Monday, June 29, 2009

Twentieth Century Boots

Improved mechanisation at the turn of the 20th century and the introduction of the first heel factory in the US (1889) meant shoes and boots became more readily available to ordinary people. Popularity for Balmoral boots continued with a young Winston Churchill a devotee. Victorian fashion highlighted feminine beauty in which eroticism played no small part. Hemlines were rising and legs, ankles and feet took greater importance and long legs were definitely an attractive feature so heels prevailed. High boots buttoned at the side were fashionable for both men and women. Upper class women wore boots made from glace kid or brocade, velvet and antelope skin, whereas working women wore lace up ankle boots made from leather. The spat was a combination of a patent leather shoe with a cloth legging and was often fastened with buttons. An essential accessory for women who wore these was a button hook. Charles Chaplin favoured patent leather boots with beige cloth legs. By 1921 women were wearing straight topped, knee high, Russian boots (similar to a Wellington boot) with pointed toes and a Louis heel. The boot originally laced up the side but was later replaced with a zipper (invented, 1891). Dunlop developed another version for the fashion market; these were made from rubber and came in a brown colour. The boots had pointed toes and a Cuban heel. Wellingtons or wellies as they are better known had a short fashion life and were soon relegated to garden accessories. For ease in cleaning the spat (combination of shoe and legging) could be separated. The sports boot and forerunner to athletic footwear has its ancestry in the development of the blutcher army boot and came from conscription for war. Boots took less and less fashion attention after the 1930s and were often associated with oppression. Wars and depression meant greater concentration was given over to utility and hard wearing properties. In Australian during the depression RM Williams designed and made an elastic sided boot for mounted stockmen working in the outback (1932). The qualities of water resistance comfort and toughness ensured the footwear became popular with country people and now are exported all over the world. Williams was assisted in his endeavour by Dollar Mick a travelling companion. Made from one piece leather the upper had no seems to burst when worn hard against the saddle stirrups. At first heels were hand made with a series of lifts but nowadays they are pre-made and nailed to the sole by machine. In the late fifties boots began to appear in mainstream fashion. Rediscovered by the youth of the day engineer boots took on a fashionable veneer. First came the fashionable canvas boot associated with the popular game of baseball in the US. Next the desert boot which was to spring board into Brothel Creepers, then, the sixties chukka boots. Both traditional leathers and new look plastic were used to add spectacle to the tight fitting footwear.
The Engineer's boot or Biker's boot was used by motorcyclists of the fifties to protect their legs from the heat of the engine. They also gave a mechanical advantage to the biker when holding on to the pedals not to mention a buccaneer quality. The chukka boot was hybrids of dessert boots and was worn by scooter, mad Mods. The ankle protection prevented the Mods from the heat of the engine. Made from suede they wear prone to mark easily until the invention of Hush Puppies which were treated synthetically. The Cuban heeled, Chelsea boot or recycled elasticised boots was rediscovered and became fashionable with young men, in the sixties. These were worn with pointed toes, round toes or chisel toes. With the introduction of the mini in the 60's women's legs were more exposed and fashion designers created ankle and knee length boots to accentuate the new look. Thigh high boots enjoyed a degree of popularity too. By coincidence the boots often captured kinks or folds and were nicknamed as "kinky boots”. The youth of the decade's preoccupation with promiscuity, meant instant success for these "go go boots'. In the seventies the US oil recession meant expensive fashion boots fell from fashion. Doc Marten boots meantime became popular with both sexes and were associated with the alternative Punk movement. DMs commercial success in the early seventies combined with increased competition and the availability of cheaper Taiwanese and Korean products convinced the Swartz brothers (US) to manufacture under the Timberland label. The company was launched in 1975. The relaxed all American male image portrayed by the rugged footwear was an instant success with the young Americans. More importantly according to Cattison and Patterson (1997) this was the first time since cowboy boots that a manufactured style was sold to US youth. Their popularity spread throughout the Europe and the rest of the world. Like cowboy boots, Timberland boots, have become part of the mythology support by clever marketing. The success of Timberland boots draws a clear point that only in the later part of the twentieth century have men been targeted. This had been the domain of women's fashion. Nostalgia for earlier pioneering days combined with a rise in the Green Movement, meant yuppies could wear these icons on their feet. The four wheeled drive boots of suburbia had arrived. The platform boot was popular with the Glam rockers of the seventies. Platform soles gave the height challenged an advantage they would otherwise not have had. Abba took the new platform boots to knee and thigh length extremes. Made in all sorts of material synthetic and natural the fashion passed with the death of disco. However it remained popular as drag sartoria only to re-appear more recently in the nineties with "girl power".

