A Brief History of Boots

A Brief History of Boots

Nov 02 , 2021


Tags - History of Boots

Boots are always on trend and a fashion staple that it can be easy to forget they were once a strictly utilitarian piece of clothing.

And whilst there is not a solid definition of the term “boots”, they are essentially footwear that covers the entire foot and lower leg.

It’s believed that boots were one of the earliest shoes created when the footwear evolution began, and form the building blocks of modern footwear we see today.

Throughout history, boots have been all about fulfilling the needs of the wearer with its culture, and were more than just looking stylish.

But even though materials vary, the important purpose remains the same: to provide protection against outdoor elements.

From its prehistoric origins to contemporary trends, here is a brief history of boots.

15th - 16th Century 

By the 15th century, men of all classes wore long boots reaching the thighs and were usually made out of brown leather.

And as popular as this boot was, it was not seen as appropriate for women to wear - in fact, it was actually a criminal offence.

Instead, it was more common for women to wear laced ankle boots that were often lined with fur.

Moving into the 16th century, high boots were worn to meet upper stocks and developed into the wide, floppy cavalier styles, with soft boots that folded down.

Worn for its decorative qualities, and to protect silk stockings, these boots also featured a leather strap on the instep and a strap under the foot, which meant they could be worn for riding too.

17th - 18th Century

The 17th century saw the emergence of the first military uniforms and the boot played a critical role in this standardisation.

Here, the high-legged cavalier boot from the 16th century was adapted into a highly polished, military jackboot. The high top and rigid finish was incredibly effective at protecting legs while on horses and was worn between 1688 right into the 1760s.

Moving on to the 18th century, a jockey style boot was developed in 1927 to serve the gentlemanly pursuit of sport riding, which featured the top folded down under the knee to support mobility, and become more popular as a fashionable shoe into the 1770s.

Yet, under the influence of the French court, boots disappeared except those worn by laborers, soldiers and devoted sportsmen.

19th Century 

In the 19th century, English style has made the boot more popular than ever before.

And Beau Brummel, men’s fashion icon, took this in his stride - literally. It was reported his typical morning dress was hessians and pantaloons or top boots and buckskins.

But despite this endorsement, the design of the boot naturally shifted with fashion trends and this is when the Wellington boot emerged.

Essentially like a Hessian, except it had a curved top cut with simple binding and it dominated menswear during the first quarter of the 19th century, and were typically worn by men in hunting.

Another important style of this era was the Blucher, which was a practical ankle boot worn by laborers and then later worn for casual and sports - this design proves to be popular as it serves the basis for modern shoes today, like the combat boot and hiking boots (of course they’ve been modified slightly).

Moreover, it was during this time that the popularity of boots began to influence women’s fashion too, where the most common style was Adelaide; a flat ankle boot with side lacing.

However, by the Victorian period, boots of all kinds reached its peak and the trend for comfort and practicality was aided by technological advances like the sewing machine.

In 1837, J. Sparkes Hall presented Queen Victoria with the first ever pair of boots with an elastic side and this easy slip-on style remained popular throughout the rest of the century.

20th Century

By the 1920s, boots were soon abandoned by fashionable dress sense, and returned to their function role, specifically used in the military or sport activities.

However, the exception was that women in higher class societies would wear knee high leather boots with high heels and side zips for a gaiter fit.

And it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century where boots emerged as a fashion icon favoured by younger generations.

With pop culture and films like The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause, many wore the sturdy  motorcycle boot as a visible sign of their rebellion.

By the 50s, elastic side boots like from the 19th century were the latest trend. However this time it featured a high heel and a pointed toe which was worn with slim fitted tapered trousers - known as the Chelsea boots we see around today.

A few years later, the 60s saw an explosion of fashionable boots, with different designs and styles from ankle to thigh high, with or without heels.

The 70s saw an increase in unisex designs, with both genders rocking the chukka boots, cowboy boots and zip-up platform boots, like the Dr Martens.

Today, boots are worn by almost everyone, everywhere, especially during colder months, reinforcing the notion that these shoes serve to protect against harsh weather conditions.

Wrapping Up

Boots have been a constant throughout human history.

And arguably, no other footwear has a history that is as long or as captivating than the boot.

Even though boots today are worn for purely fashion and style reasons, they are deeply rooted in the functional designs of footwear our ancestors once wore.

If you’d like to know more, please contact us today.

In the meantime, take a look at our full range of boots here.

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