Blog

Branded

As mentioned in the previous post, I wish I could say that someone had this blog in mind when they designed these boots. For more information, see here.

Reference:

Fisher, Lauren Alexis. 2017. These off-white boots were literally made for walking. Harpers Bazaar, July 24, 2017. Web, retrieved 8/19/2017.

Image source: Off-White via Harpers Bazaar.com

Fall Trends, 2017

080217-red-boots-runway-leadThis blog is more about history than anything else, but it’s worth noting that it’s the time of year when the fashion press publishes it’s Fall fashion reports and, once again, it’s clear that boots are a big deal. Apparently red is a big deal this year, as are sock boots, and slouch boots, which are basically loose-fitting over-the-knee boots that are worn squished down below the knee. A particular favorite of mine are the boots by Off White that are emblazoned with the words “Made for Walking” in big white letters. Free advertising? Why not?

References:

  • Bennet, Alexis. 2017. The one shoe trend that will win you all the compliments this fall. InStyle, Aug 9, 2017. Web, retrieved 08/17/2017.
  • Kirkpatrick, Emily. 2017. Obsessed or hot mess: check out these daring looks. People, August 16. Web, retrieved 08/18/2017.
  • Perez-Gurri, Stephanie. 2017. How to wear red boots if you’re not a supermodel. InStyle, Aug 10, 2017. Web, retrieved 08/17/2017.
  • Perez-Gurri, Stephanie. 2017. Shop the runway-approved red boot trend this fall. InStyle, Aug 14, 2017. Web, retrieved 08/17/2017.
  • Sheppard, Ciara. 2017. 14 pairs of slouch boots to saunter around in all autumn long. Glamour (UK), Aug 18, 2017. Web, retrieved 08/18/2017.

Image source: Getty via InStyle

Ivanka Trump’s Boots

One day, when some future version of me is looking back at the profoundly screwed-up time we’re living in right now, I’ll probably find time to discuss how a pair of boots marketed by Ivanka Trump’s fashion label became a vehicle for people to protest the election of her father to the presidency. For now, I’ll just give you a couple of links to go and explore yourself, here and here. The boots themselves are a spiky knee-length leather and stretch fabric hybrid design that is no longer for sale, but you can still see their old Amazon product page. Customer Q&A includes:

Q.Where is this boot made? (the description says usa or imported. which is it?)

A. It could be Russia but it could be China. It could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.

Q.What kind of leather? a friend told me it’s human skin! I guess it’s possible coming from China. can you please tell me kind of skin is used? thx!

A. Thin skin.

Q. It says the fit runs small. Any chance they will make these bigly?

A. Don’t let the media fool you, these do not run small. This boots run bigly, let me tell you.

And believe me, there are many, many more where those came from.

Lace-up boots, 1996

IMG_5373When I was working on the book, I pulled together a reference collection of boots of various sorts. Some of these were found on the far-flung reaches of Ebay or Etsy. Others came from the darkest recesses of our closet. This pair is one of the latter. They look like the sort of thing that might have been worn by a sixties dolly bird, but they actually date from 1996.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, in Britain the middle years of the nineteen nineties saw a huge resurgence of interest in the music, art, and fashions of the sixties. These were the years of “Britpop,” a distinctive guitar-driven form of rock with psychedelic overtones typified by bands like Blur, Oasis, Suede, Pulp, and a host of lesser imitators.

Where sixties pastiches are found, there also the fashion boot flourishes. The iconic look of a miniskirt and boots is a potent one, even if most of the evidence suggests that the look was nowhere near as common as movies like Austin Powers would have you suppose. Boots had already made a comeback as part of the clubbing culture of early nineties Britain, but now shoe retailers went full tilt into sixties-themed nostalgia.

And nothing says sixties like a pair of white boots. Stack-heeled lace-up boots had been hugely popular a couple of years previously; this pair by the British store Dolcis took the stack heeled design, reworked it in white patent leather, and added that elegant Edwardian-style curve to the top of the shaft. An instant winner, right?

