Boot Glossary 2

Boot Glossary 2: Common Boot Terms

boot-glossaryPegs: wooden pegs, little stakes of wood made from maple or lemonwood, usually from Germany. These pegs, in rows of one to three, run from the breast of the heel down the waist of the sole of the boot. Along with stitching and glue, they hold the insole and outsole together. Pegs are usually a sign of a better-quality boot, and you should also be able to see the tops of the pegs when you look inside your boots. Boot maker Ray Jones is the legendary "king of the pegs," known to use as many as 300 pegs per pair.

Peg wheel: a wooden-handled tool composed of a metal wheel with tiny metal spikes. It is used when the
leather is damp, and is rolled along the sole of the boot to create a path as a guide for the boot maker to space his pegs evenly.

Piping: rounded strips of leather that run up the side seams of the boots. Sewn dead center between the back and front of the boot, piping can be in the same color or a contrasting color of leather to make the boot or its stitching patterns stand out more. Early boot makers had to hand-make all their piping. Now it comes in rolls in dozens of colors, already rounded and ready to sew.

Pull holes: finger holes at the tops of boots that replace pull straps and are very often used by working cowboys, who also call them "windows."

Outside pull straps can catch on things and have been known to pull a rider off a horse. Inside pull straps sometimes rub against a leg and create a lot of discomfort.

Pull Straps: straps that are used to assist in pulling the boot on. They can be on the outside or the inside of the boot in any size or shape. In the 1940s and '50s, when men and women frequently tucked their trousers into their boots, boot makers and factories began to stitch their names into the cotton cloth out over the top of the boot, for free advertising.

Roper: a style of boots with a wide, round toe, no decorative stitching, usually a nine-to-ten-inch top, and a low walking heel. From the 1920s through the 1960s, this work style boot, rugged but plain, was called the Wellington. It comes with low or high tops. In the late 1970s the boot was renamed "roper" by the factories. The style caught on and became very popular with both men and women. The roper bears little resemblance to what we think of as a real cowboy boot from any era.

Saint Crispin: the patron saint of shoe and boot makers whose festival is celebrated October 25. Legends and stories about Saint Crispin, who supported himself as a cobbler while preaching the gospel, are popular with boot-makers.

Scallop: the V-shape in the front and back of the cowboy boot. This can be shallow or cut very deep.

Shank: the portion of the boot that is used as reinforcement for the wearer's arch. Most boot makers today use a thin, pre-cut strip of eighteen-gauge steel, which is glued, whip stitched, or tacked in place. On urban sidewalks this works fine, but most folks in the country, including cowboys, still prefer that forty- or sixty-penny nail for support.

Skive: from the Norse word skifa, "to make leather thinner." Skiving is also known as feathering the leather. This is usually done when overlapping is required, as in overlay and inlay. The backside of the leather is scraped thin along the edges, or wherever the leather is too thick, with a sharp knife, lightly sanded for continuity, then quickly burned with a match or flame to remove any small, loose beads of skin that remain. The leather is then ready for glue and thread.

Sole: the only part of the cowboy boot, besides the bottom of the heel that actually has contact with the ground, unless you happen to get thrown off a horse or a bull.

Spur rest: a ridge or shelf on the back of the boot that helps hold up a spur. Below the counter, extending from the base, the top of the actual heel is pronounced by a quarter inch or more. Looked down upon by some older cowboys as a wimpy crutch for those who don't know how their spurs should fit, this spur ledge has become very popular with young cowboys today.

Stay: the strip of leather that runs up and down the back of the inside of the boot lining to stiffen and support the boot and hold up the top, which gets the most movement. The width of the stay and how high it extends reflect an individual boot maker's idea of how a boot should be made. Most working cowboys prefer a stay that extends all the way from the bottom of the boot to the top and is about four inches wide.

Stovepipe: refers to the top of the boot when there is no scallop. The boot resembles a sawed-off pipe. Most early cowboys, before 1900, wore boots with stovepipe tops because they were still clinging somewhat to military fashion.

Straights: a term describing boots that have no designated right or left foot. Because high-heel lasts were more difficult to make in mirror images, straights remained popular from the 1600s until 1819, when the irregular-shape copying lathe was invented.

Straights continued to be worn extensively until 1900.

Toe box: a stiff piece of material that is placed in the top of the boot toe between the outer vamp leather and the lining to reinforce the shape. All toe boxes used to be made of leather until the advent of super man-made materials. However, many custom boot makers still use leather, while the factories use plastic or man-made toe boxes.

Toe bug: also referred to as the "toe flower," "medallion," "fleur-de-lis," or just plain "toe stitch." Every boot maker has his favorite design. It becomes their signature and can identify the boot to others. Usually only one or two rows of stitching are used to create a delicate and artful design. You seldom see cowboy boots without decorative toe stitching unless they are made from exotic skins, in which case the stitching would not be visible.

Tongue: the top part of the vamp, usually cut into a decorative shape. The tongue is sewn to the upper front portion of the boot. Because a cowboy's stirrup hits this area of the boot all day, it was originally reinforced by a third layer of leather inside or was cut extra wide to prevent wearing out.

Tools: the dozens of implements used in boot making. Most of these have their roots in Europe. Some have names and manufacturers; others do not.

Most boot makers hand-fashion many of their battery of tools - even today. To a boot maker, tools are known by their functions rather than their names.

Triad: a type of boot with no counter. In a triad, the front of the boot extends all the way to the sole, and the vamp stops before the side seams and is stitched down. A regular cowboy boot has a four-piece construction: the shaft with two parts (front and back); the counter, or heelpiece; and the vamp, which is the foot of the boot. A boot with a one-piece top has no side seams and is sewn or laced up the back.

Underslung: a descriptive word for the angle of the back of the heel. Underslung heels are also sometimes said to be "undershot." From 1880 to 1960, most cowboy boots had higher heels. To keep them from having a heavy, blocky shape, boot makers hand-fashioned the backs of the heels to angle toward the foot. This style was taken to its extreme in the 1940s at the Leddy Boot Company in San Angelo, Texas, when bronc buster Alton Barnett had all of his boots so undershot that you could not squeeze a penny between where the heel and sole met. Other than those with a low, flat walking heel, most boots today have some undershot to them.

Vamp: the lower front portion of the cowboy boot that covers the foot. The vamp attaches to the counter in the back, and to the front parts of the boot shaft in the front.

Waist: the waist of the boot is at the bottom of the boot shaft where the ankle bends. The heel waist is the center circumference of the heel sometimes angled or dipped in, especially noticeable in the Cuban heel.

Welt: a strip of heavy leather that is sewn around the lasting space of the upper and joins it to the insole. The sole is then stitched to the welt with a second seam. The welt is also known as the rand.

Wingtip: a fancy leather piece, which can be any shape and even have inlaid
designs, that is stitched over the toe and a portion of the lower vamp area. In the 1940s, '50s and '60s, wingtips were usually associated with dress boots. Now wingtips are experiencing a revival and can be seen on everyday cowboy boots. A wingtip can be as simple as a small tip of exotic lizard or other skin sewn over the principal leather.

Wrinkles: the straight lines of stitching on a toe, usually located behind the toe flower.

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