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

1971ws

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.

 

Fryes and Platforms; a Continental Divide?

Jane Seymour

As we saw in an earlier post, 1974 saw a big resurgence in the popularity of fashion boots. The department stores were filled with an incredible variety in height, detailing, and colors. But there was one style that was conspicuous by its absence, as Enid Nemy pointed out in a New York Times article from September of that year. “Few [boots] are carrying the exaggerated platforms so popular in shoes this summer.”

That’s not to say that the platform boot was completely missing from the US. Nemy goes on to describe how “the higher than high heels and platforms that seem to stretch into infinity have been translated into boots at a number of specialized shoe stores throughout the city. They particularly line West 34th St between 5th and 6th Avenues, and the color range is impressive.”

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So the platform boots were there, but were strictly the preserve of specialist stores. Compare this situation to what you see in the UK. First appearing in 1972/73, by the following year they are easily the most popular style of boot, making up more than 60% of the pairs on sale. From 1973 to 1975 the platform ruled supreme, and if you include the mid-seventies knee boot, with its somewhat lower sole in the same category, then the platform sole was the dominant feature of footwear for most of the decade.

Meanwhile, the U.S. had its own distinctive style of boot.“This winter,” Ann Roiphe wrote in the New York Times in January 1976, “in the cold climates, every boy and girl from 13 to 22 will be wearing a down jacket and Frye boots.” The Frye boot had first become popular in the winter of 1974/75, but it had taken time for the word to filter through to the buyers in the big stores. Now they were everywhere.

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The Frye boot had to be bought a size small, so they could stretch out. As Roiphe described it, “young people of both sexes have blistered and bled, limped and suffered until at last the stiff thick leather has given in and stretched – and then it doesn’t stretch, it sags. Frye boots – and they are everywhere around you – bag at the ankles so the wearer looks like a basset hound with old legs, wrinkled from the hard life it’s known.”

By now, you’ll have realized that Ann Roiphe was not a fan of the Frye, which she contrasted unfavorably with the ultra-feminine fashions of her youth.“Why are they being worn to and from classes in some of our elitist institutions? Why are our young people living as if they expect a horse to step on their toes?”

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you’ll have realized that the transgressive thrill of adopting a previously male-dominated mode of fashion was one of the main drivers for the evolution of the women’s fashion boot, and that was certainly the case for the Frye, which was very much a unisex boot in its seventies incarnation.As Roiphe notes, unisex dressing invariably tends to move in the direction of becoming more masculine. Women used to want their feet to look dainty, but in the mid-1970s this was apparently no longer the case.

So here we have the big split in the evolution of the boot during the 1970s. Close-fitting, ultra high platform-soled boots in the UK (and the rest of Europe); heavy, baggy Frye boots in the US. I first noticed this with prompting from Bruce some months back, and I’ve been chewing it over ever since then. What was the reason behind these differences?

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At first, I wondered if we were looking at some fundamental difference between the U.S. and the U.K. I (semi-jokingly) suggested on Bruce’s blog that it was all to do with reaction to the societal malaise at the end of the Sixties. The U.K. chose to escape into the 1930s nostalgia of Biba and the platform-soled shoe, while in the U.S. they tried to recover the simplicity of life on the land, through a resurgence of interest in things like country & western music and western-themed fashions.

But to do this, you’d have to assume that there’s some measure of equivalency between the Frye boot and the platform boot, and the more I read Ann Roiphe’s article on the Frye, the more sure I became that they were not really reflections of the same phenomenon at all.

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The UK platform boot – at least in its female incarnation – is closely linked to the equivalent, close-fitting fashion boots found in the U.S. during the same period. There are certainly some differences, but while many of the U.S. boots look similar to Frye boots, they are not actually Frye boots. They are fashion boots that incorporate Western themes.

The actual Frye boot and its derivatives, of which the Campus boot is probably the best known example, was a unisex working boot, co-opted for the purposes of fashion, and worn primarily by the young – teens and co-eds. When women wore it, the boot was an outright rejection of feminine footwear in favor of something distinctly masculine – as Ann Roiphe pointed out, this unisex fashion was a distinctly one-way affair.

So if you look for the equivalent boot in the UK, I would argue it is not one of the regular women’s boots, platform soled or otherwise. A unisex, but mostly masculine working boot worn almost exclusively by the young… surely we’re talking about the Doc Marten boot?

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Docs are probably the last style that would come to mind when you think of the term fashion boot… but plainly Roiphe (and many of her contemporaries, one assumes) thought the same about Frye boots. And Docs were most definitely a big part of two of the biggest youth cults of Seventies Britain, the punks and the skinheads, where both men and women wore them.

When I first thought of this, it seemed crazy. The worlds of punk and – say – country are about far apart as you can get. Except that there’s a case to be made that both were a reaction to the slick, stagflated world of the 1970s.

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Punk was anti-authoritarian, stressed individualism, non-conformism, and self-reliance. It was also left wing and progressive. In the US, by contrast, the 70s saw the rise of the conservative right, which adopted country as one of its cultural touchstones. But while it was at the other spectrum, politically, this movement shared some value with the punks; it was also individualistic, anti-establishment (in the sense of the old, East Coast ascendancy), and self-reliant, with an engrained suspicion of government. Fryes started out with the post Woodstock college kids, but they gradually became part of the mid-late seventies resurgence of fashion rooted in Americana – denim, gingham, country music, God, and the American flag.

