard work and pretty much anytime I'm around horses but not physically in my dressage saddle. I bought them over 5 years ago and they are still going strong despite the abuse and deliberate neglect. Yours are super cute and I love them with the dress too!

  3. I have 3 pairs of cowboy boots, but my old standby is a pair of Ariat boots that are going on 10 years old now, and those things are GREAT. They can go from barn to out on the town in five minutes flat, go with basically everything, are comfortable, safe to wear around horses, and don't cost an arm and a leg. In my area of the country (Eastern PA) english horse sports are the dominant discipline, but there is a good mix of western riding here as well. It's also a pretty agricultural location, so lots of folks that don't ride do wear cowboy boots and wranglers. I'm not out of place in my english OR western gear here, though the western look is not always associated with riding.

  4. It's funny, I have a pair of really nice Ariat cowboy boots sitting in my closet but I don't wear them. Mostly because around here it's a very certain demographic that wears stuff like that, and I don't want to be mistaken as being part of that demographic. Not these days anyway. I do love my Dublin River boots though, 3 years and counting!

  5. I don't like the aesthetic of cowboy boots so I will never wear them. I live in the North East anyways, so if you wear cowboy boots here people just auto assume you're a wanna-be cowgirl who only likes modern country music for the hot guys and has never stepped foot on a farm. When you actually say you do ride horses they are amazed. Complete opposite reaction from yours haha. Meanwhile, I wear breeches and muck boots around everywhere and people stare at me but that may just be because I'm usually covered in filth lol.

  6. I love my Ariats to wear around the barn and for daily life 😁 I have a "daily" pair and a "dress" pair as well!

  7. Haha. I definitely have a pair of cowboy boots that I bought to be in a wedding and I wear them a ton. Not a joke, I've considered taking up western riding for the sole reason that I could seamlessly transfer from work to the barn without changing. ;-) But that's Idaho for you.

    RE: Fauxberrys--I was given Dublin boots like 5 years ago and those sucks were dead and gone in under six months. Yeah, I abused them, but I abuse all clothing. My current set of Fauxberrys were a Rolex-related purchase and I love them so far, but I'm only a few months in so we'll see. Dubarrys themselves are gorgeous, but I cannot even pretend to stomach the price.

  8. I have those exact boots :) They were my Alberta boots, and saw many excellent adventures. Sadly, 5 years on they're pretty beat up and are now my mucking out/barn chores boots. I still ride in them now and then too - dressage saddle, breeches, and western boots - we're classy!

  9. A good quality pair of western boots isn't exactly cheap either so I didn't get a pair until 2.5 years ago (my brother helped me out as a very generous xmas present), I should have made the jump a lot sooner though.
    I'm in Alberta so cowboy boots are pretty standard and aren't necessarily associated with horses. It's funny because my brother is super allergic to horses and he barely ever leaves the city but his primary footwear is a pair of cowboy boots.
    I wear mine both at the barn and around town. They really are a practical set of footwear: they can get you through mud or snow without looking too wintery and they're one of the only boots that is appropriate to wear with a skirt or dress. I also wear them for trail riding a lot, when paired with a western saddle they are the safest choice because if your foot ever got caught your foot isn't tied in and can slip out. My barnmates are used to whatever I wear, but I definitely blend in better at my reining/barrel racing barn in my cowboy boots and jeans than I do in my normal dressage gear.

  10. Here in KY all equestrian wear is acceptable and I never get a second glance. Even in tall boots and breeches. Cowboy boots would go un-noticed, they are very common. But I totally see where you are coming from!

  11. Uh yeah, here you wear cowboy boots with everything, including cute summer dresses. I don't wear them to the barn because I have zip-up paddock boots and like, I might get my nice boots DIRTY or something. Can't have that!

  12. In Australia, a lot of the younger equestrians rock the cowboy boot/breeches look, not gonna lie - I totally want to too. My boots are always getting beaten up in the paddock and it's a pain. I'd rather have a pair of riding boots and a pair of "everything else" boots, and I think cowboy boots are a great idea! I love Ariats.

    bonita of A Riding Habit

  13. When I worked at the therapeutic riding center, I wore Ariat cowboy boots every day. They were comfortable, durable, and definitely in style with the Oklahoma crowd. I don't wear them much any more- I have a pair of Twisted X mocs I wear for barn chores and I always ride in my tall barns. Most of the kids at the barn next door rock the cowboy boots and breeches look!

  14. I have... a lot of cowboy boots. Side effect of growing up showing breed shows/western. I wear mine all over - my nice pair are elephant which lasts forever. As in, I half-expect my kids will be wearing them someday. I have more 'cute' pair of Lucchese's for going to concerts, football games, wearing out, etc. Boots and dresses are a gameday uniform in the SEC. I love tossing them on over breeches too, I find them way comfortable (and less boot cleaning the better)!

  15. Late to the party but yes I have a pair of Fat Baby's that I LOVE. I bought them for $30 shipped off a facebook group because I had been wanting a pair of everyday "barn" boots. I have paddocks but I don't want them ruined and I'm apparently a lazy SOB because zipping them was annoying. I definitely get people that know I only ride english to give me a long stare when I sport these bad boys. But I absolutely adore them. I basically wear them 24/7. As soon as my tall boots come off I normally slip these on. I abuse the crap out of them and still feel like they are quality and going to last me a long time. I still have a pair of "sunday" cowboy boots I wear for concerts and stuff, but they are the traditional height and I love the short height for pulling on and off quickly.