Judging a Gentleman by his Boots

BootsNicola here, musing on the appeal of boots. One of the things I like most about autumn is that I can get my boots out and wear them again after their summer break. I think in an ideal world I would wear boots all the time. I love them. Comfortable, stylish, practical, sexy, they cover just about every option. I was slightly shocked when I discovered I had seven pairs (that said I can’t wear the ones in the photo these days – they are just too high!) It would have been eight pairs but last year I very grudgingly threw away my all time favourite pair of wedge boots which I had worn until they literally fell apart.

A few weeks ago I went to an exhibition at the Victorian and Albert Museum in London called “Shoes, Pleasure and Pain.” The exhibition was stunning with examples of shoes and boots from different cultures going back over 600 years. The power of the shoe or boot is very strong in persuading us that we can be transformed into someone who is seductive and glamorous. It feels as though they have almost magical properties.

It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote: "You can tell he is a Puss in Boots
gentleman: Look at his boots." Boots and shoes have of course been symbols of status and prestige for centuries. In fairy tales feminine shoes are so often pretty and fragile but masculine boots move, leap and make the wearer active and dynamic. In German myth the King of the Golden Mountain offers a pair of boots that can transport the wearer anywhere that they want to go. Russian folklore speaks of the 7 league boots that carry the wearer vast distances in a single bound. We have “Puss In Boots” the dashing, sword-fighting hero who, as he takes off his hat and cloak, says: “All I need are the boots!” 

Musketeer bootsThe idea that men’s boots can have associations of power and virility is still a very strong one; when a friend of mine saw these Musketeer Boots in the exhibition I thought she might swoon. “They look as though they mean business,” she said. Yes they did. (Thank you to fellow historical author Christina Courtenay for the photo!)

Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough wrote in 1704 "His Grace returned from the wars today and did pleasure me twice in his top-boots.” Possibly too much information but also a tribute to the Duke’s virility – and his boots. Boots and swords do seem to go together. In the mid seventeenth century the “cult of the cavalier” was hugely popular amongst men who combined violence in the form of swords and riding boots with spurs, with long hair, jewellery and rich textiles.

 The Duke of Wellington was another man who had a penchant for boots, a stylish dandyism reflected in Wellington the original Wellington boot. These, originally flat boots made of leather were all the rage after Waterloo, giving a man an air of energy and activity. Over time the Wellington has changed out of all recognition into a very practical but not particularly seductive boot.

Women’s boots in history were somewhat different, essentially practical although they could be pretty as well. A good example of these was 19th century carriage boots, worn for warmth and usually fur-trimmed. The ones in the picture below belonged to the Empress Eugenie. The fashion for “Adelaide boots” developed in the pre-Victorian era when Queen Adelaide popularised a dainty feminine boot with side lacing. These days, though, both sexes can wear whatever boots we choose, from stilettos to cowboy boots, fetish boots to platforms. There is a fabulous and dizzying array of styles open to all.

Empress bootsAre you a fan of boots? Do you have a favourite pair? And do you think that the boots worn by men throughout history enhance their masculinity and make them more attractive? 

95 thoughts on “Judging a Gentleman by his Boots”

  1. Loved this post, Nicola.I love boots, too. Many years ago I used to have a pair of claret red flat boots, handmade by local bootmaker that were beautiful and so comfortable, and I wore them until they fell apart and could be mended no more. Alas, the bootmaker had retired and sold his shop. Had I known what he planned I would have bought half a dozen pairs!
    I have had many pairs of boots since, but none in red. However last year after the RWA conference in San Antonio, I bought myself a pair of red cowboy boots and I love them to bits, too.

    Reply
  2. Loved this post, Nicola.I love boots, too. Many years ago I used to have a pair of claret red flat boots, handmade by local bootmaker that were beautiful and so comfortable, and I wore them until they fell apart and could be mended no more. Alas, the bootmaker had retired and sold his shop. Had I known what he planned I would have bought half a dozen pairs!
    I have had many pairs of boots since, but none in red. However last year after the RWA conference in San Antonio, I bought myself a pair of red cowboy boots and I love them to bits, too.

    Reply
  3. Loved this post, Nicola.I love boots, too. Many years ago I used to have a pair of claret red flat boots, handmade by local bootmaker that were beautiful and so comfortable, and I wore them until they fell apart and could be mended no more. Alas, the bootmaker had retired and sold his shop. Had I known what he planned I would have bought half a dozen pairs!
    I have had many pairs of boots since, but none in red. However last year after the RWA conference in San Antonio, I bought myself a pair of red cowboy boots and I love them to bits, too.

