An update

Things have been pretty quiet on the blog for the last few weeks because I’ve been absorbed with other projects, so apologies for a lack of activity. Here’s what should be coming up in the next few weeks:

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(1) I’m almost at the end of the publication-based review that I started back in July of 2014. I’ve drawn an arbitrary end to this in 2010, so I think we’ve got one last post to go, covering 2003-2010. Then I need to recap what we’ve learnt; my guess is that the whole thing will be done and dusted by July of this year, which gives it a nice symmetry.

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(2) I also want to return to something that I began two years ago and then stopped to focus on the numbers – an object-based look at some of the major boot styles. I’ve been quietly acquiring materials on Ebay and Etsy (including the awesome pair of late sixties boots illustrated above), so there’s enough stuff for a few posts over the spring and summer.

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(3) Some time back, I also said I’d take a look at detailing – stitches, buckles, studs, trims, etc – so we’ve got that to come too.

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(4) Finally, I need to get back to another project that I put on hold in 2014, which was “influence mapping” for want of a better term. I want to see if what I’ve learnt from that big literature review has had any effect on my thoughts.

So there you have it. Sorry for the lull in activity, expect more in the future.

RIP Andre Courrèges

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David Bowie’s death earlier this week overshadowed the loss of this titan of the fashion world, who passed away on January 7 at the tender age of 92. Courrèges’ accomplishments include the miniskirt (he shares credit with Mary Quant and John Bates), the graphic A-line shift, the ribbed bodysuit, the skinny-legged hip-hugger, and the trouser suit. He was on the very cutting edge of the mid-sixties revolution in “space-age” fashions. But for this blog, he’ll always be remembered for the white, calf-length go-go boot that bears his name. RIP Andre.

Image Source:

  • The fashion designer Andre COURREGES posed with two of his models : one wears a short, yellow and white cotton dress, the other a blue wool coat with golden buttons. January 01, 1968| Credit: Keystone-France. Getty Images

Selected Obituaries:

 

Modern Classics: Highland by Stuart Weitzman

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“A few days ago I was at the airport, and I was wearing my Highland black boots and security was like really busy so once I got through security I had to run like 70 gates to catch my flight and I ran in my highlands and it didn’t kill my feet So I think that’s a pretty good test of comfortable shoes.” (Gigi Hadid, 2015)

 

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The Highland, a thigh-length boot with a 24″ shaft, 3.25″ heel, and a frankly challenging 14″ circumference (definitely at the very low edge of regular), is very much the celebrity’s boot of choice this season. It comes in stretch leather, but it seems like almost everyone of note has gone for suede, in black, grey, burgundy, or beige.

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The secret to its legging-like fit is that the suede or leather is pliced and backed with Lycra. People magazine declared it to be the off-catwalk choice of the Victoria’s Secret Angels, picturing Lily Aldridge, Izabel Goulart, Sara Sampaio, Devon Windsor and Rachel Hilbert in the slim line boots, to say nothing of the aforementioned Ms. Hadid.

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The Highland has been around for a few years now, but it really does seem to have taken off this fall, in part because of the enthusiasm for “lampshading” that we discussed in the previous post. It also obeys one of the “rules” for wearing thigh-length boots, in that it combines a high heel with “soft” texture, thus avoiding Vivien type fashion calamities.

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Of course, at nearly $800 a pair and with a look that you can only really carry off if you have legs like Gigi Hadid, it’s questionable whether this is one for mere mortals. Plus the low-heeled version – called the Lowland, of course – is a bit easier when it comes to running for that soon-to-depart flight to Aspen. But it’s caused enough of a splash for me to waste a little time writing about it, which means it’s probably earned a historical footnote, at least.

Image Sources:

 

Selected References:

  • Henning, Kristen, 2015.Celebrity Shoe Trend: Stuart Weitzman Highland Boots. Footwearnews.com, Dec 9, 2015. Retrieved Dec 30, 2015.
  • Payer, Alison, 2015.The Boots Every Celebrity Has Worn Lately. WhoWhatWear.com, Nov 6, 2015. Retrieved Dec 30, 2015.
  • Talarico, Brittany, 2015. Boots All the Victoria’s Secret Angels Are Wearing (Pre-Runway Stilettos and Wings, Obvs). People, Nov 10, 2015. Retrieved Dec 30, 2015
  • Talarico, Brittany, 2015. Gigi Hadid, Lily Aldridge and Joan Smalls Go Completely Naked in New Stuart Weitzman Campaign. People, Dec 1, 2015. Retrieved Dec 30, 2015.

