KNEE-HIGH & THIGH-HIGH BOOTS
THE TREND: Knee-high boots and thigh-high boots with chunky heels. Also, “go-go” boots which were characterized as mod style boots usually of white synthetic leather/vinyl material.
ITS INVENTION: Prior to the ’60s, boots worn above the ankles were merely purchased for utilitarian purposes. First worn in the 20th century teens, the calf-length boot was conveniently chic because it was a practical way to walk about town without street sewage, dirt and grime caking itself onto a woman’s shoe or skirt/dress hem.
The above-the-ankle footwear style fell out of favor around the same time street cleaning was becoming more common and transportation opportunities grew into greater variety.
No longer did men and women walk the dirty streets, but rather took buses, trains and trolleys for public transportation to and from their desired destination. As a result, the utilitarian need for such a practical piece of fashion faded away, and so did the popularity of the boot itself.
It was in the ’60s that the calf to knee-high boot gained ground amongst women once again, this time embraced as an object of high-fashion cred thanks to the influence of designer Beth Levine. She literally created the “sexy boot silhouette” by cutting away extra fabric to reveal more of the foot’s natural shape.
Beth can’t be credited a the true “inventor” of the fashion boot (It was Yve Saint Laurent’s 1963 collection of knee-high leather boots that put the trend on the decade’s fashion map) but rather as its messenger to the masses. “These Boots Are Made for Walkin” songstress Nancy Sinatra wore a pair of Beth Levine boots for her song’s publicity shot, and as soon as the images were released to the masses Saks 5th Avenue sold out of the style and shortly thereafter opened it’s own boot department called “Beth’s Bootery.”
When Mary Quant popularized the mini skirt, these rising hemlines provoked another reason for the knee to thigh-high boot trend: The need for coverage of the leg for warmth, protection and (ahem) skin-showing compromise!
Thanks to the development of synthetic technologies in the ’50s-’60s, synthetic leather (plastic and vinyl materials) was quickly gaining grounds as the more desirable, cheaper alternative to leather. It was in 1967 — just as the trend of the mini skirt was rising (pun intended!) — that the vinyl over-the-knee boot became a fashion statement, as shown on sex kitten and ’60s fashion icon Brigitte Bardot, pictured above.
Mary released her own line of boots made from faux leather and sold for a cheap penny, thus making this footwear trend accessible to the middle class fashion conscious masses.
ITS INFLUENCE: When Nancy Sinatra sang “These boots are made for walkin’, and that’s just what they’ll do” no one knew just what she really meant. But as we reflect back on the boot trend of yesterday, we see that the crossover from purely functional (just walking) to purely fashionable (walking all over you, as Nancy sang) was a huge mark in how the rest of fashion would grow and adapt to this ever-evolving world.
A girl isn’t a girl today without a pair of knee-high boots in her closet. And like the ’60s, we’ve taken the utilitarian purpose and adopted it into its own unique style, as seen with riding boots (equestrian style), duck boots (galoshes) and Western boots (cowgirl boots).