Pattison A & Cawthorne N 1997 A century of shoes: icons of style in the 20th century NSW : Universal International

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nineteenth Century Boots

The Napoleonic Wars dominated the early part of this century and shoe makers became dedicated to making the military boots but as the war passed they soon adapted their skills to civilian wear. First men, then women took to wearing boots for everyday wear and this remained the vogue until the end of the 1800's when shoes became popular again.

Men's boots had high heels until the middle of the nineteenth century when the design of coaches was improved and the development of railways meant less need for horses.

According to McDowell (1989) the height of heels worn by women were equally a reflection of their preferred mode of transport i,e a coach. During the seventeenth century ladies traveled by sedan chair. In Versailles, sedan chairs were carried into the public rooms so ladies might alight on clean dry floors. The fight against dirt was everyone's concern until the introduction of metalled roads.

The slap sole was a fashionable extension added to high heeled shoes and boots. Working on a similar principle to the Eskimo's snow shoe with a bar between the heel and forefoot to increase surface contact thus preventing the shoe from sinking into the mud. The outdoor extension was called after the sound made when the sole 'slapped' the mud to the side.

Nineteenth century Dandys like Beau Brummell paid much attention to their appearance. Although there was less emphasis on ostentatious styles for men by the beginning of the twentieth century. Men’s' fashions had virtually become a uniform. This is especially true of shoes.

Until 1820, women generally wore soft flat heeled slippers for all occasions but after that, day shoes or ankle boots were widely favoured. (Black J and Anderson and Garland M, 1975)

By 1830 fashions for non-working women included boots. There was a return of the heel and the boots were worn short to the ankle, or just above. To give the appearance of daintiness, the boots were made on narrow lasts. The introduction of heelless shoes brought an end to the straight shoe. Closely buttoned or tightly laced to the mid-calf, the boot supported the ankle, presumably to reduce risk of sprains. Ladies boots were made from silk, fabric or kid leather.

A change of lacing style to side lacing proved very popular and the ankle boots were called "Adelaides" after the Queen Consort of William IV. The style highlighted the gentle contours of the female foot, presenting a vulnerable and delicate extension. Primarily the boot was to encase the female foot and ankle from temptation but probably had the opposite effect.

Bootmakers embellished their wares with silk fabrics and metallic thread embroidery. Button closures were used instead of laces to reveal shapely ankles. Cut-outs in the leather were sometimes included a playful view of colourful stockings. These boots were called Barrettes.

Heels did make a return by the middle of the nineteenth century and close fitting high button boots became the predominant fashion.

Charles Goodyear's discovery of vulcanised rubber enabled Sparkes-Hall, bootmaker to Queen Victoria in 1837 to invent the elastic gusset boot. The advantage of elasticated boots meant they could be easily removed and put on again which appealed to busier and more demanding life style of Victorian women. Although there were several teething problems by the late 1840's the fashion began to catch on. This became a prominent style in the West until the onset of World War One.

The Balmoral boot (or Bal) was originally designed for Prince Albert and consisted of a close fitting lace up boot, similar to those worn by today's wrestlers. They could be front or side lacing and acted as a galosh to protect the feet from the wet gorse. The upper section of the toe box was treated with water proofing. Queen Victoria must have approved because she had several pairs made and wore them regularly. Possibly because Prince Albert expressed a liking for the style because it had a slendering effect. Balmoral boots became popular with both men and women. After the Royal family bought Balmoral in Scotland, the Queen took to walking and this required sturdy footwear for women. This freedom reflected the growing movement for women to enter the workforce.

Well-bred women could not be acknowledged to possess anything as base and potentially carnal as legs. Indeed, it was during the Victorian period that legs were referred to as lower limbs. Crinoline as a material may have looked ridiculous but at the same time was very seductive. The steel hops that buoyed the skirt kept the material in a permanent state of motion. The slightest pressure at one point raised it correspondingly at the opposite point. This often revealed a titillating and tantalising glimpse of the forbidden flesh i.e. the female ankle.