MFW on Pinterest: The Highland Boot

A new trend for 2016

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Apparently it’s called “lampshading” – wearing a sweater, tunic, or dress with a loose or bell-shaped hem over a pair of knee-high or over-the-knee boots, giving off a distinct ‘lampshade’ effect. The Daily Mail thinks it “nods to the mod look of ’60s shift dresses and go-go boots.” I think the Daily Mail ought to learn more about what the ‘mod’ look actually means.

Selected References:

Image Source:

  • Screen-grab from The Fashion Obsession.com

 

1993 vs 2015

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For the previous post, I had tapped a Vogue article from September 1993 that illustrated the range of fashion boots available in the fall of that year. Then, by pure coincidence, I was one a social networking site and one of those annoying targeted ads popped up, for a site called JustFab. And it just so happened that the ad in question showed a line of different boot styles. And after 40 minutes in Photoshop, when I should actually have been doing much more urgent and important that I was actually being paid to do, I can up with the picture at the top of this page.

When you compare the boots styles of today with those of 22 years ago, it’s clear that there are a lot of similarities. There are boots with heels, and there are boots without heels. There are some boots that are over-the-knee, but the majority are knee or ankle length. The most popular style of knee-length boot is a low-heeled one that more or less resembles a riding boot. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

But… they’re not identical. First, compare the knee length boots in the 3rd row. The 1993 boots have very clean lines. By contrast, the 2015 styles are a mass of straps, studs, and buckles. Also, the nineties riding boot often has a recurve at the top of the shaft that mimics a real equestrian boot. The 21st Century variant is usually widest at the top, as befits a boot that is often worn over jeans. In the early nineties, the “riding” boot was still predominantly worn with long skirts or leggings.

But the biggest difference, which made my jaw drop slightly, is in the ankle boots. The 2015 version mimics the contemporary knee length boots – lots of straps, and buckles giving it a fairly rugged appearance. Whereas the 1993 selection is a full-on celebration of Victoriana, complete with buttons, bows, laces, nipped ankles, and little hour-glass heels. The contrast between the dainty offerings of the nineties and their ass-kicking 21st Century cousins couldn’t be sharper.

 Image Sources:

  • Composite image created with elements from Vogue, Sept 1993, and JustFab.com, retrieved Oct 2015

Selected References:

  • Anon. 1993. Last Look: The Year of the Boot. Vogue183.9 (Sep 1, 1993): pp600-603.

MFW on Pinterest: The Nineties Boot

Pause & Review

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Time for another review; we’re not quite at the end of the eighties, but we are about to shift to a new period that will cover the first part of the nineteen nineties, and arguably it begins in 1989. So it’s not a bad place to take a look back at what we’ve seen in the past few posts.

Back in April (yeah, it’s taken me 4 months to do 4 posts on one decade – hopeless, I know) I posed the question of whether the eighties were really marked by a drought as far as fashion boots were concerned. That was certainly my recollection, but the numbers suggested otherwise. And ultimately, the numbers proved right.

It’s true that at first sight, things seem to be dominated by an abundance of not very impressive ankle boots, but there were a couple of significant bursts of enthusiasm for more diverse styles in the fashion press, one in 1981/82, and a second in 1987/88. The latter period saw the high profile return of over-the-knee boots, something that many people, including me, seem to have missed or forgotten.

The one thing most definitely missing from the period was the style of high-heeled dress boots seen in the previous decade, and here I think we can establish a rule – shoulder pads are fashion death for anything other than pumps or ankle boots. The tapering silhouette, from broad shoulders to narrow skirt and on down, does not tolerate anything as heavy as a knee-length boot. It’s possible that the very slim-line dress boots of the late nineties could have worked if they’d been around ten years earlier, but I doubt it. The eighties silhouette was just too extreme.

