Riding boots had been a part of equestrian life for centuries. Until the industrial age, boots were individually handmade in many different styles, depending on culture. Early cowboy boot designs, along with other cowboy accoutrements, were also heavily influenced by the vaquero tradition imported from Spain to the Americas, dating back to the early 16th century. Military boots designed for cavalry riders also had an influence.
Later, the industrial revolution allowed some styles of boots to be mass produced. One mass-produced boot style, the Wellington boot, (a shorter but cavalry-oriented boot) was popular with cowboys in the USA until the 1860s.
During the cattle drive era of 1866–1884, the cowboy was not apt to ruin a good pair of dress boots while working, but some owned more decorative dress boots to wear in town. The basic style elements permeated even working boots, and made the Wellington obsolete. Fashion magazines from 1850 and 1860 show the cowboy boot with topstitching, cutouts of geometric or other natural elements and underslung heel.