Discovering Texas Through Cowboy Boots And Honkytonks

When most people think about Texas, images flash of pickup trucks, country music and a drawl that sends your heart into a two-steppin’ rhythm.

Alexandra Cooper Texas
Us posing at the Houston Rodeo, still in our cowboy boots – Photo by Kendal Dirkin

They wouldn’t be far off. While all of these things are pretty essential for Texan survival, I’d wager that no one leaves this part of southern Texas without a fresh pair of cowboy boots and 101 about the Texas Two-Step.

A girl walks into a boot emporium…

By our first morning in Texas, we all knew that it was essential that we arm ourselves with cowboy boots, if not for the sake of masking our Midwestern dress, then for the sake of our wardrobe.

If you ever get a hankering to introduce a pair of cowboy boots to shoe sanctuary, look no further than Cavender’s Boot Emporium. Shelves are lined with enough cowboy boots to put Dolly Parton’s collection to shame. All are handmade with genuine leather, which makes them a bit pricy, but the quality and design of your boots will far outweigh any guilt you may feel about splurging.

We spent two hours wandering through the mazes of boots, picking up pair after pair, looking for the ones that would make their way back into our suitcase. On their website, Cavender’s owner points out how personal a pair of boots can be. Our first night in Texas, we told someone that we were on the hunt for cowboy boots. He smiled and said, “Just remember ladies, you don’t pick the boot, the boot picks you.” He was right.

After two hours, I found a pair of boots that had been discarded by one of my friends. I found a pair in my size, slipped them on, and felt like a barrel-racing and roping Cinderella. The boots were bought within ten minutes.

One thing to note: While the shoe may seem to fit at first, cowboy boots are almost entirely made of leather and take time and patience to break in. We learned this the hard way. To break them in, try wearing your boots around the house and for other quick errands. Don’t try and wear them to a five-hour rodeo show and concert like we did, your feet will never forgive you.

Another thing: Cowboy boots are expensive.  Again, if you’re looking for something that’s all leather and handmade, they won’t typically come cheap. If you’re looking for quality boots at a good price, there are resale shops like the Texas Junk Company that have shelves upon shelves of slightly used cowboy boots fresh for the taking.

The thing I can guarantee is this: If you don’t come to Houston with cowboy boots, you’ll leave with cowboy boots.

Alexandra Cooper Texas 2
Shot of all of our newly purchased cowboy boots – Photo by Kendal Dirkin


Yes, these places really exist. Yes, these places are frequented by cowboys who know how to two-step. And yes, they will ask you to dance.

Our first night going to Wild West Honky Tonk, we were armed with nothing but our cowboy boots to mask our Midwestern roots. Our knowledge about the honky tonk culture didn’t extend much beyond country music and vague rumors about a Texas Two Step. I’m pretty sure most of us expected one bar with a Budweiser tap and a few couples dancing closely on an otherwise empty dance floor. What we didn’t expect was a massive, two-level dance hall packed with dancing couples of all ages, races and sobriety levels. Fathers danced with daughters, boyfriends with girlfriends and best friends with each other. We watched with envy and excitement, never thinking that we would wander out onto the dance floor.

“Excuse me, would you like to dance?”

I turned around to see a young man, staring at us as if he had just asked us about the weather.

All of us looked at each other, awkward and interested smiles and giggles played on our faces until they spewed out of us, as if we were back in high school and the captain of the football team had asked us to prom.


We stepped onto the dance floor, warning our brave dance partners that we were from Chicago and that to us, two-stepping was as foreign to us as DJ UNK’s “ 2 Step” was to them. Our partners would smile, nod, and then take us out onto the dance floor, spinning us and patiently waiting as we caught on to the art of the two-step.

Needless to say, there’s no such thing as sitting on the sidelines at a honkytonk.

After that first dance, whether it was two-stepping with each other or a real-life cowboy, I don’t think any of us were off of the dance floor for more than five minutes.

From the classic Texas Two-Step to the myriad of line dancing songs and styles (Have you ever line danced to “Wobble” by V.I.C., because you should) we danced well after last call and went home with swollen feet, sweat-covered clothes and huge Texas smiles on our faces.

Alexandra Cooper Texas 1
The girls getting ready for Wild West Honky Tonk – Photo by Valerie Ortiz

Alexandra Cooper

Allie never says NO to an adventure. She packs more shoes than pants, while she can't travel without her stuffed animal: Monkey. Her favorite country is Italy.

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