The Chelsea Boot

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.  

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The 1960s

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.

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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.

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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. 

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Today

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. 

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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.

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Thanks to the following for the images. Marks & Spencer, DS Dundee, BallyJulesOffice, Mo Classics, The Guardian Tony Barnett, Arctic Monkeys Forum, Izcool, Comics AnonymousContact Music and Mod Shoes.

Dr. Martens revisited with ThingLink.com

It’s been almost two years since my field trip to the Dr. Martens factory. Here’s a little revisit to that post made a little bit more fun and interactive with the use of ThingLink.com. Rollover the image below for more content.

Thanks to Dr. Martens for showing me around.

How to clean leather boots

It’s getting colder here in the UK; the sky is grey and the pavements are wet, which means it’s time to break out the winter boots. Any regular visitor to this blog will know that we’re advocates of Dr. Martens boots in their many guises, not just the classic 1460 boot that’s made Dr. Martens so recognisable.

In part homage to our favorite DM boot, the Sawyer, part ‘how to’ post and part excuse to feature DMs, here’s a skill that should be useful to you as you recover your leather boots from under the bed for the forthcoming winter months: How to clean leather boots.

As you can see from the below images, this pair of Doc Martens Sawyer boots are well loved.

These boots are made of a fairly resilient leather. They keep out the water, any scuffs tend to rub off quite well and they impressively coped with a little bit of spilled oil.

Now, there’s not much information on what kind of leather these boots are made from. On the inside label, there is the very recognisable leather symbol.

This symbol simply means that the material used is leather, it doesn’t tell us much about the leather. The Doc Martens website tells us that the material used on the upper is ‘Polished Apache’, which I think refers more to the colour than the material. However, DMs to tell us that it’s ‘a natural smooth leather, with a polished finish’. Simply put, it’s a flexible, smooth leather that’s fairy easy to clean.

First up, you’ll need to find somewhere to clean your boots. Taking them outside is good because later we’re going to get the polish out and it can be a little messy.

Then, prepare your boot by making sure there’s no dirt, grime or dust on the upper. You can use any old damp cloth to wipe it down, or if the dirt is dry a dry cloth works too. Let the boot dry naturally.

Next up you’ll need some of this…

Some polish that closely matches your boot colour and a brush to bring out the shine. Both of these products where bought from Timpson and cost less that £5 each but there’s lots of alternatives out there.

Little tip here: Write the colour of the polish that you’re going to be using on the back of the brush in permanent ink. You really don’t want to start polishing a brown boot with a brush that’s been used with black polish. It’s probably worth getting a shoe brush for each colour you use.

Dab a the brush in to polish and rub it onto the boot. Really get stuck in and give it a good scrub. To keep the shape of the boot (and to keep your hand clean from sticky polish) put your hand inside the shoe and scrub with the brush in the other hand. Scrub in circles and try and treat all areas of the boot with the same intensity.

When you’ve worked up a good gloss, it’s time to move on to the soft cloth…

Any old cotton cloth will work. Be warned, this cloth will get stained, so don’t use anything that you want to keep pristine. Again, work in circles and bring out the shine. A tiny little bit of moisture on the cloth can help here. It’s not very nice, but your saliva will work; if you want to spit on the boot and rub your moisture in with the polish this can help bring out the shine.

Repeat these steps as necessary and stand back to admire your handiwork.

A few minutes work really makes a big difference. Just look at the comparison below.

I didn’t go too wild on the polish, as I didn’t want the boots to be super shiny - just to have a nice, horse chestnut tone. A little more time and these could have looked more like patent leather.

And here they are in all their glory, clean, glossy and at the end of a pair of jeans.

So that’s it really. Very and easy and it only took about 15 minutes. A quick, essential man-skill that will keep your footwear from looking too shabby.

If you want to check out how Dr Martens are made and why they’re great, check out our post on the Doc Martens factory here.

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