So instead, boots flourished as casual wear – soft, loose-fitting, low-heeled styles that could be combined with a long-skirt or, for the shorter boots, worn with jeans tucked in. When hemlines rose towards the end of the decade, boots eventually rose too – but only when shoulders began to narrow. It was then that they began to be seen as an alternative to tights or leggings for providing protection to exposed legs – a role that the ultra-high boots of the late 60s had also filled, and one that would be filled in the future by a new breed of over-the-knee boots.

When I first started writing posts on the eighties, one of my regular commenters, DeanG, raised the question of whether boots in the eighties were like those of the sixties, and there’s much to support that observation. Most eighties boots were low-heeled, loose fitting, and either quite short (ankle/calf length) or very high (over-the-knee or thigh-length). In fact, they were much like the first generation of fashion boots from 1962-1964.

As time went by, in the late sixties and into the seventies, boots became more feminine – higher-heeled and tighter-fitting – but there’s a case to be made that the eighties boots represented a throwback to the earlier, more masculine styles of boot. At the time, I would have been skeptical about this, but my somewhat improved knowledge about the early years of the boot in the sixties has convinced me that much of what we think we know about sixties fashion is based on later interpretation and reinterpretation.

Musically at least, one such reinterpretation of sixties culture took place in the late 1980s, with the growth of rave culture and the emergence of neo-psychedelic bands like the Stone Roses, Charlatans, and Happy Mondays. But the real surge of interest in the sixties, and in sixties fashions, took place in the following decade. Which, by happy coincidence, is where we’re going next.

Image Source:

  • VogueUK, 1982, via the Fashion Spot

 

A Footnote from the Mid-Eighties

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If you’re under the age of 40, you probably have little idea and certainly no recollection of the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-1980s in which (to summarize briefly) the Reagan administration did a deal whereby (1) Israel would supply arms to Iran (yes, you read that right); (2) Iran would use its influence to obtain the release of American hostages in Lebanon; (3) the US would resupply Israel with weapons; (4)  Israel would pay the U.S. for the weapons; and (5) the U.S. would use the funds from the arms sales to support right wing guerrillas trying to overthrow the government of Nicaragua, something the government was prohibited by law from doing. Got it?

Well never mind if you don’t. The critical bit, from our perspective, is the subsequent inquiry held by the U.S. Senate, and in particular the testimony of Fawn Hall, secretary to the architect of the whole scheme, U.S. Marine Colonel Oliver North, a staff member of the National Security Council. Appearing before the Senate Committee on June 8, 1987, Hall made the entertaining admission that she had smuggled top-secret documents out of the NSC hidden in her boots.

North had asked for Hall’s assistance shredding various incriminating papers relating to the various transfers of arms, money, etc., but a few days later she discovered that she had missed several documents. What was she to do? ”I took the copies of the altered documents, folded them, and placed them inside my boots,” she testified. Then she ran into another official’s office and stuffed some computer memos down her back. ”I asked if he could see anything in my back,” she said of Colonel North, whom she had called and insisted that he come to the White House once she discovered that not all the papers had been shredded, ”and he said no.” Later, when she and Colonel North were in a car together, she took the papers out and gave them to him.

I will not pass any judgement on these nefarious activities, or on Fawn Hall, who was given immunity from prosecution on charges of conspiracy and destroying documents in exchange for her testimony. I will merely note that, had this occurred during the Watergate scandal of 12 year’s earlier, Hall would not have been able to fit the documents into her boots, as they would have been much tighter around the legs. It was only the loose fitting boots of the eighties that let her get away with it.

Incidentally (and perhaps not coincidentally) it’s very hard to find any images of Fawn Hall wearing boots. The rather grainy offering above, from 1987, is the best I could do.

And I apologize for the terrible pun in the title of this post.

References:

  • Iran-Contra Affair: Wikipedia article.
  • Dowd, Maureen. 1986. The Fawn Hall Story: A Big Hit On The Hill. New York Times, June 9, 1987

Image Source:

  • Fawn Hall leaving her attorney’s office, 1987: AP/New York Times.

