Time for another quick look at an important piece of footwear and it’s historical context. This one is of a real Mod classic, a boot that I’ve admired for a very long time; the Chelsea Boot.
The Chelsea boot started life on Queen Victoria’s foot. I kid you not. Invented by the boot maker to Her Royal Highness in 1837, the Chelsea boot utilised the recently invented vulcanised rubber and created a shoe that was easy to get on and off. With elasticated sides and a lightweight sole this short ankle boot has been in the limelight on and off ever since. Initially popular for horse-riding, with many well-to-do Victorian ladies wearing them, they became fashionable up until the First World War.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that they became a wardrobe staple of the average man. Mods like The Beatles were often photographed wearing Chelsea boots to match their sartorial outfits. They initially popularised them along with The Chelsea Set, Mary Quant and Jean Shrimpton, which is where they got their name.
Movies and Media
The shoe of choice for George Lucas’s Stormtroopers in the original Star Wars movies was a Chelsea boot painted white! Chelsea boots were cheaper and available in abundance in the 1970s, so they were ideal and affordable for the many actors who played Darth Vader’s foot soldiers.
Those of you familiar with the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s ‘Watchmen’ comic book; now popularised by Zach Synder’s film of the same name will recognise the character below, ‘Rorschach’. I always liked Rorschach’s costume; he’s supposed to look shabby, but had a snappy sort of style. Notice his Chelsea Boots.
Chelsea Boots experienced a dip in popularity during the eighties, they just weren’t fashionable, but now the Chelsea boot is again at the height of cool. They still connote the mod look; these boots are often seen on alternative music artists like The Arctic Monkeys. When slipped on over the top of a pair of skinny jeans, they are the pinnacle of the smart casual look. They have been seen on the catwalks with slim fit tailored suits, as well as part of the heritage trend with a nod to its equestrian past.
The Chelsea boot is functional, fashionable and stylish and best of all, British. They go with a formal trouser for a sartorial look, and they go just as well with a pair of scruffy jeans for a more indie rock n’ roll look. Wear with a buttoned up polo shirt and a straight leg for a nod to the mod and lots of plaid, sheepskin and tweed if you’re more of the countryside type. Chelsea boots are best in black if you’re wearing with a suit, but if you’re popping a pair of jeans on with them then you could go for any colour. Women’s Chelsea boots have heels, are studded, in velvet, rubber (a la Vivienne Westwood)- all sorts of options, but if you’re a bloke, original is best. Check out Rieker Shoes for affordable, comfortable and yet stylish footwear.
Thanks to the following for the images. Marks & Spencer, DS Dundee, Bally, Jules, Office, Mo Classics, The Guardian Tony Barnett, Arctic Monkeys Forum, Izcool, Comics Anonymous, Contact Music and Mod Shoes.