The practice of decorating the shaft (or upper) has been going on for centuries. In the Old West, boots meant for work were usually plain or only had minor decoration, but "going-to-town" boots always had fancy top-stitching. I've also heard that it was an acceptable way for folks to show a little style back in the day without wearing dress clothes that needed extra care to maintain. Meanwhile, a pants leg over the shaft should protect the stitching.This may be a naive question but one thing about boot styles that confuses me is why so much effort goes into decorating the shank (?) of the boot that will be covered by jeans or work pants?