Partly worn in honour of Wellington (1769-1852), the boot complemented the crinoline dresses and provided a foot corset enjoyed by men and understood by women.

The nineteenth century was dominated by dancing and the craze for public balls affected the dress and costume of the day. Jane Austin's novels illustrate the importance of dances to nineteenth century social life. Fancy costume balls were all the rage in America and women would create their own design themes.

Fashionable boots came in many forms including Opera boots which were highly decorated footwear. These were popular with opera goers and hence the name.

Juliets were quilted boots worn by lady's travelling in carriages. Once they arrived at their destination they would change into other shoes more suited to the occasion.

In the cold winters earthenware boot warmers were used to heat up the footwear. The piece is hollowed with a hole in the top and like a hot water bottle warm water can be added before the device is inserted into a boot.

Hi low boots or half boots were first worn as fashionable boots in the early 1800s. Made from silk or wool they laced to above the ankle. Women began to wear low, “half” boots as a practical alternative to delicate slippers in the early nineteenth century but silk hi lows were a popular choice with brides.

Victorian children wore miniature adult shoes and gaiter boots were popular.

By the middle of the century mass production meant the cost of boots became affordable to more people. No longer were they a reliable sign of status, the boot become a symbol of emerging equality not just between the sexes, but also among the social groups (O'Keeffe, 1996). The workboot started to appear and waterproofed boots designed to give women greater mobility with freedom outdoors became available.

Patent leather boots and shoes became fashionable for both men and women between 1850 and 1860.

John Lobb trained as a bootmaker in London before moving to Australia to try his luck in the goldfields. He never found his fortune in gold but instead came up with the brainwave of making hollow heeled boots for prospectors to hide their gold. The idea caught on and John Lobb set himself up in business in Sydney in 1858. When the Great Exhibition came along in 1862 he sent a pair of his boots along and won a gold medal for their quality. Twelve months later he sent a pair of his riding boots to the Prince of Wales and was awarded a Royal Warrant. He returned to London and established a business " John Lobb, Bootmaker" which continues to trade as the world's most famous bespoke shoemaking establishment.

Boots for women became more elaborate from 1850s onwards partly due to the introduction of machinery. The Bustle dress allowed more opportunity to reveal the feet. Shoes became more fanciful and elasticised boots were worn for daytime wear where at night leather slippers were preferred for formal wear. Men’s slippers were usually black and trimmed with black flat bows or black ribbon rosettes. (Bigelow, 1970,).

Carriage (overshoe or boot) shoe were made of kid leather and lined with fur. Worm by women in winter in horse drawn carriages and in early automobiles. (Rossi 2000)

In 1890, the low shoe or laced oxford was introduced. These were often worn with gaiters in colder weather or for sporting occasions. Toe shapes changed over this period but otherwise shoes and boots styles remain unchanged.

Toe shapes changed over the last three decades of the 19th century. In 1870 the square toe eas the fashion; 1880 rounded began to appear; then during the 1890s boot and shoe toes became more pointed. In 1890 rubber soled shoes were introduced. (Bigelow, 1970)

Bigelow MS 1970 Fashion in history apparel in the western world Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Co
McDowell C (ed) 1998 Fashion: the Pimlico companion to fashion Random House London
Black, J. Anderson and Garland, Madge A History of Fashion. Orbis Publishing, Ltd., 1975.
O'Keeffe L 1996 Shoes: a celebration of pumps, sandals, slippers and more New York: Workman Publishing Company.
Warren G 1987 Fashion accessories since 15000 Unwin Hyman London

Reviewed 10/03/2016

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Regency Period (1811 to 1820) Boots

During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries boots surpassed shoes as the fashionable footwear for men. Now more refined, styles were trimmer and worn with turned down tops. The two-tone boots were lined in brown which contrasted with the outer black leather of the rest of the boot. Jockey boots were introduced in 1780 and fashionable top boots were elegant and similar in appearance to the boots worn by horse jockeys from the newly fashionable sport of horse racing (Baynes & Baynes,1979). Two-tone top boots were worn below the knee for outdoors with tans and pale shades popular with the gentry. The need to protect feet from the elements necessitated new materials be developed and during the 1790's patent leather became available. Shoes and boots treated with the new process became very popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