    Reply
  4. Loved this post, Nicola.I love boots, too. Many years ago I used to have a pair of claret red flat boots, handmade by local bootmaker that were beautiful and so comfortable, and I wore them until they fell apart and could be mended no more. Alas, the bootmaker had retired and sold his shop. Had I known what he planned I would have bought half a dozen pairs!
    I have had many pairs of boots since, but none in red. However last year after the RWA conference in San Antonio, I bought myself a pair of red cowboy boots and I love them to bits, too.

    Reply
  5. Loved this post, Nicola.I love boots, too. Many years ago I used to have a pair of claret red flat boots, handmade by local bootmaker that were beautiful and so comfortable, and I wore them until they fell apart and could be mended no more. Alas, the bootmaker had retired and sold his shop. Had I known what he planned I would have bought half a dozen pairs!
    I have had many pairs of boots since, but none in red. However last year after the RWA conference in San Antonio, I bought myself a pair of red cowboy boots and I love them to bits, too.

    Reply
  6. Great post, Nicola, and I so agree – men in boots, fabulous! Those Cavalier ones did it for me too (may have to go back to the exhibition again just to see them once more) and in combination with the long hair, definitely! You have also reminded me of Antonio Banderas saying “Puss in Boots” in his wonderful Spanish accent LOL, very sexy! As for modern men, cowboy or biker boots are great. No way am I going to confess how many pairs of boots I have myself … (in fact, I haven’t even counted them) 🙂

    Reply
  7. Great post, Nicola, and I so agree – men in boots, fabulous! Those Cavalier ones did it for me too (may have to go back to the exhibition again just to see them once more) and in combination with the long hair, definitely! You have also reminded me of Antonio Banderas saying “Puss in Boots” in his wonderful Spanish accent LOL, very sexy! As for modern men, cowboy or biker boots are great. No way am I going to confess how many pairs of boots I have myself … (in fact, I haven’t even counted them) 🙂

    Reply
  8. Great post, Nicola, and I so agree – men in boots, fabulous! Those Cavalier ones did it for me too (may have to go back to the exhibition again just to see them once more) and in combination with the long hair, definitely! You have also reminded me of Antonio Banderas saying “Puss in Boots” in his wonderful Spanish accent LOL, very sexy! As for modern men, cowboy or biker boots are great. No way am I going to confess how many pairs of boots I have myself … (in fact, I haven’t even counted them) 🙂

    Reply
  9. Great post, Nicola, and I so agree – men in boots, fabulous! Those Cavalier ones did it for me too (may have to go back to the exhibition again just to see them once more) and in combination with the long hair, definitely! You have also reminded me of Antonio Banderas saying “Puss in Boots” in his wonderful Spanish accent LOL, very sexy! As for modern men, cowboy or biker boots are great. No way am I going to confess how many pairs of boots I have myself … (in fact, I haven’t even counted them) 🙂

    Reply
  10. Great post, Nicola, and I so agree – men in boots, fabulous! Those Cavalier ones did it for me too (may have to go back to the exhibition again just to see them once more) and in combination with the long hair, definitely! You have also reminded me of Antonio Banderas saying “Puss in Boots” in his wonderful Spanish accent LOL, very sexy! As for modern men, cowboy or biker boots are great. No way am I going to confess how many pairs of boots I have myself … (in fact, I haven’t even counted them) 🙂

    Reply
  11. Oh, I do love boots! I have a pair of tall ones that fold over at the top, like the cavalier boots. I’ll hold on to a favorite pair for decades, getting them repaired at the shoemaker’s shop. I’ve always been conservative with the colors, browns and blacks, but now Anne has made me want to go out and buy a pair of red boots.
    And yes, boots do look great on a man. Check out Errol Flynn’s thigh-high boots in The Sea Hawk!

    Reply
  12. Oh, I do love boots! I have a pair of tall ones that fold over at the top, like the cavalier boots. I’ll hold on to a favorite pair for decades, getting them repaired at the shoemaker’s shop. I’ve always been conservative with the colors, browns and blacks, but now Anne has made me want to go out and buy a pair of red boots.
    And yes, boots do look great on a man. Check out Errol Flynn’s thigh-high boots in The Sea Hawk!