Unfortunately not. The tall lace-up boots of the nineties had a circulation-challengingly tight fit which did wonders for the line of the wearer’s leg, but they also took forever to get on, which is one reason why they were rapidly supplanted by zip-fastened designs. And however keen you were on sixties fashions, a shiny white pair was never a practical option in grimy British cities.

That explains why these particular boots ended up in a bargain bucket at Dolcis, where I purchased them for the princely sum of £5:00. I bore them home in triumph to my wife who, being much more knowledgable about fashion than me, cocked a quizzical eyebrow and consigned them immediately to the farthest reaches of the closet. Where they remained for almost twenty years, until I needed a pair of boots to illustrate a piece on sixties nostalgia for the book.

Changes

If you’ve been following this site for a while, you’ll have noticed some changes have taken place over the last couple of days. I’ve spruced up the design, added some new pages, etc.

This is partly in preparation for the publication of Made for Walking (the book). As I mentioned a while back, I spent much of the last half of 2016 working on this project. It takes the blog as a starting point, but also features a lot of new research. It’s being published by Schiffer and will be coming out in 2018. I’ll publish more details on the blog as soon as they’re done.

So does that mean it’s all over for Made for Walking (the blog)? Not at all. There were things that came up in writing the book that I couldn’t fit in or discuss in as much detail as I wanted. There were also things that I covered that could be explored from different perspectives. And new stuff emerges all the time. So the blog will live on, and I now have the time to devote to writing new posts. One of which is coming up next…

The perfect alternative to tights?

Thanks to the ever dependable Bruce, I just got made aware of this short, but interesting post from Racked, which proposes thigh-length boots as the season’s alternative to tights. Stylistically this is a throwback to almost 50 years ago, circa 1968, with close-fitting high boots providing an unbroken line from ankle to hem. The look never really caught on then, and Bruce is inclined to think it may be a flash in the pan this time as well. I’m not so sure, but I guess we’ll need to wait at least a couple of years to see.

Reference:

  • Pina, Tanisha, 2016. Hate tights? Wear thigh high boots instead. Racked, Dec 19, 2016. Retrieved 3/30/2017

Image Source: Velvet high heeled boots by Zara, via Racked

More Elliotts

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-8-44-52-am

Back in 2014, I wrote a blog post about a British company called T. Elliott & Sons. Elliott’s were one of the major shoe companies of the sixties and seventies, and were renowned for their creative advertising. But after the eighties, they seemed to have disappeared without trace. I had spent years, on and off, combing the web for information, without success. Whatever happened to Elliott’s?

skmbt_c20310071610332 skmbt_c20310071610323mx-2600n_20100728_100248_017-copyskmbt_c20310090210001-copy

I posted my piece on Elliott’s, not expecting much in return. But then, gradually, the comments started to arrive. That notorious poster of the girl in boots on the beach? I shot that picture, said Roy Cuthbert. Those boots were hard to get on, said Tine Dorothy Kooiman; I know, because I worked in an Elliott’s store during the sixties. Me too, said Mike – I worked for Elliott’s in the late sixties and seventies. And me, said Steve Penney; I remember working through the power strikes.

 

skmbt_c20310090210032 skmbt_c20310090210033 skmbt_c20310090210471-copy skmbt_c20310090307291

It turned out there was a whole community of former Elliott’s employees out there. David Sheldon remembered selling the pop singer Lulu a pair of Spanish boots that could only be got on with a zip puller after stretching with ‘leather expander in the stockroom. The following morning, he had to get them off her as her legs had swollen “due to overnight partying.” Nicky van Tol-Williams reminisced about the “fabulous white ‘living skin’ boots” she owned in the late sixties. People remembered their old colleagues, managers, and friends.

skmbt_c20310091609560 skmbt_c20310091609555 skmbt_c20310091609554 mx-2600n_20100915_092739_024 mx-2600n_20100915_091315_024   skmbt_c20310091709265-copy skmbt_c20310092110053-copy

