Ever wondered about the history of boots? How did boots change through the years? Read this article to find out more about this iconic model of shoe!


The Power of the boots. It makes a man a warrior and a woman an Amazon.

Richard Newbury

This type of shoe is part of our daily life, helping us to face every battle with ardor, whether it’s a job interview or an elegant date.

However, history has seen the boots in much older scenarios, when actually warrior and Amazons were protagonists of other kinds of fights.

Let’s analyze the history of the boots and how they developed to our present days!

Boots Origins

This type of shoe has accompanied us since ancient times. In the paleolithic there are finds of what is a primordial model of boot: the shoe was made of animal skins and adorned with ivory details.

The Sumerians instead began to develop this model by extending it to the calf: the boots were purely functional, protecting part of the leg to the most prohibitive temperatures and to the stones while galloping.

A type of soft leather ankle boots were worn by nomads in eastern Asia, and carried to China, India and Russia around AD 1200 to 1500 by Mongol invaders. The Inuit and Aleut natives of Alaska developed traditional winter boots made of caribou skin or seal skin, featuring decorations of seal intestine or similar materials.

The use of the boot on the war field spread among the legendary Amazons. The warrior women took possession of the knee-high male boots in which they slipped tight pants.

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Examples of typical ancient models of sandals, boots and buskins.

Boots Development Through The Centuries

The functionality of this shoe model helped its diffusion between different cultures and empires, until it was adopted by the ancient Greeks, who made it an icon, developing and modifying it according to different needs.

With the use of different techniques, Greeks made boots with shortened cuts on the ankle. The most famous versions are:

  • The Embas, half leg ankle boot with laces
  • The Embates, a leather and cloth boot used mainly by knights
  • The Edromis, a boot developed for hunting and travel
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Ancient greek boots can be seen in several statues.

However, the development and use of the boots in the military field was fundamental in marking its massive diffusion.

The Arcomeni used to paint their war boots in red to distinguish themselves from their enemies. In ancient Rome gladiators used leather boots with welded metal parts and tied at the thigh. Pointed shapes and gold details were added by the Byzantines, details that formed the standard of the boot model that spread in the Middle Ages.

For several centuries they disappeared, until the year one thousand: they returned as leather boots that covered the foot by slightly exceeding the height of the ankle.

In the 16th century boots began to spread and to rise up along the calf, even if they were always lacking heels, as all types of shoes up to that time.

The real long boots were imposed in the mid-eighteenth century, when the commanders of troops began to worry about the condition of the feet of their soldiers forced to march for days, in the most inaccessible terrains and at prohibitive temperatures.

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Promotional for “Army Boots”, made by Manfield & Sons for soldiers.

Some Historical References

Boots featured also historic characters and events. Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian military general and patriot, after the mission “La Spedizione dei Mille”, while heading to Rome had a fire fight with the Savoia’s troops.

This event took place in Aspromonte, in the south of Italy, in 1862: the general got his left foot harmed through the boot he was wearing. This boot became a piece of history in the Italian culture, and it’s still preserved at the Museo Civico del Risorgimento in Bologna.

The boot shape has become part of the Italian history and culture, also because the fact that the iconic shape defines the shape of Italy: it is called “Lo Stivale” for this reason.

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Meeting between Giuseppe Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II, on the bridge of Teano on 26 October 1860

November Rain, I Don’t Fear You!

With the rubber vulcanization process discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, it comes to life the emblematic rubber boot, or Wellington boots.

The name derives from the fact that the shape was conceived for the first time by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, in the first half of the nineteenth century, on the basis of another model widely used in those years, the Hessian model.

This model of boot became very fashionable for most of the century and spread as a tool to protect yourself from rain and mud.

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Typical rubber boots, that became a stylish icon in the pop culture.

Their fame persists until our times: the 5th of December 2015 was the rainiest day in the history of England; over the course of 24 hours, an area of the northwestern county of Cumbria recorded over 34 centimeters (13 inches) of rain.

Google decided to celebrate it with a doodle on the famous rubber boots.

Boots In Pop and Fashion Culture

In the twentieth century, while the boots is now widespread among both male and female audiences, industrial production begins.

However, it is in the 60s that boots cease to be mere accessories to become fundamental elements of clothing. And this is also thanks to another revolutionary invention: the miniskirt.

With increasingly shorter skirts, designers feel the need to lengthen their shoes. The new boots are high above the knee, have a side zip and are usually black or brown with not too high heels.

The Singer Nancy Sinatra popularized the fad of women wearing boots in the late 1960s with her song “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”.

Later on it becomes a style icon, and it starts spreading in cinema and fashion magazines, taking a leading role in defining new trends in the Pop and Fashion culture.

Jane Fonda in the movie Barbarella (1968). Her futuristic boots became an icon and a trend setter back in the 60s.

The 80s saw a back into normality from the extravagances of previous years, and marked the transition to more sober forms: the boots lost the zip and widened on the leg to allow the ankle to pass.

Some have rigid material to reinforce the structure, such as tube boots, others are soft, foldable often made of suede.

In the 90s, some designers, including Versace, propose the over the knee model “Cuissardes“.

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The over the knee model of boots “Cuissaders”

Moreover, new trends see work boots and military boots being part of the clothing of several youth groups, first of all punks.

Nowadays, we find a highly differentiated range of boots. Fashion of Winter 2020 sees the stylish return of high boots, women’s model of shoe par excellence.

At the top of the list of the coolest shoes of the moment there are certainly the 70s boots: maxi leather or suede boots with high and wide heels. A real tribute to the 70s style continues through models with maxi plateaus and feminine day boots: elegant and a perfect mix between high heels and comfy cool style.

This is a brief recap on the history of boots and their development to the present days. From the ones with metallic details to the futuristic model, they are confirmed as objects of desire for many fashion lovers.