April 2010
Howle's Hints

Boot Camp: Pick a Style That Meets All Your Needs

"There is good news from Washington today. Congress is deadlocked and can’t act." — Will Rogers

When government happenings get you frustrated, do what I do. Wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, go out on the porch, take a deep breath, look around at the chickens or the backyard garden, and pretend there is no government. Just pretend all you see while looking around is all there is.

If you see elected officials dodging questions or excusing their dishonesty by saying, "This is the only way we can get things done," just pretend they are only actors on TV. Once you’ve completed this process, you are now ready to face a productive day of work, most likely without the help of stimulus packages and bailouts. Ah, but I digress. Let’s talk about getting comfortable, functional clothing for work.

Work Wear

Most work wear around the farm consists of jeans that are comfortable yet sturdy enough to handle the rigors of jobs ranging from hay hauling to putting up a barbed wire fences. Most likely, the pants will have a hammer loop or a pliers pocket. The shirt should have pockets and be comfortable yet durable. Head gear is typically a cap or Western style hat to shade the eyes and face during the summer, and hold heat during the winter.


Ariat® carries a line of Heritage Ropers made of leather in multiple color choices.

However, the most important consideration is the footwear. After all, the feet are the part of the body staying in contact with the ground most of the time. Western-style, slip-on boots are probably the most popular style of footwear. They are quick to get on and off, and they provide protection above the ankles for briars, barbed wire and snakes. In addition, they allow the wearer the opportunity to reflect a bit of cowboy heritage and rugged individualism that made this country great.

Ropers for Rompin’

What do you do if you have a "town job" and you want to dress in a way reflecting your cowboy heritage, and you don’t want to violate the dress code of your employment? Whether you are wearing boots for function or fashion, the slip-on roper style is a versatile boot that can fit in at the office or the barn.

Ariat® makes a line of Heritage Ropers with the comfortable, low-profile roper heel. The real bonus is real leather. The boots have a full-grain leather foot and shaft as well as leather lining. The Duratread™ outsole provides a cushioned step, and there is little tracking in of dirt because of the tread.


Ropers go well with jeans and casual pants (top).  If you want to carry your cowboy heritage to the office, ropers are the best choice for style and comfort.


What makes these boots stand out is what Ariat® calls the ATS Technology in the footbed and outsole. The layered system of a gel-cushion insole, composite fiber-forked shank as opposed to steel, and the Duratread™ outsole are designed to reduce foot fatigue and stress in the feet, lower legs and back.

The Heritage Ropers come in nine different color choices for men and four color choices for women. They are ideal compliments to jeans, dress pants, khakis or even a suit. For more information on the Ariat® Heritage Ropers, visit them online at www.ariat.com. Many of our local Co-ops carry these boots. If your local Co-op doesn’t have Ariat® in stock, ask them about ordering.

Getting Fit

Wearing ropers or, for that matter, any slip-on boot takes some getting used to if all you’ve ever worn was tie up boots or tennis shoes. I’ve always been accustomed to seeing country music legends on stage wearing cowboy boots. However, when Billy Ray Cyrus came on the scene dancing on stage with tennis shoes, it absolutely broke my "Achy Breaky Heart."

To get the right fit on boots, first, wear the same type socks you will wear while wearing boots. On Western boots, there should be a slight slip on the heel when the boots are new, and the sole is stiff. In time, most of this slippage will disappear as the leather softens, and the boots become broken in. You have to have slight slippage to get a proper fit.

Try on the boots you intend to purchase in the afternoon since your feet are slightly larger at this time. The ball of your foot should be at the widest part of the boot sole. This determines the rest of the toe fit and prevents the toes from touching the end of the boot. If the ball of your foot sits too far forward, your toes will be crowded into the toe box.

Have your feet measured every year or so because shoe size can change slightly year to year. If your foot is narrow, you might consider ordering a ½ size smaller or put a sole insert into the boot if narrow boots are not in stock. If your foot is wider than normal, you may have to go up in boot size to accommodate the extra width.

Socks made of cotton are the most popular on the market, however, they do little to absorb moisture and keep your feet dry and warm. Boot socks are designed to stay over the calf and absorb moisture keeping the feet warm and dry all day.

Beware of Bargains

A quality pair of leather boots should be looked at as an investment and, with proper care, should last for years. Beware of imitations that look like leather. Some of these boots even feel like leather, but you will soon discover you get what you pay for. I once purchased a pair of these boots. I like to refer to them as pleather. They appeared to be a combination of a leather look made out of a plastic-type material. After wearing the boots for a day, I noticed an alarming odor smelling much like a combination of burned rice and rubber.

After that, I decided to spend a little more money and have a quality pair of leather boots that would last for years. Once broken in, a good pair of leather boots wears almost like an extra skin.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.