Long gone are the days when cowboy and riding boots were only meant for those with a horse. For decades, these two styles have become a fall staple, going from utilitarian to trendy.
Low-heeled and in a variety of lengths, these boots add a little bohemian flair, a masculine touch or, with the right outfit, can make for an elegantly casual cold-weather look.
Made entirely of genuine leather, they usually come with a hefty price tag; they take what seems like forever in a series of painful wears to get "broken in"; and in times of animal rights awareness, they pose a real ethical conundrum to some. So what's a girl living on a shoestring budget with a low tolerance for pain who just wants some cute shoes supposed to do?
As Carrie Bradshaw once said, "'One woman's trash is another woman's treasure." So I headed on a quest to find the perfect pair of vintage boots.
At first it seemed like an easy enough task — go to some thrift shops and find a size 9 pair of boots someone had donated. But after a few fruitless visits to Goodwills and Salvation Armies, the only success attained was at Second Image Thrift Store in Pinellas Park. The massive store has a whole section of the wall dedicated to boots at really affordable prices. While still vintage, these boots were newer, mainly from the '90s, like an ankle sienna pair with high heels and western flair a la Isabel Marant for $12.95.
My next stops were among the best known vintage shops in Tampa Bay, starting with Sherry's YesterDaze in Tampa. The store carries men's and women's vintage apparel and accessories and in the back there were a few riding boots. Some of them were ideal, like the brown ankle boots for $35 with slightly worn leather. But, as vintage shoppers are well aware, vintage shoes are narrower on the foot and calf, and a size 5 wasn't going to work.
At La France in Ybor City, the smaller sizes came to be an advantage as cowboy boots were only available in the men's section. Some in all leather, others with a silver tip, these men's sizes were perfect for a women's size 8 to 9.5. For about $49, the '60s and '70s pairs were definitely broken in, and with some more scuffs and character.
Across the bridge, at Little Brooklyn Vintage in downtown St. Petersburg, the choices were overwhelming. Shelves and shelves featured pairs from the '60s to the '90s, some clearly worn, others looking brand new, mostly in black and brown. Just up the road, at ARTpool, again I found a wide variety but of the most unique styles and color combinations. A '60s leather and alligator brown pair ($89), a black and white leather ankle pair of booties ($65) and mid-calf white fringe riding boots ($68) were just a few of the ones available.
In each of the stores all pairs were unique and one of a kind, which adds to the appeal of buying vintage instead of a new pair, but also means no color or size options in a specific style. The good news is that the inventory at vintage shops is, like the cowboy boots trend, always revolving, and a new old pair of boots in the right size, color and style might be there the next week.