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Fashion boot

A fashion boot is a boot worn for reasons of style or fashion (rather than for utilitarian purposes – e.g. not hiking boots, riding boots, rain boots, etc.). The term is usually applied to women’s boots. Fashion boots come in a wide variety of styles, from ankle to thigh-length, and are used for casual, formal, and business attire. Although boots were a popular style of women’s footwear in the Nineteenth Century, they were not recognized as a high fashion item until the 1960s. They became widely popular in the 1970s and have remained a staple of women’s winter wardrobes since then.

In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, ankle and calf-length boots were common footwear for women. Rising hemlines made longer styles of boots popular. In 1913, Denise Poiret, the wife of celebrated French couturier Paul Poiret, caused a sensation in Paris and New York by wearing knee-length boots in wrinkled Morocco leather. Designed by her husband, made by the bottier Favereau, and styled with a low heel and a square toe, she had versions in red, white, green, and yellow. By 1915 the New York Times was reporting that, inspired by Mme Poiret, women had adopted these "Russian boots" as an acceptable alternative to baring ankles and calves. By the 1920s Russian boots were available in a variety of styles, calf- or knee-length, with a Cuban or Louis heel, which could be pull-on, or zip-fastened for a closer fit. Worn with knee-length skirts, they often featured decorative features such as elaborate stitching or fur trims.

Russian boots were popular during the 1920s and the emergence of these tall boots for women was interpreted by some contemporary writers as a consequence of women’s transition from the “leisure class” to the world of business. But as their popularity grew, concerns over quality meant that where protection from the elements was needed, Russian boots were increasingly replaced by fashionable variants of the rubber Wellington boot. As roads were surfaced and horse-drawn transport gave way to the motor engine, the additional protection provided by boots was no longer needed. Boots were seen as restrictive and uncomfortable when compared with the new styles of fashionable shoe that complimented a more streamlined and simplified look for women's clothing. Although they were still popular as late as the beginning of the 1930s, within a few years Russian boots had fallen out of favor.

American designer Beth Levine is widely credited as the first person to introduce boots into Haute Couture. As early as 1953, Beth Levine introduced under the Herbert Levine label a calf-length boot in white kidskin, which sold poorly. Most retailers saw boots as a separate category of footwear from shoes, to be worn for protection from bad weather or for work. By contrast, Levine argued that boots were shoes and could be an integral part of a woman's outfit. In 1957, Herbert Levine produced an entire collection of based around fashion boots, and despite widspread skepticism on the part of other designers and manufacturers, calf-high, kitten-heeled fashion boots for women began to grow in popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1962 Balenciaga's fall collection featured a tall boot by Mancini that just covered the knee; the following year Yves Saint Laurent's couture collection included thigh-length alligator skin boots by designer Roger Vivier and Vogue was able to announce that boots of all lengths were the look of the moment. The re-emergence of boots as a fashion item in the 1960s has been interpreted as an antidote to the femininity of Dior's post war "New Look".

  • In Arabesque (1966) Sophia Loren is seen trying on a selection of 1960s shoes and boots, including white thighboots.
  • In Klute (1969) Jane Fonda wears black leather, flat heeled thighboots and lace-up knee-length boots.
  • In the film, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the main Bond girl wears fashion boots.
  • Jane Fonda wears high-heeled knee-length boots in The Electric Horseman (1979) which also appear on the film poster; Robert Redford makes various references to her unsuitable footwear.
  • Julia Roberts wears black PVC thighboots in the movie Pretty Woman (1990); they also appear on the poster for the film.
  • In the film version of The Avengers (1998) Uma Thurman wears a number of outfits featuring knee-length boots, in homage to the original TV series.
  • In Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) Renée Zellweger wears black, knee length boots. Hugh Grant refers to these as “very silly little boots.”
  • Milla Jovovich wears high-heel knee-high boots throughout the movie adaption of Resident Evil (2002), despite being trapped in an underground lab where they cannot be very practical to wear.
  • Anne Hathaway wears thigh-high black leather boots by Chanel in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), which are commented on by other characters.
  • In the movie All About Steve (2009) Sandra Bullock wears shiny red knee-length go-go boots, which are commented on numerous times by other characters
  • The Avengers (1961–1969) gained notoriety for Honor Blackman’s leather outfits (1962–1964), which often included calf- and knee-length boots. Diana Rigg (1965–1968) wore ankle- and calf- length boots in many episodes, and Linda Thorson (1968–1969) wore both knee-length and thigh-length boots. Its sequel series The New Avengers (1976–1977), Joanna Lumley wore knee-length high heeled boots of various styles in some episodes.
  • In the original Doctor Who (1963–1989) series, it was common (particularly during the 1970s era of episodes) for the Doctor's female companions to be wearing leather or suede platform-soled women's fashion boots and knee-length boots, which was typical of the fashion style when the series was made.
  • In Star Trek (1966–1969) Star Fleet uniforms for women included black, calf-length boots. In the episode Mirror, Mirror (1968) an alternate universe was depicted in which this uniform was much more revealing and featured thigh-length black leather boots.
  • The principle female characters in the Irwin Allen series Lost in Space (1965–1968) and Land of the Giants (1968–1970) had costumes that included mini-skirts and brightly colored go-go boots typical of the time when the series were made.
  • Pan's People, the in-house dancers on the BBC music show Top of the Pops (1968–1976) frequently wore knee-length go-go boots for routines.
  • Brigitte Bardot
  • Lulu
  • Nancy Sinatra


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