77-Lucia_Chemise

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll notice that I don’t talk a lot about the boot as a fetish object. It’s not a deliberate move on my part – it’s just that there’s a lot of other aspects of the evolution of the fashion boot to talk about and it takes us into areas of psychology that are not really my thing (although I did briefly touch on them in a previous post).

However, it did occur to me that there was one area that was directly relevant to what I’ve been working on and writing about for the past few months, and that is the frequency with which boots appear on pin-ups in what are euphemistically known as “men’s magazines.” I was interested in the extent to which this might mirror the patterns we’ve seen in fashion magazines and newspapers.

I picked what are probably the two best known, mainstream magazines of this genre, Playboy and Penthouse. As it happens, there’s an enthusiastic and active community of people out there dedicated to recording every last pictorial from these magazines, so the raw material was there.

For various practical reasons, I limited myself to the years 1970-1997. Also, rather than try and find every pictorial from the magazines (which would have been enormously time-consuming) I focussed on the models that were the centerfolds for each issue; “Playmates” (Playboy) or “Pets” (Penthouse) of the Month.

I recorded a simple “yes” or “no” for whether the model wore boots at all in the pictorial. In some cases, this might be in candid shots that accompanied the pin-up photography. It might be a single image out of many, or multiple images. Also, the boots might appear in outtakes from the photo session, which are often published on the web these days. Regardless, they just got scored “yes.”

For the purposes of the study, I was only interested in fashion boots; ankle, calf-length, knee-length, or over-the-knee. I excluded cowboy boots, riding boots, rain boots, hiking boots, and fisherman’s waders (and yes, there were a couple of girls in waders).

I dutifully waded through 566 photosets  (256 Penthouse, 310 Playboy), which was a lot less fun than it sounds; hard though it may be to believe, there was a point when I became heartily sick of naked pneumatic babes, booted or otherwise. However, I made it to the end. And this is what I found.

We’ll start with Penthouse, which I had always imagined to be the more boot-friendly of the two magazines, editorially-speaking. I did pretty well with data; >75% of pictorials scored. I totted up the number of pictorials in which boots appeared, plotted them on a graph, and then sat back with my jaw hanging open:

PH

Look familiar? A peak at the beginning of the 1970s, followed by a steep drop, followed by a second peak in the mid-late seventies; then a drop through the eighties and a steep climb back to even greater heights in the nineties. This is basically the same pattern as we’ve seen in fashion magazines for this period.

For Playboy I had a much bigger dataset – every Playmate of the Month pictorial, bar two, from 1970 to 1996, which is as near to 100% as makes no odds. The picture revealed when I plotted the boot pictorials was a bit different:

PB

There are some common features; the peak at the beginning of the seventies, a sharp dip around 1973/74, followed by a second peak in the mid/late seventies. The trough in the late 80s is a little later than the one in Penthouse, and the peak in the 1990s is only as great as that of the late seventies, but the overall pattern is the same.

The major difference, however, is the presence of a big peak in the early eighties. You  could probably argue that it’s all part of the peak that begins in the mid seventies, and that what you’re looking at is a sustained decade of popularity for booted Playmates, from 1976 through about 1986.

Of course, there are caveats, of which the biggest is that the numbers here are very small in comparison to the datasets that I was using for, say, Vogue. We’re basically looking at a situation where 7 is a major peak. But it is interesting that the patterns over time are more-or-less the same even at radically different scales.

Data:

  • Penthouse, U.S. Edition: 1970-1997
  • Playboy: 1969-1996

Image Source:

  • Lucia St. Angelo: Penthouse, Sept 1977, via Vintage Erotica Forums
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