And then, to my great surprise, we started to hear from the Elliott family themselves. Simon Elliott recalled that his father, Adrian, was saddened by the ‘this poster degrades women’ stickers that were stuck on the posters the company designed in the sixties, but delighted when the posters for shearling boots were defaced with graffiti reading ‘this poster degrades sheep.’ Adrian’s daughter, Jessica Smith, remembered going up to her dad’s office in London and trying on samples. And their brother Matthew got in touch to say that he had some of the original advertising material in his attic, which he kindly sent me and which I’ve posted here, along with images culled from the UK edition of Vogue.

img_6316 img_6315

I have to say, this experience has been one of the most pleasant parts of writing the blog. On the whole, I’ve been ambivalent about giving people the ability to comment freely on web content. As far as I can tell, this blog is visited by a group of people who have only good, helpful, or informative points to add, but on many other sites that is sadly not the case. But watching a little community of people associated with Elliott’s grow up around that one blog post has been deeply satisfying. Thank you all.

Image sources:

  • Western-cut over the knee boots by Elliott, Spring 1981 collection. Courtesy of Matthew Elliott
  • Elliott boots from Vogue UK, 1966-1968. Vogue UK, via Youthquaker
  • Elliott boots from Vogue UK, 1968. Vogue UK, via Youthquaker
  • Elliott boots from Vogue UK, 1969. Vogue UK via Youthquaker
  • Window displays from Elliott stores. Courtesy of Matthew Elliott

Boots and Politics

The following is taken from a profile of Lauren Duca, editor of Teen Vogue, who attracted wide attention in December 2016 for publishing an article that accused Donald Trump of ‘gaslighting’ America.

Duca went on the Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight, where she neatly eviscerated her host when he attempted to dismiss her commentaries on the grounds that it had appeared in a teen magazine. He said she should stick to writing about thigh-high boots.

“A woman can love Ariana Grande and her thigh-high boots and still discuss politics,” Duca replied.

352a0b0700000578

Source: Helmore, Edward. Fashion versus Trump: ‘Women can love thigh boots and still talk politics.’ The Guardian, Jan 28, 2017. Retrieved 2/8/2017

Image: Ariana Grande performing at Capital FM’s Summertime Ball in London, UK June 2016. EMPICS entertainment via Mogaznews EN

“The Footwear of the Decade?”

how-to-wear-over-the-knee-boots

I’ve been tied up with the book for the last few months and am taking time to dig back through the press coverage for the Fall 16 season. I was intrigued by this Priya Elan article from The Guardian, dated September 9th, where he reports that the over-the-knee boot is poised to become the footwear of the decade. That’s quite some claim to make, and I thought it was worth digging into in a little more detail.

otkboots

Elan’s thesis is that for the last 5 decades, each major era of fashion has had its iconic piece of fashion: “the 60s had the Birkenstock, the 70s had the platform boot, the 80s had the stiletto, and the 90s the Doc Marten.” For the current decade, Elan picks the over-the-knee boot, based on its widespread popularity across a variety of trend-setting personalities.

over-the-knee-boots-with-skinny-jeans-2

To be honest, there’s not a lot more to it than that. The “lampshading” trend, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, and – improbably – Theresa May, are all mentioned, as is the obligatory reference to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (a movie that is now 27 years old, and surely disappearing below the cultural horizon for any woman under the age of 40). There is a nod to the boot’s flexibility as a style element – “Thigh-high boots are the new pants,” according to MTV Style, apparently, and a rattling off of the various major league designers that have included the boots in their F/W collections. And that’s all, folks.

over-the-knee-boot-collage-306ilhxb71pzq9lwwv7k00

I shouldn’t be rude – all things considered, it was a prescient piece given that the current fashion season has absolutely confirmed that the OTK boot is a big deal for 2016/17. And while I might take issue with his choice of decadal footwear (you could just as easily make a case for the Pilgrim pump, the Frye boot, the running shoe, and the platform sandal), the sheer ubiquity of the low-heeled, black or grey suede OTK boot in the last 3 months is hard to argue with. But if you want to claim a decade spanning significance for it, you need more evidence. And that’s a place where we can help, I think.

Let’s start with Google Trends. For those new to this wonderful tool, GT lets you map how the popularity of certain search terms changes over time. For example, here is how the popularity of searches for “boot” changes over time:

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-12-18-24-pm

As you can see, there’s a gradual increase in popularity since 2004, and the pattern is basically an annually repeated cycle, with the popularity of the search term peaking in the fall; no surprises there.

