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A jackboot is a military boot such as the cavalry jackboot or the hobnailed jackboot. The cavalry jackboot was a version of the jackboots worn by postilions, such as guided the French stage coach or diligence, as described by an English visitor to France in 1803:
The near horse of the three first, is mounted by the postilion, in his great jack boots.... These curious protectors of his legs, are composed of wood, and iron hoops, softened within by stuffing, and give him all the dignity of riding in a pair of upright portmanteaus.
The hobnailed jackboot has a different design and function than the first type. It is a combat boot that is designed for marching. It rises to mid-calf or higher with no laces and usually has a leather sole with hobnails. These boots have both been associated with totalitarianism, as they were worn by the Nazis and were used by armies in the former Soviet Union.
The term originally denoted tall winged leather cavalry boots, which had been "jacked", or reinforced against sword blows by use of mail (armor) sewn into the lining of the leather. The wings on these high boots particularly protected a rider's knee-joint from a sword blow. These boots are still worn and still so termed by the Household Cavalry Regiment of the British Army, founded in the 17th century. The term originates from the French word Jaque (m) meaning mail. The term is of Catalan origin, descended from the Arabic schakk. These boots were made very heavy by the mail reinforcement, and are slightly less so today from the use of modern materials as stiffeners. There are few manufacturers of Cavalry Jackboots extant in the 21st century, the most famous being Schnieder Boots (pronounced Schneeder) of Mayfair, London, the official supplier to Her Majesty the Queen's Household Cavalry.
The second meaning of the term is derived from the first, with reference to their toughness, but is unrelated in design and function, being a combat boot designed for marching, rising to at least mid-calf, with no laces, typically a leather sole with hobnails, and heel irons. The Germans call this boot "Marschstiefel", meaning "marching boot". This is the classic boot used by the German Infantry in World War I, though the Stormtroopers dispensed with them in favor of laced boots then used by Austro-Hungarian mountain troops. An etymological source not derived from the Cavalry Jackboot has been suggested as from the word jack, jacket or jerkin, as a common garment worn by the peasantry.
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