The boot has a long history reaching back to the dawn of the Common Era. Sandals and rudimentary shoes, along with greaves, were often worn into battle. It only makes sense to integrate them into a single piece of footwear - the ancestor to our modern boot. Fast forward about 16 centuries and we see the predecessor to the modern boot we know and love. English Cavaliers (horse-mounted soldiers) wore a riding boot with high shafts, pointed toes, and heels. Footwear of this nature spread across Europe as they were popular among mounted cavalrymen.
These early iterations of the modern boot had a fairly high heel that measured in at 2 inches, on average. A high heel was often associated with nobility, as the boot made its way into civilian life. Fashion heels began to take over and steadily increased in height - some reached over 3 inches! The late 1700s reimagined the boot, thanks to Arthur Wellsley. The First Duke of Wellington's claim to fame was his defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. This jettisoned not just him, but also his boots, into widespread popularity. Wellsley's boot, The Wellington Boot, is a pinpoint predecessor to the modern Western boot: The shafts were shortened to calf height (vs. the Cavalier's thigh-highs) as were the heels, and their construction mirrors the modern western boot - 4 pieces consisting of the vamp (top foot cover), the counter (heel cover), and front & back tops (shaft).
A few short centuries later, there was an increased exodus to the New World - not just of people, but also lifestyle and clothing. The boot of the old world crossed an ocean and began its journey into the modern era. Heeled boots remained a staple to American militia and military from the Revolution into the Civil War. The reunited nation saw a mass movement of its own. The population moved westward, with many active duty veterans serving their country as Frontiermen. Unfortunately, though, the military-grade boots they brought with them were no match for the unbridled intensity of the West: flurries by night, beating sun by day, cyclones here and gone in the blink of an eye.
As people continued to move westward, and boots continued to fall apart, the demand for a better boot grew. Shoemakers and cobblers flourished. Working with the existing Wellington, they began to develop a variety of boot styles. From shaft heights, to sole shapes, to materials used, until the Western boot as we know it began to emerge. In fact, some craftsmen went back to the shoe and introduced laces to the evolving boot (though this is an offshoot of the western boot itself).
The military, never one to be left behind by innovation, also updated their standard-issue boot. Much of the look and style remained the same, however the shaft pieces (front and back) were combined into a single canvas-like piece that was joined in a seam along the back of the leg. The "three-piece boot" (Hollywood- or Tejas-style boot) became popular amongst civilians and soldiers at the dawn of the 20th century and maintained popularity past the First World War.
With the advent of cinema and film, the romanticized cowboy was born, and demand for the Western boot grew still, thanks to movie-greats like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Boots maintained their utility but also became fashion pieces, with intricate designs becoming easily applied thanks to the large, single shaft-piece. Industrialization also pushed the boot into becoming a household item. Mass production, as well as access to new materials like rubber and synthetic leathers, made boots readily available to all walks of life, from white collar to blue collar.
But, as fashion fades, so does the popularity of certain styles. Wide-spread popularity of the Western Boot tapered off mid-20th century, coinciding with the introducing of the sneaker. Boots remained popular with industry workers, but the Western boot itself didn't see a resurgence of popularity until the start of the 2000s. The modern Western boot has stood the test of time, not only in its history, but also in its century-old construction.
For a pair of your own, we recommend our selection of high-quality Western Boots.