    Reply
  13. Oh, I do love boots! I have a pair of tall ones that fold over at the top, like the cavalier boots. I’ll hold on to a favorite pair for decades, getting them repaired at the shoemaker’s shop. I’ve always been conservative with the colors, browns and blacks, but now Anne has made me want to go out and buy a pair of red boots.
    And yes, boots do look great on a man. Check out Errol Flynn’s thigh-high boots in The Sea Hawk!

    Reply
  14. Oh, I do love boots! I have a pair of tall ones that fold over at the top, like the cavalier boots. I’ll hold on to a favorite pair for decades, getting them repaired at the shoemaker’s shop. I’ve always been conservative with the colors, browns and blacks, but now Anne has made me want to go out and buy a pair of red boots.
    And yes, boots do look great on a man. Check out Errol Flynn’s thigh-high boots in The Sea Hawk!

    Reply
  15. Oh, I do love boots! I have a pair of tall ones that fold over at the top, like the cavalier boots. I’ll hold on to a favorite pair for decades, getting them repaired at the shoemaker’s shop. I’ve always been conservative with the colors, browns and blacks, but now Anne has made me want to go out and buy a pair of red boots.
    And yes, boots do look great on a man. Check out Errol Flynn’s thigh-high boots in The Sea Hawk!

    Reply
  16. LOL, Christina! I’m sure your collection puts mine to shame! Thank you for the fabulous photos. Those boots in the exhibition were amazing and there is definitely something about boots and masculinity that can be very appealing!

    Reply
  17. LOL, Christina! I’m sure your collection puts mine to shame! Thank you for the fabulous photos. Those boots in the exhibition were amazing and there is definitely something about boots and masculinity that can be very appealing!

    Reply
  18. LOL, Christina! I’m sure your collection puts mine to shame! Thank you for the fabulous photos. Those boots in the exhibition were amazing and there is definitely something about boots and masculinity that can be very appealing!

    Reply
  19. LOL, Christina! I’m sure your collection puts mine to shame! Thank you for the fabulous photos. Those boots in the exhibition were amazing and there is definitely something about boots and masculinity that can be very appealing!

    Reply
  20. LOL, Christina! I’m sure your collection puts mine to shame! Thank you for the fabulous photos. Those boots in the exhibition were amazing and there is definitely something about boots and masculinity that can be very appealing!

    Reply
  21. Thanks for reminding me about The Sea Hawk, Karin! I love the sound of your cavalier style boots. I’ve never had a pair like that. Nor have I ever had a red pair. clearly my collection needs expanding!

    Reply
  22. Thanks for reminding me about The Sea Hawk, Karin! I love the sound of your cavalier style boots. I’ve never had a pair like that. Nor have I ever had a red pair. clearly my collection needs expanding!

    Reply
  23. Thanks for reminding me about The Sea Hawk, Karin! I love the sound of your cavalier style boots. I’ve never had a pair like that. Nor have I ever had a red pair. clearly my collection needs expanding!

    Reply
  24. Thanks for reminding me about The Sea Hawk, Karin! I love the sound of your cavalier style boots. I’ve never had a pair like that. Nor have I ever had a red pair. clearly my collection needs expanding!

    Reply
  25. Thanks for reminding me about The Sea Hawk, Karin! I love the sound of your cavalier style boots. I’ve never had a pair like that. Nor have I ever had a red pair. clearly my collection needs expanding!

    Reply
  26. I adore boots but I’m inherently lazy and won’t bother to put them on if I can find something that slips on without bending over. 😉 But here in SoCal where the temps never reach freezing, people wear boots all year ’round. So boots are no longer your old winter wear!

    Reply
  27. I adore boots but I’m inherently lazy and won’t bother to put them on if I can find something that slips on without bending over. 😉 But here in SoCal where the temps never reach freezing, people wear boots all year ’round. So boots are no longer your old winter wear!

    Reply
  28. I adore boots but I’m inherently lazy and won’t bother to put them on if I can find something that slips on without bending over. 😉 But here in SoCal where the temps never reach freezing, people wear boots all year ’round. So boots are no longer your old winter wear!

    Reply
  29. I adore boots but I’m inherently lazy and won’t bother to put them on if I can find something that slips on without bending over. 😉 But here in SoCal where the temps never reach freezing, people wear boots all year ’round. So boots are no longer your old winter wear!