So instead of a simple U.S./U.K split, we have an establishment/radical split. The fashion boot grew up in the mid 1970s and left its original, “youthquake” audience behind. Or, rather, they grew old and their boots matured with them as they joined the comfortable middle classes. In their place, a younger generation of boot wearers looked for something that was more challenging, either because it presented an extreme version of female fashion (the platform boot), or because it abandoned female fashion altogether in favor of a more defiantly unisex (or masculine) look. In the UK, the Doc Marten represented this latter trend: in the U.S. it was the Frye boot.

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This is not to say that because the Frye boot started out as unisex, it always remained that way. Just as the wider story of the fashion boot is one of the co-option of masculine working dress as female fashion, the Frye, in its feminized version, was one of the earliest examples of the whole range of “casual boots” that are so popular with women today. We looked at this last year as part of the comparison of boot styles and we’ll discuss more when we get into the 1980s.

Image Sources:

  • Jane Seymour: Puella Sapiens
  • Platform soles: Janet Frazer Catalogue, Autumn/Winter 1975/76
  • 1970s Frye Ad: Tumblr
  • 1970s Frye Ad: Tumbr
  • 1983 Frye Ad: Flickr.com
  • Mid-70s American boots: Montgomery Ward Catalog, Fall 1976
  • Dr Martens: Luxury Activist
  • Skinhead girl: Pinterest
  • Vintage 1970s Frye Campus boots: Ebay

Selected References:

  • Nemy, Enid, 1974. Boots have changed – especially in price: droopy look. New York Times, Sept 20, 1974; p.47.
  • Roiphe, Anne, 1976. Tweedledum and Tweedledee. New York Times, Jan 26, 1976; p.256.
  • Sandbrook, Dominic, 2012. Seasons in the Sun: the Battle for Britain, 1974-1979. London, Allen Lane; 992pp.
  • Schulman, Bruce J. 2001. The Seventies: the Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics. New York, The Free Press; 334pp.

See also:

Smut

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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

The Birth of “the Tuck”

Skinny Jeans and Boots

While I was trying to track down the reference to Millennial women being unable to zip up their boots due to overly-developed calf muscles for the previous post, I stumbled on another interesting article in the New York Observer, this one from January of 2005.

Nowadays, the jeans-tucked-into-tall-boots look is so commonplace, it’s hard to remember that its only been around in its current incarnation for 10 years. The Observer piece, by Anna Schneider Mayerson, takes us back to a time when this was a relative novelty.

“In Manhattan these days, it’s hard to find a girl who isn’t doing the Tuck. Across West Chelsea bars, sleek boutiques in Madison Avenue and grungy boîtes of the Lower East Side, the women of the city can be found peg-legging their jeans and parading around with them scrunched into the legs of their boots like crumpled bed sheets. They’re pulling sculpted stiletto boots up over trousers and walking around with them in plain view, like a pair of knee socks. Or they’re rolling their jeans up so that they rest just where the boot ends, thus shortening the appearance of their legs by about 40 percent. And somehow they seem to think this is a good idea.”

Note that little zinger at the end, because for all the enthusiasm of the women interviewed, there was not universal approbation for “the Tuck.” Ms. Mayerson describes it as a “frumpy-mom look that was last hot in 1982, the year of Flashdance and Gloria Vanderbilt perfume” and marshals a chorus of male disapproval:

“they do the jeans inside of their big white boots and try to do the ‘hipster rock slut’ look, but it’s also like, ‘I just moved here from Des Moines,’”

“People wore it in the 70’s. It probably looked O.K. then or it looked good then. Certain trends can come back and they can be reincarnated and look good. That one should have been left in the 70’s”

“It looks kind of medieval. It reminds me of Robin Hood and his friends, more like a costume than a stylish outfit. I don’t think it’s particularly flattering or subtle.”

“It makes the legs look stubbier. I think it’s just so much less flattering. It’s a little frame for the middle part of the body. It makes everyone look a little rounder.”

Which shows what guys know, because “the Tuck” is still going strong a decade later. The article touches on some possible reasons, the most convincing of which was the emergence of new styles of boots, less tight fitting and with heavy heels, that couldn’t be worn under pants and which required a different proportionality in outfits. But ultimately it’s just a very practical look that has stood the test of time.

Reference:

Image Source:

A Pause and Review

Caroline-Munro-2

This is probably as good a time as any to pause and review what we’ve covered so far. The last series of posts have covered the birth of the modern fashion boot, charting its rise in popularity from the first years of the 1960s to the beginning of the 1970s. During that time, we’ve seen a change in the nature of boots for women. Initially functional, utilitarian footwear for rainy days, boots transitioned to a more high-profile role, where their dramatic, almost masculine overtones acted in sharp contrast to otherwise conventional feminine fashion.

From there, boots evolved in tandem with other aspects of sixties fashion; the rise – literally – of the miniskirt; the emergence of styles that drew their inspiration from the space race; the development of novel fabrics and materials. As it evolved, the boot became more feminized, using higher heels and a tighter fit to emphasizing features such as shape and length of the leg. Rather than contrasting with female fashions, boots complemented them, becoming incorporated into the overall ‘look’ of an outfit.

By the end of the decade, fashion boots were available in a hitherto undreamt of variety of colors and styles. Some, like the lace-up granny boot, were unashamedly retro. Others, like the skin-tight hip boots of the late sixties, looked like no type of footwear that had ever been seen before. There were boots that resembled stockings, or leggings, or pants, and there were boots that were so minimal that the line between boot and sandal was completely erased.

More than anything, they became popular in a way undreamed of 10 years previously. By the beginning of the 1970s, as we saw in the last post, it was not unusual for women to own two, four, six or even more pairs. In the mid-1950s, shoe manufacturers had laughed at Beth Levine’s little white calf-length boots; by the end of the following decade, they were no longer laughing. They were too busy making money hand-over-fist.

Image Source: