Bootlegging

I’m short, very short: just under five feet tall. This makes things difficult. Namely, reaching things on top shelves, seeing yourself in bathroom mirrors, buying pants, and the list goes on. There are only a few perks to being short, but by far, the best part is always having an excuse to wear cute shoes.

I’m short, very short: just under five feet tall. This makes things difficult. Namely, reaching things on top shelves, seeing yourself in bathroom mirrors, buying pants, and the list goes on. There are only a few perks to being short, but by far, the best part is always having an excuse to wear cute shoes.

The first over-the-knee boots were actually invented for men. It was initially worn as a riding boot in the 15th century, as extra protection was needed for the legs when on horseback. This came about because of the decline of  traditional cavalry, the increase in firearms use in battle, and the decrease in heavy armor as protection. Boots made of heavy leather that came to the thigh provided additional protection for the legs. Today, many cavalry regiments still retain these high boots for ceremonial dress.

This style of riding boots of this style were common throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, and remained use through to the late 19th century. They are the source of the term ‘bootlegging’, as men could hide flasks of alcohol. Ironically, for a long time the these boots conveyed an image of masculinity, conjuring up images of pirates and musketeers. It would be worn by men for the next five centuries, and only become popular for women in the 20th century.

Boots entered into women’s wear in an unconditional manner, through pantomime theater. This is where young actresses play the roles of young male protagonists, which allowed for this cross-over.

In high fashion, it would be Balenciaga who would bring the boot into the world of couture. The 1962 fall collection featured a tall boot by Mancini that was cut just above the knee. The next year, YSL would feature thigh-high alligator boots by Roger Vivier, who’s original designs were made for the ballet Swan Lake.

Sources:

1:Blanco F., Jose; Leff, Scott; Kellogg, Ann T.; Payne, Lynn W. (2008). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through American History, 1900 to the Present

2: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/collectie/SK-A-570

3. Actress Nan Hearne as a principal boy, early 20th century

4. http://www.ofakind.com/stories/6398-Go-Way-Back-Over-the-Knee-Boots%3EHow%20far%20back%20do%20over-the-knee%20boot%20styles%20go

Share This Post
Have your say!
00