Like many garments and accessories that became iconic and classic, for example jeans and the trench coat, combat boots were born to be military footwear. Then they became fashionable. What was designed to be practical, stable and protecting, now has to guarantee a fair amount of style and coolness.
Edith Head, one of the best costume designers in the history of cinema, said that “you can have anything you want in life, if you dress for it”. I often wonder if this statement is true but it seems particularly reliable when it comes to military and workwear clothing. It’s hard to work well or win a war without the right equipment. It is believed that some crucial wars were lost/won due to the wrong/right clothing and footwear, most of all in case of cold weather.
A sort of military boots were even used by Assyrians, that is to say more than a thousand years before Christ. Ancient Roman legionary soldiers used to wear a boot-sandal, called caligae (Caligola, the Roman emperor, was nicknamed after them), which would look more like a trekking sandal, today, but that was considered a boot in ancient times. Caliage was later modified and made more enclosed, warm and protective. The name was changed into calceus.
The first army boot that looked a lot like the ones we use now was introduced in US in 1816, with the peculiarity that there wasn’t a right and a left foot. The difference between the two feet was introduced after the Civil War, so many decades later.
The modern version of combat boots date back to the nineties century. After every war they have been updated, based on the needs of the army. The most famous combat boots are probably Dr. Martens. The brand was started by the Griggs family, who made work shoes since 1901! I had a pair of Dr. Martens when I went to high school, I basically lived in them and they still look pretty good, I think.
Punk cultured and cinema contributed to make combat boots popular. Sex Pistols, The Clash (but also London’s teddy boys), Steve McQueen and the cast of “The Great Escape” made combat boots look stylish and cool. In the ’90s they were particularly popular. Liv Tyler, Drew Barrymore, Winona Ryder all wore combat boots, like Kendall Jenner and Kaia Gerber do nowadays.
Preview image via Net-à-Porter