Saturday, January 13, 2007

Why cowboys die with their boots on (according to Daniel Libeskind)

I happened to be reminded of this little item from 2003, which I feel I ought to share because it contains some important truths about cowboy boots. I've been wearing cowboy boots since the 1970s myself. (Some people have claimed that I'm so attached to them I must leave them on at night when I go to sleep, but this is untrue.) The internationally famous architect Daniel Libeskind is a more recent convert, and in this interview he explained how and why he got hooked on them.

One point that Libeskind brings out well is that people who haven't worn cowboy boots have no idea how comfortable they are (especially if they're made of deerskin or--like Libeskind's boots--elkskin, both of which are simultaneously soft and indestructibly tough). But there's more to it than that.
All right, you architecture freaks, listen up. Daniel Libeskind, the master of avant-garde construction, has a news flash.

''The first perfect marriage of form and function wasn't in the Bauhaus,'' Mr. Libeskind said last week, his mischievous eyes twinkling as he brandished his black cowboy boots like a pair of nickel-plated six-shooters. ''It was the Old West.''

For the record, Mr. Libeskind, who was visiting New York from Berlin to promote his proposal for the World Trade Center site, is in many ways a Western purist -- as in Western Europe. He wears small black-framed eyeglasses by Alain Mikli and black suits from Giorgio Armani. But two years ago, as a ''so there'' gesture to his staff, who had all told him he would never make a scheduled lecture in Bozeman, Mont. (so often does he miss engagements in more major metropoles), he went out and bought a pair of cowboy boots as proof that he had done it.

He hasn't taken them off since. ''I now understand why cowboys die with their boots on,'' Mr. Libeskind said. [....] ''They completely change how you walk,'' he said. ''You walk more formally, more vertically. It's hard to walk sloppily.'' The higher cowboy heel, as on a woman's high-heeled shoe, adds inches to the length of the stride, lending force and even purpose to one's gait. Meanwhile, the heel's inward curve softens the ground's impact, making walking more comfortable. For Mr. Libeskind, who said he travels 200 days of the year, comfort is important. ''I don't even take them off on the plane,'' he boasted.

But he also enjoys the bit of discomfort they give others. [....]
Also, there are no shoelaces to come untied. Case closed.

--Jeff Weintraub
=========================
New York Times
Sunday, January 26, 2003
These Boots Are Made for Drafting
By David Colman

All right, you architecture freaks, listen up. Daniel Libeskind, the master of avant-garde construction, has a news flash.

''The first perfect marriage of form and function wasn't in the Bauhaus,'' Mr. Libeskind said last week, his mischievous eyes twinkling as he brandished his black cowboy boots like a pair of nickel-plated six-shooters. ''It was the Old West.''

For the record, Mr. Libeskind, who was visiting New York from Berlin to promote his proposal for the World Trade Center site, is in many ways a Western purist -- as in Western Europe. He wears small black-framed eyeglasses by Alain Mikli and black suits from Giorgio Armani. But two years ago, as a ''so there'' gesture to his staff, who had all told him he would never make a scheduled lecture in Bozeman, Mont. (so often does he miss engagements in more major metropoles), he went out and bought a pair of cowboy boots as proof that he had done it.

He hasn't taken them off since. ''I now understand why cowboys die with their boots on,'' Mr. Libeskind said. The calf-high boots, $207, were the plainest at Carter's Cobbler Shoppe in Bozeman, handmade for the store in black elk skin with the barest bit of decorative white topstitching.

''They completely change how you walk,'' he said. ''You walk more formally, more vertically. It's hard to walk sloppily.'' The higher cowboy heel, as on a woman's high-heeled shoe, adds inches to the length of the stride, lending force and even purpose to one's gait. Meanwhile, the heel's inward curve softens the ground's impact, making walking more comfortable. For Mr. Libeskind, who said he travels 200 days of the year, comfort is important. ''I don't even take them off on the plane,'' he boasted.

But he also enjoys the bit of discomfort they give others. A man whose personal style is necessarily pragmatic -- he has to present himself to committees and public forums as a serious architect, he said -- the boots give him a note of color, black though they are. And while Mr. Libeskind has not devoted much of his mind's square footage to cowboy lore or style, the boots remind him of the optimistic (renegade, even) tradition of the American West, a place where one could dream big and buck the rules. As a United States citizen, born in Poland and now living in Germany, he savors a touch of American patriotism. ''Even Hegel wanted to go to the American West,'' he said.

''The boots have a certain levity,'' Mr. Libeskind added. ''Life can't get too serious.''

Certainly they have a startling effect on some audiences. ''I was being interviewed on the BBC the other day by a very proper man,'' the architect recounted. ''And he looked down and said, 'My God, Mr. Libeskind, are you wearing cowboy boots?' He was horrified.'' Mr. Libeskind's office was similarly stunned when he walked into the office in the boots, he said.

But the style judgment he rates most highly is the one his 13-year-old daughter, Rachel, handed down. ''When she first saw them, she looked at me as if I had come down from Mars,'' he said. ''But after a few days, she said to me, 'I thought about it, Dad, and they're O.K. They're cool.' ''

Leave the world to its laced-up ways. The teenager has spoken.

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