x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Cowboy boots: it's all about the attitude

Cowboy boots are not for the faint-hearted; they are for the passionate and the driven.

When men put on cowboy boots, they have a specific look in mind. Little Joe from Bonanza, Clint Eastwood from the spaghetti western films he did with Sergio Leone, or even Bo and Luke from The Dukes of Hazzard. More so than with any other footwear, men think they know what they want when pulling on cowboy boots. The problem, however, is most men have no idea what they want when it comes to fashion.

Cowboy boots are not for the faint-hearted; they are for the passionate and the driven. They are not for a Texas businessman trying to maintain a connection with his state's roots by sporting a pair with a business suit, but for a man who loves his boots as much as he loves his car, who grabs his boots from under the bed before he grabs his shirt, who would rather be without socks than his boots. Where is today's equivalent of the LAPD detective Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson's character from the Lethal Weapon series), who wore his cowboy boots better than anyone has on film in the past 25 years?

Unfortunately, men today seem to be looking at George W Bush, who did the Oval Office a disservice, but not because of his policies. Instead, it was one poor fashion choice: he wore pleated, creased trousers with cowboy boots. Forget about his neocon ways, never mind his views on stem cell research, gloss over what he said about the United Nations, ignore his ideas about creationism and disregard his comments about Vladimir Putin ("I looked the man in the eye … I was able to get a sense of his soul"). It was das boots!

The fashion choice of a White House commander-in-chief is not normally an issue in the newsroom of The National. My problem is that Bush seems to have inspired a few cowboy wannabes in Abu Dhabi. I do not mean the elderly Emirati I spotted one Sunday morning at Al Jimi Mall in Al Ain. Wearing a white khandoura and proudly sporting light-brown cowboy boots, he made me think that I have never seen a national look so cool. No, in the UAE capital, there are men who are pairing cowboy boots with cuffed, ironed slacks, à la Mr Bush.

The truth is, the cowboy boot can only be worn with one type of trouser: jeans. Not acid-wash jeans, not baggy jeans and not even the black variety. Blue Levi's jeans. Men must realise there are fashion dos and don'ts, but of course, not all fashion guidelines need to be followed. A man's personal style choices can be creative and independent and still be acceptable. Tradition must allow for vision. Think John Galliano and how he rejuvenated Christian Dior in the 1990s or Tom Ford's 10 years at Gucci, starting in 1994.

Cowboy boots with jeans, however, stand the test of time. In fact, a favourite pair of jeans with a comfortable pair of boots is about as classic a look as a man can pull from his wardrobe. But like so many choices we must make in life, men often need help. So the question is as follows: to whom can the cowboy-boot-wearing man turn for inspiration? Who can show the modern man how best to wear them?

In more recent pop-culture references, the only one who truly embraced the cowboy boot was Chuck Norris in his television show Walker, Texas Ranger. The martial artist donned the boots for the role of a police officer, but he never truly wore them. And therein lies the rub: few can wear them. New York City's Naked Cowboy, who recently announced he was dropping out of the race for mayor because of the red tape involved in his application, has the right attitude. He is passionate and obviously cares a great deal for his boots, but the rest of his outfit is weak. The actor and playwright Sam Shepard comes close. But the one who has style and charm all his own is Puss in Boots.

So the next time you are thinking it is time to slip on your cowboy boots, ask yourself one question: what would the puss think? Michael Jabri-Pickett is the foreign editor of The National. mjp@thenational.ae