Boot Glossary and Terms

Boot Glossary: Common Boot Terms

boot-glossaryBeading: a slender, rounded strip of leather that encircles the top of the boot. The beading is made from the same material as the piping that runs down the side of the boot.

Boot hooks: a pair of long strong metal hooks attached to cross handles made out of hardwood or plastic. The lower section of the hook is flat so that the inside pull straps of the boot will not wrinkle when you pull the boots on. After the hooks are inserted into the loops of the pull straps, the foot is thrust into the boot, which is pulled on using slight force.

Bootjack: a tool that enables the boot wearer to remove boots while standing. The first boot jacks were made of wood and had a forked end to hold the heel of one boot while the wearer pulled his foot out of the other. Many early bootjacks were hinged down the middle so they could be folded for traveling. After the 1870s, most bootjacks were made from molded iron. The jacks came in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common design was a brightly painted beetle with its antennae outstretched to hold the heel of the boot. Popular with cowboys are the Naughty Nellies, which depict a woman lying on her back with legs spread to catch the heel of the boot. Designs featuring six-shooter barrels and longhorns were also widespread. Tobacco companies, boot companies, and clothing manufactures began to put their names on the jacks as giveaway advertisements. Bootjacks gave rise to the catchy expression "Once you use a jack, you will never go back."

Boot jockey: a curved metal plate, or today, more commonly, a plastic one. The jockey is used with tall boots, usually those over fifteen inches high. The device prevents a pair of boots from sagging and losing their shape while not being worn.

Boot tree: a form used to keep boots in shape when they are not being worn. Also known as "wooden feet", boot trees are designed to be inserted into the foot of the boot with relative ease, thanks to slide or spring action built into and underneath the wood. They are regaining popularity and can be readily purchased. Older ones were usually made of maple, but today cedar is more common because of its deodorizing quality.

Box toe: a boot toe that is squared off at the end. Square-toed boots have been around for hundreds of years.
Box toes were popular with the early cowboys and remained that way through the 1950s. Boot makers often describe toes as one-eighth box, quarter box, half box, etc. This refers to the width of the tip on the toe. After the 1950s, the pointed, or sharp, toe became more popular than the box toe.

Buck stitching: a thin strip of leather, normally in a contrasting color, that is woven over and under the boot leather to create a laced effect. Although the purpose is usually purely decorative, this type of work can be used to hold layers of leather together. Buck stitching is often seen around wing-tip toes, up the sides of boots, or around their tops. Most buck stitching was done in Mexico and South Texas by the boot makers and factories in the 1940s and '50s.

Clicker: a machine like a press that pushes down on the dies to cut out various pieces of leather for all parts of the boot. It works like a giant cookie cutter. The word clicker comes from the sound the machine makes upon impact with the die. Once largely found in boot factories, the click machine is now also used by custom
boot makers as well.

Cockroach killers: a street term that arose to describe the narrow, pointed, and sometimes hand-filed needle nose boots worn in the 1960s and early '70s. This very popular toe style was just about all you saw on men and women for almost fifteenyears. During the popularity of Urban Cowboy, the toes began to round out to satisfy the more conservative East Coast tastes. However this type of toe, along with the narrow box, has remained the most popular one in all other countries throughout the world, and since about 1990, sharp toes have come back into vogue in the U.S. again.

Collar: a layer of leather at the top of the boot, usually in a contrasting color or made from an exotic skin that is cut in a decorative design. This collar is usually overlaid but often has fancy inlay work on it, which dresses up the boot.

Counter: the leather piece above the heel of the boot, which is attached by stitching to the vamp.

Crimping board: a narrow piece of wood, usually less than 1-1/2 inches wide, that looks like a tall tube sock. The wet vamps of boots are stretched and nailed to this board before they are attached to the other parts of the boot. Then the leather is left to dry for a day or two. This is an extra step before lasting to ensure that all the stretch of memory has been removed from the leather. If this process is not performed, wrinkles will appear in the curves of the boot over the top of the foot.

Custom makeup: a term used by boot factories to describe their version of custom-made boots. The major difference is that there is no custom last, nor are there any measurements involved. A stock factory last in a standard size that comes as close as possible to accurately fitting the customer's foot is used instead.

Die: a metal pattern with razor-sharp edges that works like a cookie cutter. It is used to cutout sections of the boot in various shapes; these are then glued and sewn together to form the vamp, counter, and top of the boot.

Ears: another name for inside or outside pull straps.

Forty-penny nail: a nail that old-time boot makers would beat flat and then shape to the dimensions of the wearer's foot. The nail was then covered with a layer of leather, stitched, glued, and sometimes pegged between the insole and outsole to work as a shank that supported the wearer's arch. Jumping on and off a horse all day can be rough on a boot, so many West Texas cowboys still request forty- and sixty-penny nails put into their boot soles.

Foxing: a term describing a piece of leather that is sewn (overlaid) over another part of the boot simply for decoration. Boot makers will say that the toe or heel is "foxed."

Fudge wheel: a wooden-handled tool with a cylindrical serrated wheel, also known as a boot rand wheel, wheel jigger, bunking wheel, stitched prick, or seat wheel. The fudge wheel is heated, and then rolled around the finished welt of the boot in order to mash, tighten, and firm the leather and the stitching. It creates ridges and gives a uniform appearance to the stitching. Many old-time boot makers think it gives the boot a nice finished look.

Graft: the front of the boot rising from the foot to the top.

Handmade: boots that are built entirely from scratch by hand the old way. There is little or no machinery involved, other than a foot-pedaled sewing machine for some of the fine stitching.

Heel: the part of the boot attached to the rear, or seat, of the sole. The heel comes in any shape and height imaginable and should be constructed to add support, comfort, and form to the overall boot design.

"H" toe: a toe tip rounded like the top curve in a lowercase letter "h." This style gained popularity in the 1980s.

Inlay: strictly decorative fancywork involving multiple layers and colors of leather. These may be overlaid or under laid. Overlaid patterns are sewn over the principal boot leather, while under laid ones are invisible, sewn in from underneath to produce a cutout window-type design.

Insole: the layer of leather between the foot and the outsole, or bottom, of the boot. The insole forms the inner foundation of the boot to which the outsole is attached.

"J" toe: a slim rounded toe tip that resembles the bottom of a lower-case letter "j." This style became popular after the pointed toes of the early 1960s and '70s went out of fashion.

Last: an Old English word for footstep. The last is the model used to make all custom and factory boots.

Until recently it was always carved from wood, but now fiberglass poured into foot molds has almost entirely replaced wood. The toe, however, can be fastened to the end of the last in any style the customer desires. And small pieces of leather are shaped and glued and then sanded down smooth to compensate for any irregularities in a foot or changes that occur normally as a customer ages.

Mule ears: elongated pull straps that resemble long ears, sewn to the outside of the boot. Some of these extend to the top of the boot and literally touch the ground at the bottom. Many times you will see initials, names, etc., inlaid down the ears. Buck stitching, lacework, and sometimes fringe are added for effect.

Needle nose: the absolutely sharpest point possible on a cowboy boot. A needle-nose toe has to actually be hand-filed to create less than an eighth-of-an-inch point. This style is still popular with many Nashville performers.

Peewee: a nickname given to the short boots popular in the 1940s and '50s. A standard cowboy boot is twelve inches high. Basically any boot less than twelve inches tall is considered a peewee.

Continue to Boot Glossary 2

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How to Buy Boots

Boot Fit

Boot Care

Boot Store FAQ

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