According to O’Keeffe, (1996) women were considered too delicate to venture outdoors and hence wore shoes which were flimsy by comparison. When boots were worn for equestrian pursuit these were based upon modified versions of men's footwear. French writer and wit, Nicolas-Sebastien Chamfort (1741-1794) observantly wrote in his comedies of the common habit for ladies many of whom would tip their man servants to help them remove their tight shoes. Chamfort was referring to the flirtations which resulted from exposure of forbidden flesh which was a common practice among the upper classes.

Young Englishmen of the late 18th century became obsessed with all things foreign and exotic. Christened Macaronis, they rivaled the ladies with their tall wigs powdered them in different colours like blue, pink, purple, etc. Macaronis met in gentlemen's clubs such as The Macaroni club and gambled, womanized, sodomized, gossiped, and wasted countless pounds on frivolous things. They wore iron heel clips fitted to their shoes to draw attention to themselves as they clipped noisily through the streets.

At the beginning of the 19th century, during the Regency Period (1811 to 1820). Dandies were the epitome of machismo, always wearing something unique but very fashionable.

George Beau Brummell (1790 - 1840) epitomised the new age macho dresser and was well known for his idiosyncrasies including having his boots polished with champagne. He also insisted the boot soles were polished at the same time as the uppers in order to ensure the edge of the boots had a perfect shine.

The two styles of boot which enjoyed vogue with the dandies were the English, John Bull (or tall boot) and the German , Hessian boot (also called the Souvaroff boot).

Hessian boots took their name from the German state of Hesse, where they were made. Hessians or the soldiers from Hess, commonly fought under the British flag including including in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. The Hessian boot was knee high and cut on a V at the front and made from soft leather. Often the boot had a decorative tassel.

The Duke of Wellington instructed his shoemaker, Hoby of St. James's Street, London, to modify the 18th-century Hessian boot. The resulting new boot was fabricated in soft calfskin leather, had the trim removed and was cut to fit more closely around the leg. The heels were low cut, stacked around an inch (2.5 centimetres), and the boot stopped at mid-calf. It was suitably hard-wearing for riding, yet smart enough for informal evening wear. The boot was dubbed the Wellington and the name has stuck in English ever since. In time the Wellington boot superseded the popularity of the Hessian boot and were worn to the knee over trousers. Wellington's utilitarian new boots quickly caught on with patriotic British gentlemen eager to emulate their war hero. Considered fashionable and foppish in the best circles and worn by dandies, such as Beau Brummell, they remained the main fashion for men through the 1840s. In the 1850s they were more commonly made in the calf-high version, and in the 1860s they were both superseded by the ankle boot, except for riding. In 1852 Hiram Hutchinson met Charles Goodyear, who had just invented the vulcanisation process for natural rubber. While Goodyear decided to manufacture tyres, Hutchinson bought the patent to manufacture footwear and moved to France to establish À l'Aigle ("to the Eagle") in 1853, to honour his home country. Today the company is simply called Aigle. In a country where 95% of the population were working on fields with wooden clogs as they had been for generations, the introduction of the wholly waterproof, Wellington-type rubber boot became an instant success. Farmers were able to come back home with clean, dry feet.

Napoleon boots were cut high in the front and worn to the knee. Boots which did not encase the knee gave freer movement on horseback whilst the high cut offered protection to the knee joints. It was common practice to wear long woollen stockings under the knee high riding boots. Napoleon boots were the model which eventually influenced modern cowboy boots.

Blucher shoes were based on a shorter boot worn by Prince of Wahlstadt, Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher (1742 - 1819), a Prussian field Marshall. His popularity was second only to Wellington as a hero of the battle of Waterloo. The blucher or derby was a high cut shoe with a tongue cut in one piece with the forepart and fastened with laces.

By the end of the century young men wore the popular Hussar buskins which were short boots with a dip in the front, mid tibia. French top boots with a turned over top were also fashionable.

A new vogue came for splatter dashes which were puttees or leggings that buttoned on the inside of the leg were worn to protect the delicate silk hose during inclement weather.

