Saturday, June 13, 2009

Regency Period 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 boots were lined in brown which contrasted with the outer black leather of the rest of the boot. Top boots were elegant and was based on 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 and according to O'Keeffe,(1996) women were considered too delicate to venture outdoors and hence their shoes were flimsy by comparison. Tans and pale shades were popular with the gentry. Dandified young Englishmen became obsessed with all things foreign and were christened Macaronis. They used to have iron heel clips fitted to their boots to draw attention as they clipped noisily through the streets. Dandies of the Regency Period were quite different to fops of the previous century. 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 Austrian, Hess boot. Hess boots took their name from the German state of Hesse, where they were made. The Hesse boot was knee high and cut on a V at the front. Often the boot had a decorative tassel. In time the Wellington boot superseded the popularity of the Hessian boot (also called the Souvaroff boot). Wellington boots were cut slim and worn to the knee over trousers. Napoleon boots which appeared in 1730 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. Blucher shoes were based on a shorter boot worn by Prince of Wahlstadt, Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher, 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. Women's boots were based upon modified versions of men's footwear and primarily worn for equestrian pursuit. 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 boots. Chamfort was referring to flirtations which resulted from exposure of forbidden flesh which was a common practice among the upper classes. In 1770 dandies started to wear their boots to half calf. A new vogue came for splatter dashes which were puttees or leggings that buttoned on the inside of the leg and were worn to protect the delicate silk hose during inclement weather. Jockey boots were introduced in 1780. However 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. By the end of the century young men wore the popular hussar bushkins which were short boots with a dip in the front, mid tibia. French top boots with a turned over top were also fashionable. V-fronted tasselled Hessian boots were made from soft leather and proved popular with men.

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.

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