by Ron McGinty
After my discharge from the Marines in the early 70’s I decided to drive to Colorado for a vacation. After driving over fourteen hours, I stopped in Walsenburg, Colorado for the night. My love of all things Western just gripped me here.
My one night turned into a long weekend. There was a hotel with old barn wood on the walls, and a diner with a jukebox playing, “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’” by Charley Pride. There were countless cowboys there for a rodeo. After reaching Aspen, I bought my first pair of cowboy boots which I wore for a few decades.
I traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico recently for a photojournalist class, with a theme of Western Cowboy Boots. Did you know over fifty companies in the United States of America create western boots with estimated annual sales approaching two billion dollars?
The leather boot stepped out in the 13th century during the time of Genghis Khan and has never stopped growing in popularity. Society and borders have transformed via exploration, conflict, technical advances and resolution for centuries. Most of the people during these evolutions wore boots.
My first day on the street I tried to photograph people in cowboy boots. To my astonishment, Santa Fe, while western wear is well represented in the town square, it is not as common on the street. At the weekly street music show most looked like Woodstock entrants having the time of their life.
Refreshing and surprising. There are always elements of travel that teach you new revelations and not always basics of history.
I wore wingtip shoes to work for over thirty years, thinking it was a prime element of the business uniform. However, times have changed, now the world is more casual. Traveling the globe can broaden a person’s views of fashion. For example, I saw a surprising sight in Japan; every businessperson wore a white shirt, necktie, black suit, and lace-up shoes. It reminded me of a time in America, but now long gone.
In both Patagonia, Chile, and on the large Estancias in Argentina, everyone wore riding boots. In Africa, most villages were barefooted or wore sandals. India was also primarily sandals.
One night, luck was in my corner; a friend had boots on and told me he had fit issues. He now buys his custom shoes in Santa Fe. The next day, I spoke with Wendy Henry, owner, and founder of the Back at the Ranch store in Santa Fe. She was in the fashion business in New York before relocating to New Mexico and loved cowboy boots. Her goal was to build a boot that was not only comfortable but stylish.
Most boot manufacturing occurs in El Paso, Texas, so she bought a boot company there. Wendy has a guideline, be adventurous and be sure you get the perfect fit. Boots are rich in history, give you a better sense of style, draw attention, show confidence, and offer safer walking stability.
My article on Cappadocia Turkey is coming soon!