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-12-17-26-pm

Now look at the term “knee-high boot.” At first glance, the two patterns look more-or-less the same, but if you inspect it more carefully, you can see that there’s a slight decline in popularity from 2004 to 2007, which – I think – reflects the decreasing popularity of the dress boots that dominated fashion around the turn of the millennium.

So what about over-the-knee boots? First, I think we can put aside Elan’s assertion that the turning point was 2006 and Ann Hathaway’s Chanel-booted makeover in The Devil Wears Prada (not that this wasn’t a great movie moment to rank alongside Jane Fonda in Klute or Sophia Loren in Arabesque). The pivotal period was the Fall 2009 season, which is the point when ultra-tall boot styles started to attract mass media attention, both in conventional and “new” media, and this is very visible using GT:

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-12-14-45-pm

Note also how the popularity of the term increases precipitously in the fall of this year. It’s also reflected in the extraordinary number of public figures that have been photographed out and about in OTKs; over 120 in the last month alone (see below).

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-3-35-23-pm

It’s true that high visibility of this style of boot among the rich and famous has encouraged “ordinary’ people to try it, but is it truly a mass phenomenon? My (admittedly ad hoc) surveying of the situation on the streets of New York, Boston, etc., suggests that OTK styles account for maybe 10% of the tall boots worn by women. The vast majority of the remaining 90% are low-heeled, knee-length styles worn over pants or leggings; a look that was termed “The Tuck” when it first appeared in the mid 00s. So, is there a case to be made that the low-heeled knee boot, rather than its loftier, over-the-knee cousin, is the footwear of the decade? I think there may be.

img_3024

While the thigh-high boot has undergone successive periods of high profile attention in the sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties, the tucked-in boot has only previously achieved mass popularity once, in the 1970s, and it was not sustained. During the early 00s, before its current round of success, I remember my fellow blogger Bruce describing the tucking of pants into a knee-high boot as the last frontier of boot wearing. That frontier has been well and truly crossed during the last ten years. The current style of boot, low heeled, but with at least some shaping of the calf to follow the curve of the leg, slightly resembles designs from the late sixties, but often features accents such as buckles, studs, and straps that are not seen in earlier boots. And it is truly a mass phenomenon, embraced by celebrity and commoner alike, at a frequency far exceeding that of the OTK.

The tide may also be on the turn. “Thigh-high boots have been ubiquitous for the last few seasons,” the Daily Mail noted on December 8th of last year, but “lately we’ve noticed their popularity has given way to some classic knee-high boots.” Commenting approvingly on photos of supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio at LAX, wearing stiletto heeled Gianvito Rossi knee boots over skinny jeans, the paper urged readers to “mark our words! Knee-high boots are quickly working their way to the top of every A-lister’s capsule wardrobe so make sure you’re not without a pair this winter.”

Selected References

  • Elan, Priya (2016). Over-the-knee boots set to become footwear of the decade. The Guardian, Sept. 9, 2016. Retrieved Jan 2, 2017.Anon. (2016). She’s so boot-iful!
  • Alessandra Ambrosio dons shiny black knee-highs for flight into LAX. The Daily Mail, Dec. 8, 2016. Retrieved Jan 2, 2017.

Image Sources

An end of year update

img_5041Things have been a little quiet this year, but I wanted to assure anyone out there who’s still interested in this blog that it is not dead and buried. The reason for the lack of activity is that MFW has spun off a book project. I spent a lot of 2016 doing research – surprisingly, there was quite a lot that I hadn’t covered in the blog – writing, and doing tedious, but necessary stuff like image licensing. The manuscript  was finally delivered to the publisher on Dec 1st – fingers crossed, it should be published some time in late 2017.

All of that means I can now get back to writing the blog… which is a challenge after the long-form writing I’ve been doing. And there’s also the Pinterest and Tumblr sites to revitalize, which I’d retired because they were getting way too messy. Fortunately, there’s a lot of material out there to draw on. Expect more in the New Year. And Happy Holidays to everyone.