Another Pause, Another Review

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Here we are at the end of the seventies, so it seems like a good time to pause again and look back at what we’ve seen, before pushing on into the apparently unpromising terrain of the 1980s.

The decade started with the fashion boot at hitherto unguessed of levels of popularity. This was really a continuation of a trend that started around 1967, but it reached its peak in 1970/71. Boots of all styles from ankle to thigh-high were insanely popular, with women buying multiple pairs. The emergence of new materials such as stretch vinyl made boots both relatively cheap, and quite disposable.

Within a couple of years, however, the fashion world had undergone the equivalent of a temper tantrum where boots were concerned. In 1972 and 1973, it was hard to find any mention of them in the glossies or the daily papers. Instead the emphasis had shifted to shoes, especially those with retro-styled platform soles. It seemed like the boot was being consigned to the dustbin of sixties fashion.

Except that it wasn’t. Fashion boots were just too popular and too practical to be easily dismissed, as is clear when you ignore the editorially biased media data and look at the pattern revealed by, for example, mail order catalogues. From these it’s clear that boot sales stayed steady throughout the supposed early seventies popularity dip, and by 1974 the fashion press had got over its temporary boot phobia.

In the forefront of the mid-seventies boot renaissance was a loose-fitting, stack-heeled knee boot. Yves Saint Laurent paired these with outfits based on Russian peasant themes, which gave them the popular name of “Cossack boots.” Tighter-fitting boots remained popular in the middle years of the decade; in the UK and Europe these often featured platform soles.

Platform soles were anachronistic, even at the height of their popularity in 1974/75; a youth-centric boot style at a time when the fashion boot was growing up and becoming the choice of an older generation of women, some of whom would have worn the first generation of boots in the sixties youth quake. The platform sole was somewhat of a reaction against this, as were the Western-themed Frye boots that took the place of platform boots in the USA.

The popularity of the Frye boot in the mid-seventies marks a fundamental split in the history of the fashion boot, one that we identified back in the “tree” many months ago. This was the beginning of the split between the dress boot and the casual boot that continues on to this day. In the beginning it wasn’t much of a split; aside from the Frye and its imitators, most boots from this period were distinctly dressy, even if they formed part of the casual, “countrified” look of the time. The divergence would become much more significant in the eighties.

By 1977, boots had reached a second peak of popularity. New takes on old styles appeared, including shorter, ankle or calf-length boots, and the return of the over-the-knee boot. Boots were ubiquitous, beyond even the levels of the late sixties, to the point where they were not even noticed. They were a wardrobe staple for the well-dressed woman; in contrast to the vinyl boots of the early seventies, they were now seen as a sensible investment rather than something frivolous to be worn and discarded.

But 1977 also represented the apogee for the fashion boot and it would be more than 20 years before they reached these heady heights again. The beginnings of what proved to be a long period of decline can be seen in the fashion press of 1978; as we’ve already noted in earlier posts, this was the year when those in the know decreed the tall boot to be dead and buried. The reasons for this are something that we’ll cover when we move on to the next decade.

Image Source:

  • Unknown, 1971

A quick snapshot of boots, ca. 1977

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Battling to find time for a decently-sized post, but in the interim I thought I’d share this image, from the Guardian newspaper in the UK, dated Sept 9, 1977. From left to right across the top we have: calf boot in natural leather with sheepskin lining (Bally); “Wellie Warmers” shiny boot with attached multistoried leg warmer (Medway); Flat rust leather riding boot with sheepskin lining (Saxone); Leather & canvas gaiters plus lace up ankle boot (Walkers); Red stacked heel ankle boot (Sacha); calf-length leather and fur boots (Marks & Spencer); black soft ankle boot (Graeme Hinton); leather stirrup boot in black or brown (Marks & Spencer); beige suede & leather boot (Bally); and thigh-length white sheepskin patchwork boot (Medway). The one in the middle is a brown suede knee-length lace-up boot (Saxone). As it says in the accompanying article, the choice of boots at the peak of their late seventies popularity was enormous.

Image Source & Reference:

  • Neustatter, Angela, 1977. Putting the boot on: Angela Neustatter suggests what well-heeled feet will be wearing this winter. The Guardian, Sept. 9, 1977; p.11.