“Quiet And Devastating, Like Leonard Cohen In Cowboy Boots”

A Look At Leonard Cohen’s Boots

Dominique Issermann’s 1984 photo of Leonard Cohen smoking on a park bench, a shot that has been recycled into posters, post cards, and at least one book cover (the Leonard Cohen Collection songbook published in 2001).

Then there are those boots, shown below in an enlarged section of  the Issermann photo.

Leonard Cohen On His Boots

Asked “What’s your most prized material possession” by his friend and interviewer, Danny Fields, Cohen responded “I like these boots,” leading to the following exchange:

D: They’re nice. What are they? How high do they go? Oh I like the toes. It’s hard to get those toes.

L: Today we saw a beautiful pair of boots in the window of a place called Botticelli [Botticelli Shoes – New York City]. I imagine they’re extremely expensive. They didn’t take an credit cards.

D: Oh, but any good boots are at least a hundred dollars.

L: I’ll never accustom myself to that.

D: Shoes are different from anything else.

L: Well, I agree with you. But I only buy boots with foreign money that I don’t understand. I know these cost a lot, but I don’t know how much because I paid francs for them. They’re probably at least a hundred dollars.

Others On Leonard Cohen’s Boots

Music Director Roscoe Beck remembers that at his first meeting with Leonard Cohen in 1979, Cohen “was wearing his customary dark grey suit and black cowboy boots.”1 Anjani Thomas also includes the boots in her description of her first meeting with Leonard Cohen, which took place in 1984:

I was waiting to meet him [Leonard Cohen] at the loft [belonging to John Lissauer]. When he  walked through the door, I saw that his cowboy boots and everything he wore was black. It was an impressive entrance.2

The official caption for the June 21, 1982 photo shown below follows:

Wearing a tie about as subtle as CITY-TV; media mogul Moses Znaimer; above; chats with the inscrutable Leonard Cohen; who sported a sedate black tie with cowboy boots. (Photo by Erin Combs/Toronto Star via Getty Images) [emphasis mine]

Embed from Getty Images

And for something even more dramatic, consider Burr Snider’s write-up of meeting Leonard Cohen for a 1970 interview:3

He’s [Leonard Cohen is]  wearing yellow Peter Fonda shades (possibly protection against some of that secret psychic snow), a beautifully pressed safari jacket, fitted black trousers and a pair of handtooled boots so lovely you want to cry with envy. [emphasis mine]

Then there was that certain  introduction when one moment Leonard Cohen wasn’t wearing cowboy boots and the next  moment he was:

About a thousand years ago I used to live in this hotel in New York City, a very good hotel. In the elevator of that hotel, early in the morning I used to bump into a young woman. After about a week, I gathered my courage and I said to her, “Are you looking for someone?” She said, “Yes,I’m looking for Kris Kristofferson.” I said, “Little Lady, you’re in luck. I’m Kris Kristofferson. “Those were very generous times as you may have read.So she never lead on that she really knew I wasn’t Kris Kristofferson. Maybe I was Kris Kristofferson. I wasn’t wearing cowboy boots until that moment. A couple of years later I was sitting at the bar of this Polynesian restaurant in Miami Beach, some place I hope I never bump into you. They serve drinks in ceramic coconut shells. All up and down the boulevards there are real coconut trees with real coconut shells. There is some arcane meaning in all of that but I couldn’t penetrate it. I was sitting at that bar and this young woman’s presence became very strong and I wrote this song for Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel. [emphasis mine]4


The above shot (from a 1988 video interview) segues nicely into one example of Cohen’s use of boots in his poetry. This excerpt is from “You Need Her” published in The Energy of Slaves:

You need her
so you can get
your boots off the bedspread
We who have always ruled the world
don’t like the way you dance
And she said, I for one
am happy with the world

Boot Procurement

In answer to Mr Berberian’s query as to where Leonard Cohen might have picked up those boots, Marco Adria, writing in Music Of Our Times: Eight Canadian Singer-Songwriters (Lorimer. January 1, 1990), notes that

The shops in the area [near Leonard Cohen’s place in Montreal] include boutiques and antique stores. The shoe stores — there must be one on every block — carry beautiful cowboy boots made of finely crafted leather, one of Cohen’s indulgences.

And, in Various Positions (Random House of Canada, 1996), Nadel points out that “One of his [Cohen’s]  favorite places in Nashville was the Woodbine Army Surplus store.” Among other items Leonard Cohen, then as well known as a poet as he was a singer, purchased for his homestead near Franklin, Tennessee were “a jeep, a carbine, a pair of cowboy boots…”.

Finally, I offer this screenshot from the documentary, “Leonard Cohen Under Review 1978-2006,” of a needle nosed boot, then worn by Leonard Cohen.

 Credit Due Department:

The title, “Quiet And Devastating, Like Leonard Cohen In Cowboy Boots,” is from Noah W. Bailey’s review of Kris Kistofferson’s Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends (Dallas Observer May 19, 2010):

Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends: The Publishing Demos 1968-1972 collects 16 tracks–flubs, false starts and all–recorded by Kris Kristofferson at the height of his powers, when he was arguably the finest lyricist working in Nashville. “The Lady’s Not For Sale” and the title track come off quiet and devastating, like Leonard Cohen in cowboy boots, …


Note: Originally posted Nov 10, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. Roscoe Beck On Leonard Cohen, The World’s Quietest Band, “Jenny Sings Lenny,” & More at Cohencentric []
  2. Anjani Thomas: Personal Communication []
  3. Leonard Cohen: Zooey Glass in Europe by Burr Snider was from the book, Leonard Cohen: The Artist & His Critics, edited by Michael Gnarowski (1976) although this article originally appeared in Gypsy I, No. 1. []
  4. Introduction to “Chelsea Hotel #2 given by Leonard Cohen at June 1, 1988 London Royal Albert Hall concert. From Diamonds In The Lines. []

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