    Reply
  30. I adore boots but I’m inherently lazy and won’t bother to put them on if I can find something that slips on without bending over. 😉 But here in SoCal where the temps never reach freezing, people wear boots all year ’round. So boots are no longer your old winter wear!

    Reply
  31. Okay, Nicola, you’ve convinced me–I’m going boot shopping in the morning. *G*
    I like the -idea- of boots, and the look, but practically speaking, I have trouble finding really comfortable ones. I wear trousers a lot, so a nice, comfortable pair of ankle boots would be about right. Having grown up in Deep Snow Country, I’ve always thought that boots should be practical, but I’m gradually coming around to a more frivolous point of view. *G*

    Reply
  32. Okay, Nicola, you’ve convinced me–I’m going boot shopping in the morning. *G*
    I like the -idea- of boots, and the look, but practically speaking, I have trouble finding really comfortable ones. I wear trousers a lot, so a nice, comfortable pair of ankle boots would be about right. Having grown up in Deep Snow Country, I’ve always thought that boots should be practical, but I’m gradually coming around to a more frivolous point of view. *G*

    Reply
  33. Okay, Nicola, you’ve convinced me–I’m going boot shopping in the morning. *G*
    I like the -idea- of boots, and the look, but practically speaking, I have trouble finding really comfortable ones. I wear trousers a lot, so a nice, comfortable pair of ankle boots would be about right. Having grown up in Deep Snow Country, I’ve always thought that boots should be practical, but I’m gradually coming around to a more frivolous point of view. *G*

    Reply
  34. Okay, Nicola, you’ve convinced me–I’m going boot shopping in the morning. *G*
    I like the -idea- of boots, and the look, but practically speaking, I have trouble finding really comfortable ones. I wear trousers a lot, so a nice, comfortable pair of ankle boots would be about right. Having grown up in Deep Snow Country, I’ve always thought that boots should be practical, but I’m gradually coming around to a more frivolous point of view. *G*

    Reply
  35. Okay, Nicola, you’ve convinced me–I’m going boot shopping in the morning. *G*
    I like the -idea- of boots, and the look, but practically speaking, I have trouble finding really comfortable ones. I wear trousers a lot, so a nice, comfortable pair of ankle boots would be about right. Having grown up in Deep Snow Country, I’ve always thought that boots should be practical, but I’m gradually coming around to a more frivolous point of view. *G*

    Reply
  36. I resemble Mary Jo in the fact that I have never been able to find boots that are comfortable. I adore the idea of boots. I have tried on many pairs of boots, hoping that this time I will find a pair that fits.
    And boots and swashbuckling certainly go together. I read about the existence of this particular blog, then ate breakfast before readinf it. At the breakfast table I began talking about Errol Flynn, Clark Cable, Zorro, and Guy Williams. I didn’t recognize the connection then, but it’s very clear to me now.

    Reply
  37. I resemble Mary Jo in the fact that I have never been able to find boots that are comfortable. I adore the idea of boots. I have tried on many pairs of boots, hoping that this time I will find a pair that fits.
    And boots and swashbuckling certainly go together. I read about the existence of this particular blog, then ate breakfast before readinf it. At the breakfast table I began talking about Errol Flynn, Clark Cable, Zorro, and Guy Williams. I didn’t recognize the connection then, but it’s very clear to me now.

    Reply
  38. I resemble Mary Jo in the fact that I have never been able to find boots that are comfortable. I adore the idea of boots. I have tried on many pairs of boots, hoping that this time I will find a pair that fits.
    And boots and swashbuckling certainly go together. I read about the existence of this particular blog, then ate breakfast before readinf it. At the breakfast table I began talking about Errol Flynn, Clark Cable, Zorro, and Guy Williams. I didn’t recognize the connection then, but it’s very clear to me now.

    Reply
  39. I resemble Mary Jo in the fact that I have never been able to find boots that are comfortable. I adore the idea of boots. I have tried on many pairs of boots, hoping that this time I will find a pair that fits.
    And boots and swashbuckling certainly go together. I read about the existence of this particular blog, then ate breakfast before readinf it. At the breakfast table I began talking about Errol Flynn, Clark Cable, Zorro, and Guy Williams. I didn’t recognize the connection then, but it’s very clear to me now.

    Reply
  40. I resemble Mary Jo in the fact that I have never been able to find boots that are comfortable. I adore the idea of boots. I have tried on many pairs of boots, hoping that this time I will find a pair that fits.
    And boots and swashbuckling certainly go together. I read about the existence of this particular blog, then ate breakfast before readinf it. At the breakfast table I began talking about Errol Flynn, Clark Cable, Zorro, and Guy Williams. I didn’t recognize the connection then, but it’s very clear to me now.

