4 Cowboy Boot Looks That Take The Yee Out Of The Haw

Ranchwear has officially hit the runway, but it's not the first time designers have taken a liking to western fashion. Since they were first invented in the 1800s, cowboy boots have made multiple appearances at fashion shows, including Ralph Lauren in 1979, Givenchy in 1998, and Calvin Klein in 2017 (via The Lexington Line). As we've crept into the 2020s, it seems that cowboy boots are set to be staple piece for the decade, beloved for their versatility and nostalgic flair. But even though they're having a major moment, cowboy boots can still be notoriously tricky to style. Do cowboy boots always have to be worn with jeans? How do you rock the look without coming across a little too country? 

When it comes to getting comments on your outfit, there's a big difference between a "yeehaw" and a "bless your heart." That's why we've rounded up some cowboy boot combinations to stay away from and provided some alternatives that are fresher than sweet tea on a hot porch. Of course, you can style the shoe trend however you want — after all, the whole spirit of the wild West is about breaking the rules — but these are our suggestions for pulling off rootin', tootin', cowboy bootin' look. 

Skip: western overload

One of the most common mistakes that people make when styling cowboy boots is leaning too far into the theme. It can be tempting to pair you boots the way you see them in western movies, but we're aiming for more natural cowgirl-inspired fashion, not a costume party look. To avoid giving off too much horse girl energy, it's best to skip wearing pieces like overalls, denim on denim, prairie dresses, cowboy hats, or equestrian motifs with your boots. 

Pick: modern statements

Try pairing your cowboy boots with modern looks that you already love. To freshen up this traditional footwear, work some artsy and urban elements into your clothing, such as bright colors or animal prints. Careful color coordination is the key to not looking odd and out of place, so country lifestyle site Helpful Horse Hints recommends pairing bright boots with a toned-down outfit or opting for a monochrome look when you want to have a formal edge.  

Skip: athleisure

According to Insider, Princess Diana may have rocked the look in 1989, but we're still going to say that sweatpants and cowboy boots are a no-go combo. The laid-back attitude of athleisure is totally different from the intentional structure of cowboy boots. Sometimes mixing vibes can work, but in this case, it tends to look like you're either walking to the gas station at 2:00am, or you're a toddler about to go romp in the mud.

Pick: pared-back classics

Beautiful cowboy boots deserve a little decorum. Instead of activewear, opt for classic pieces like slacks, denim jeans, blazers, and trench coats. Neutral colors are absolutely your friend in this case too. In a video posted to her Youtube channel, fashion influencer Laini Ozark says, "I think all black is a super chic way of wearing cowboy boots, and really pushes you away from looking like a country bumpkin — if that's not what your style is!" 

Skip: sequins and rhinestones

We all love Dolly Parton, but rhinestone-studded looks can be a little too much for anyone who isn't a touring country music star. Like other Western-style looks, glittery outfits can have a tendency to come across too costume-like when paired with cowboy boots. Cowboy boots make a pretty big statement on their own, so save the glitter, rhinestones, and sequins for another day, and instead opt for more wearable and comfortable pieces.

Pick: femme flair

Don't be afraid to pile on the ruffles, lace, and button details. Dresses, skirts, and cowboy boots are like a match made in heaven, and anything that can add some volume and interest up top will help to balance out the look. When it comes to styling cowboy boots, Laini Ozark said (via Youtube), "[there's] something that's really basic but I tend to gravitate towards a lot, and that's just a midi dress." She concluded, "It's a fit. You look like you tried so hard but you'll be the comfiest one all night."

Skip: dated styles

Indie sleaze may be making a comeback, according to Society19, but at this point, you'll want to avoid wearing potentially outdated or styles with your cowboy boots. It might seem like a comfortable combo but stay away from the high-low dresses, tight skirts, oversaturated florals, and poorly executed "boho" pieces that were popular circa 2013. These will make your cowboy boots feel less "intentional cool kid" and somewhat dated or out of touch.

Pick: modern silhouettes

Instead of reaching for outdated styles, look for more modern, modest ways to wear your cowboy boots. In this Youtube short, fashion influencer Lydia Jane Tomlinson said to avoid pairing flat, low shoes with long skirts, as these cut off the legs at an odd place. Swapping her flats for cowboys, Tomlinson recommended that viewers, "use longer boots to elongate the leg with an A-line skirt." Of course, short hemlines are great to show off the whole boot but don't underestimate the power of a strong cowboy boot under a midi skirt or wide-leg jeans.