Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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.

Reviewed 27/03/2019

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