    Reply
  41. I love a man in boots! Pretty much any kind of boots, but there’s something about a well worn pair of cowboy boots…. Besides, you never see guys wearing Pirate/Cavalier boots these days. 😉
    I love boots for myself as well. I’d wear them every day if possible (and practical). I had a pair of black leather knee high practically flat heeled boots that I had resoled several times. I seriously mourned when I couldn’t fit into them after having my son. I’m not going to count how many pairs I have because I know I could always use another pair or 3 or 5. 🙂 My most comfortable ones are my Lucchese cowboy boots.

    Reply
  42. I love a man in boots! Pretty much any kind of boots, but there’s something about a well worn pair of cowboy boots…. Besides, you never see guys wearing Pirate/Cavalier boots these days. 😉
    I love boots for myself as well. I’d wear them every day if possible (and practical). I had a pair of black leather knee high practically flat heeled boots that I had resoled several times. I seriously mourned when I couldn’t fit into them after having my son. I’m not going to count how many pairs I have because I know I could always use another pair or 3 or 5. 🙂 My most comfortable ones are my Lucchese cowboy boots.

    Reply
  43. I love a man in boots! Pretty much any kind of boots, but there’s something about a well worn pair of cowboy boots…. Besides, you never see guys wearing Pirate/Cavalier boots these days. 😉
    I love boots for myself as well. I’d wear them every day if possible (and practical). I had a pair of black leather knee high practically flat heeled boots that I had resoled several times. I seriously mourned when I couldn’t fit into them after having my son. I’m not going to count how many pairs I have because I know I could always use another pair or 3 or 5. 🙂 My most comfortable ones are my Lucchese cowboy boots.

    Reply
  44. I love a man in boots! Pretty much any kind of boots, but there’s something about a well worn pair of cowboy boots…. Besides, you never see guys wearing Pirate/Cavalier boots these days. 😉
    I love boots for myself as well. I’d wear them every day if possible (and practical). I had a pair of black leather knee high practically flat heeled boots that I had resoled several times. I seriously mourned when I couldn’t fit into them after having my son. I’m not going to count how many pairs I have because I know I could always use another pair or 3 or 5. 🙂 My most comfortable ones are my Lucchese cowboy boots.

    Reply
  45. I love a man in boots! Pretty much any kind of boots, but there’s something about a well worn pair of cowboy boots…. Besides, you never see guys wearing Pirate/Cavalier boots these days. 😉
    I love boots for myself as well. I’d wear them every day if possible (and practical). I had a pair of black leather knee high practically flat heeled boots that I had resoled several times. I seriously mourned when I couldn’t fit into them after having my son. I’m not going to count how many pairs I have because I know I could always use another pair or 3 or 5. 🙂 My most comfortable ones are my Lucchese cowboy boots.

    Reply
  46. What a fun post, Nicola. I adore Men in Boots—and seeing these historical examples is wonderful. There is something very rugged and rakish about high top Hessians and “Wellingtons.” So yes . . . very masculine. (Now when one looks at the Georgian era, there were some, um, interesting takes on that.)

    Reply
  47. What a fun post, Nicola. I adore Men in Boots—and seeing these historical examples is wonderful. There is something very rugged and rakish about high top Hessians and “Wellingtons.” So yes . . . very masculine. (Now when one looks at the Georgian era, there were some, um, interesting takes on that.)

    Reply
  48. What a fun post, Nicola. I adore Men in Boots—and seeing these historical examples is wonderful. There is something very rugged and rakish about high top Hessians and “Wellingtons.” So yes . . . very masculine. (Now when one looks at the Georgian era, there were some, um, interesting takes on that.)

    Reply
  49. What a fun post, Nicola. I adore Men in Boots—and seeing these historical examples is wonderful. There is something very rugged and rakish about high top Hessians and “Wellingtons.” So yes . . . very masculine. (Now when one looks at the Georgian era, there were some, um, interesting takes on that.)

    Reply
  50. What a fun post, Nicola. I adore Men in Boots—and seeing these historical examples is wonderful. There is something very rugged and rakish about high top Hessians and “Wellingtons.” So yes . . . very masculine. (Now when one looks at the Georgian era, there were some, um, interesting takes on that.)

    Reply

Leave a Comment