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How to Pick Your First Cowboy Boots: A Conversation With a Texas Bootmaker

Travis Khachatoorian
Expertise:

Boots, Heritage Fashion, News, Journalism

Travis is an Emmy and Edward R Murrow award winning journalist with 10 years reporting experience with NBC and CBS. He's followed stories around the world: into the path of Hurricane Michael in Florida, with Alaskan dogs on the trail of The Iditarod, and in the belly of a C-130 with US Paratroopers off the coast of Australia. Travis left the news to live a less action packed life with his wife and son in Southern California, but he’s still passionate about quality reporting and heritage style boots. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Apr 26, 2024
6 min read

I didn’t grow up around cowboy boots. My family didn’t wear them, my friends didn’t wear them, and I certainly didn’t wear them.

But as I grew older, I began to appreciate the history, heritage, and rugged toughness behind one of the most unmistakable boot styles in the world. And although I first falsely believed you had to be born into the culture to rock ‘em, I now know cowboy boots are a birth-right to all who appreciate what they stand for.

Tecovas Cartwright leather sole while walking
The Cartwright

So how do you dip your toes into what can be an intimidating boot?

I reached out to the people at Tecovas, a western boot company based out of Austin, Texas, to learn more about an easy entry into the style, what your first leather should be, and what wearing cowboy boots say about a man. 

Here’s my email exchange with Tecovas’ Merchandising Manager James Zambetti.

A Q&A with Tecovas

Travis: Let’s say you didn’t grow up in the country or on a ranch and you’re completely clueless to cowboy boots, what’s the most versatile style for your first pair?

James: The Earl would be the most versatile style for your first pair if you want a Western boot but aren’t familiar with Western. 

It has all the characteristics of a Western boot (taller shaft, leather stacked heel, pull tabs, scalloped top line, etc.) but is more understated, subtle and approachable. The heel is straight and shorter than a cowboy boot (like the Cartwright), making it easy to walk in and comfortable all day. The shaft doesn’t have an embellished design signifying it as a more traditional Western boot. Lastly, the toe shape is round which makes it feel familiar if you’ve grown up wearing dress shoes or loafers. 

tecovasearl 2
The Earl in Scotch Goat Leather

Travis: Bovine, goat, ostrich… how do you choose which leather to go with?

James: This is really going to be based first on the end use case of the boots, and then secondly on consumer preference. For example, when you go to buy a pair of boots – how do you plan to wear them? Are you wanting them for casual daily wear, an in-office setting, formal occasions, etc.? This will then help you decide whether you want a non-exotic (bovine or goat) or exotic (ostrich, lizard, crocodile) boots. 

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Non-exotic boots will be less expensive and typically less dressy, so they are great for daily wear or casual settings. Exotic boots will be more expensive and are typically considered more dressy, so they are great for semi-formal and formal occasions like business dinners and weddings. 

When choosing exotics, check them all out and see if there’s one you like most from a look, feel, and color perspective. Some folks prefer the subtle nature of lizard, while others love the larger scales of caiman. 

Goat has become a fan favorite at Tecovas because of its versatility – it has that vintage patina look out of the box but can easily transition to a night out.

tecovasearl 3
Goat Leather on The Earl

In the end though, it’s really all about what leather speaks to you – you really can’t go wrong and you should buy what you like!

Travis: What details do you look for in quality cowboy boots?

James: Quality to me is most easily identified in 3 ways – construction, material, and fit. 

I’ll first examine the boot and study the craft and construction elements of it. What kind of outsole does it have? Is it roll and peg? Are the shaft and lining leathers cemented to one another? Is there loose stitching? Does the boot tread properly? 

Tecovas Cartwright full grain leather lining

These are a handful of the things I look for. Admittedly, this is looking at the boots in greater detail than most, but to me that’s the fun of it. When looking at material, I love leathers that have texture, depth, and rich character.

These are all things you can see and feel in the leather as you hold the boot. All leather is different depending on what animal it comes from, thus they all have unique characteristics of their own. 

Fit is the most important part. If the boot doesn’t fit, it really doesn’t matter how good it looks or how well it was constructed. A great fit to me is when you pull the boot on, feel your heel pop into the counter, and the boot feels like it was made for you. Snug in all the right places, without feeling tight or jammed. 

Fit and comfort is critical – which is why I feel Tecovas has established such a loyal customer base.

Tecovas stockton removable insert for insole

Travis: What style and cut of pants pair best with cowboy boots? Can you cuff your jeans?

James: I have always preferred wearing jeans that are boot cut or are designed to “fit over boots”. I do not like the shafts of my boots x-raying through my jeans or having to cinch the shafts down so they fit over tapered jeans. 

If you prefer wearing a jean or pant like that, our zip boots like the Dean and Jack are great options for you. They have a tapered, shorter shaft that works well with slimmer pant leg openings! 

Tecovas stockton sole detail with grit

You can cuff your jeans if you like, it’s really more of a style thing – it doesn’t serve a functional use case. It really all depends on personal style!

Travis: Ok, you’ve put many miles on your first pair, what’s the second style of cowboy boots every man should invest in?

James: There are a myriad of ways to answer this question, but to me what it comes down to is asking the question – what was your first pair of cowboy boots? That will then inform what your second pair of cowboy boots should be. 

For example, if your first pair of cowboy boots are Scotch Cartwrights then any of our exotic cowboy boots could be a great option for something more dressy like the Wyatt, Nolan, or Dillon. 

Travis: What is the perfect situation to break out cowboy boots?

James: Every day, any time of the day. Any place, any weather. There is no situation where you cannot wear cowboy boots!

Tecovas Cartwright profile view
The Cartwright

Travis: When should you leave your cowboy boots at home?

James: Never!

Travis: What do cowboy boots say about a man?

James: Cowboy boots show a love for Americana heritage and tradition, and harken back to a time in the not so distant past. When this country was mostly an open frontier and life was uncertain. 

Cowboy boots may indicate a potential fascination with the West, be it Yellowstone, Tombstone, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, True Grit, or the Outlaw Josey Wales. 

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Cowboy boots tell me you appreciate crafted, artisanal leather boots in a day and age of disposable, synthetic, mass-produced shoes. 

Cowboy boots connect people, whether you were dang near born in ‘em, found them later on in life, or are just becoming interested in them now as you read this article. 

If I see a man in cowboy boots, I know he and I probably value the same things in life and likely have similar interests, pursuits, and hobbies.

Tecovas The Earl

For a top-quality but surprisingly affordable pair of roper boots, the Tecovas Earl is my top recommendation. They’ll be comfortable for a long day on your feet as well as in the saddle, and have the look, feel, and durability that makes them a very smart investment.

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Tecovas Cartwright leather sole detail on white background

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