Baynes K & Baynes K 1979 The shoe show: British shoes since 1790 Crafts Council.

O'Keeffe L 1996 Shoes: a celebration of pumps, sandals, slippers and more New York: Workman Publishing Company.

Reviewed 2/03/2016

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Seventeenth Century Boots

By the beginning seventeenth century boots had become fashionable for men and were worn at the English court during the reign of King Charles I (1600-1649). It is thought the popularity of boots at court was in part due to the infant Charles who suffered osteomalacia (rickets) and learned to walk with the aid of callipers cleverly concealed into his boots by the Royal shoemaker. The adult Charles could walk without the aid of his supports but continued to wear boots for preference.

Tight fitting boots were the fashion and these were worn long and folded back into deep tops. The front flap of the boots provided a handsome strap to fit spurs onto. Later soft boots with baggy creases and full tops became the fashion at European courts. Ladies continued to wear slippers with pointed toes and in some cases high heeled pumps. (Burnett, 1926).

The Spanish city of Cordoba had been the centre for leather craft in Europe for several centuries and the term cordwainer for shoe maker relates to those craftsmen trained in the skills of the shoemakers from Cordoba. Cobblers from around Europe were sent to Cordoba to learn the fine crafts and inevitable brought them back to their own countries. Cordoban boots were of the finest quality and were made of soft leather. These were worn crumpled or with a kink. A large piece of leather shaped like a butterfly was stitched across the instep to hold the golden or silver rowel spurs. The soulette, a strap fastened under the foot also held the spur in position.

Lace edged boot hose were worn inside the boot and were made from the finest linen. These protected the delicate silk stockings from being soiled by the leather.

From 1610 boots were worn indoors, sometimes with an overshoe but this fashion became passé after the Treaty of Westphilia (1648). By the middle of the century boots were worn for riding and these sat high on the leg with widely flared or funnel tops to protect the knee when riding. Funnel flaps were turned down for town wear and by 1627 gentlemen wore light coloured boots with red heels and the edges of the boots’ soles stained red.

Poor quality boots were made from cow hide and these were heavier but more durable. Under Louis XIII (1601-1643) a shorter, lighter boot known as the Ladrine (or Lazartine) was worn. These eventually were worn with a protective sole or galosh made from thick leather or wood by which time (1630) shorter boots were worn for riding, hunting and walking.

The restoration of the Stuarts to the English thrown (1660) saw the return of the heeled boot to England. Men wore boots with very long stockings which flared at the top of the leg and caught the foot with a strap under the instep. These were worn over silk stockings. Boots made of soft leather were worn tight on the leg but the top could be turned over. The Cavalier boot had a very wide top which could be turned down for town wear, showing silk or coloured leather lining. The width of the leg had increased and the boots were worn wide across the toes. Toes became square and this fashion remained popular till the end of the century. Aristocracy preferred light, high heeled shoes and boot but the working class wore more practical and cheaper shoes, which were low heeled. Usually these were dark brown, with leather latchet ties, deep square toes and closed sides.

In 1660 Paris became the fashion capital and Louis XIV preferred shoes to boots. The new vogue for decorative frills or cannons were worn below the knee saw shoes generally replace boots as fashion footwear for men. The military boot returned at the end of the reign of Charles II (1630-85) but with a light leather leggings covering called houseaux. The heavy boot was still used for riding.

In 1663 the first seamless boot was made by a Gascon shoemaker called Lestage. King William of Orange (1650-1702) introduced the jackboot, which was of sturdy construction and worn high above the knee, quartered, and heeled with immense breadth for the toes. Thigh high boots were fashionable for soldiers and horsemen.

Worn tight on the calf they were ample enough to be folded over in a buccaneer fashion above the knee. Sometimes covered in decoration with punched designs they covered the whole leg and were held in place with garters or suspenders from the doublet. The above knee section was known as bucket tops and were worn with leathers and spurs. The boot offered protective armour to the leg and is still worn by the Household Cavalry. Before the advent of gum boots the style of boot was worn by fishermen. Foonote

Thigh high boots were originally worn by pirates and smugglers, who tucked contraband or "booty" into them. The practice gave rise to the term, "bootlegging'

Burnett EK 1926 Romantic chapters in the history of the shoe: an extravaganza The Chiropodist 204-210.