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All about boots

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Ancient Greek pair of terracotta boots. Early geometric period cremation burial of a woman, 900 BC, Ancient Agora Museum, Athens

Cowboy boots custom made for President Harry S. Truman

A boot is a type of footwear and a specific type of shoe. Most boots mainly cover the foot and the ankle and extend up the leg, sometimes as far as the knee or even the hip. Most boots have a heel that is clearly distinguishable from the rest of the sole, even if the two are made of one piece. Traditionally made of leather or rubber, modern boots are made from a variety of materials. Boots are worn both for their functionality – protecting the foot and leg from water, snow, mud or hazards or providing additional ankle support for strenuous activities – and for reasons of style and fashion.

In some cases, the wearing of boots may be required by laws or regulations, such as the regulations in some jurisdictions requiring workers on construction sites to wear steel-toed safety boots. Boots are recommended as well for motorcycle riders. High-top athletic shoes are generally not considered boots, even though they do cover the ankle, primarily due to the absence of a distinct heel. In Britain, the term may be used to refer to football cleats.


Oxhide boots from Loulan, Xinjiang, China. Former Han dynasty 220 BC - AD 8

Early boots consisted of separate leggings, soles, and uppers worn together to provide greater ankle protection than shoes or sandals. Around 1000 BC, these components were more permanently joined to form a single unit that covered the feet and lower leg, often up to the knee. A type of soft leather ankle boots were worn by nomads in eastern Asia, and carried to China to India and Russia around AD 1200 to 1500 by Mongol invaders. The Inuit and Aleut natives of Alaska developed traditional winter boots of caribou skin or sealskin featuring decorative touches of seal intestine, dog hair and wolverine fur. 17th century European boots were influenced by military styles, featuring thick soles and turnover tops that were originally designed to protect horse mounted soldiers. In the 1700s, distinctive, knee-high boots worn by Hessian soldiers fighting in the American Revolutionary War influenced the development of the iconic heeled cowboy boots worn by cattlemen in the American west.


A pair of "classic" black leather Doc Martens

Boots which are designed for walking through the elements may be made of a single closely stitched design (using leather, rubber, canvas, or similar material) to prevent the entry of water, snow, mud or dirt through gaps between the laces and tongue found in other types of shoes. Waterproof gumboots are made in different lengths of uppers. In extreme cases, thigh-boots called waders, worn by anglers, extend to the hip. Such boots may also be insulated for warmth. Most boots sold in retail stores are not actually waterproof.

Speciality boots have been made to temporarily protect steelworkers if they get caught in pools of molten metal, to protect workers from a variety of chemical exposure, and insulated, inflatable boots for use in Antarctica. Most work boots are "laceups" made from leather. Formerly they were usually shod with hobnails and heel- and toe-plates, but now can usually be seen with a thick rubber sole, and often with steel toecaps. Bovver boots were adopted by skinheads and punks as part of their typical dress and have migrated to more mainstream fashion, including women's wear. As a more rugged alternative to dress shoes, dress boots may be worn (though these can be more formal than shoes).

Boots are normally worn with socks to prevent chafes and blisters, to absorb sweat, and to improve the foot's grip inside the boot. Before socks became widely available, footwraps were worn instead.

Specialty boots have been designed for many different types of sports, particularly riding, skiing, snowboarding, ice-skating, and sporting in wet/damp conditions.

Fashionable boots for women may exhibit all the variations seen in other fashion footwear: tapered or spike heels, platform soles, pointed toes, zipper closures and the like. The popularity of boots as fashion footwear ebbs and flows. They were popular in the 1960s and 1970s, but diminished in popularity towards the end of the 20th century. Today, they are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, especially designs with a long bootleg. Boot bolo's, boot bracelets, boot straps, boot chains, and boot harnesses, are used to decorate boots.

Sandal boots also exist, it is a type of fashion boot that is worn by women.

Boots have their own devotees among boot fetishists and foot fetishists. Singer Nancy Sinatra was largely responsible for popularizing the fad of women wearing boots in the late 1960s.


Coat of arms of Aresches municipality in France displays a boot in the sinister field

Boots in heraldry
As boots have been used by riders for millennia, they were used by knights. As a consequence, albeit not common, boots came to be used as charges in heraldry.

Because of the origin of heraldry as insignia used by mounted warriors like the medieval knights, when boots are used in heraldry, they are often displayed as riding boots, even if the blazon might not specify it as such. They are sometimes adorned with spurs, which may or may not have another tincture (colour) than the boot and the background field.

Boots in idioms
Boots that are particularly old and well worn are thought of as being tough and strong as expressed by the phrase "tough as old boots."

One potential fate of a discarded boot is to be used in the construction of a musical instrument known as the "mendoza."

Tall (high) boots may have a tab, loop or handle at the top known as a bootstrap, allowing one to use fingers or a tool to provide better leverage in getting the boots on. The figurative use "to pull one's self up by one's bootstraps" in the sense of "ability to perform a difficult task without external help" developed in the 19th century in US English.

To "die with one's boots on" means to die while one is still actively involved in work, to go down fighting. Popularized by Wild West movies.

Boot camp: a colloquial term for the initial recruit training of a new recruit enlisting in a military organization or armed force. In this context, a "boot" is just such a recruit.

Stormtroopers, skinheads, and other agents of authority or political strongarm tactics are typically referred to by their detractors as "jackbooted thugs," a reference to the hobnailed military jackboot of the WWI German Stormtrooper and later Nazi uniform. Authoritarian rule, either by hostile military forces, or by groups of armed intimidators, is imposed by "jackboot tactics."

To "give one the boot" means to kick one out (of a job, a club, etc.) or expel one, either literally or figuratively.

To "put the boot in" is an idiom for inflicting violence on someone.

"The boot is on the other foot now" means that a situation has become reversed—a previous victor is now losing, for example.

Wearing "seven-league boots" references a classic children's fairy tale and indicates that a person or company can cover great distances, figuratively or literally, in a single stride.

To "shake/quake in one's boots" means to be very frightened, and is mostly used sarcastically.

A pair of tall riding boots

Calfhigh leather boots with stiletto heel (Le Silla)

A pair of New Rock boots, popular in the Gothic and biker subcultures

Boot hooks (left) and a boot jack (right) are sometimes required to put on or take off some types of boots


A type of boot can fit into more than one of these categories, and may therefore be mentioned more than once.

Hip boot
Knee-high boots
Thigh-high boots
Wedge boots
Chap boots

Chelsea boots
Dress boots
Cowboy boots
Fashion boots
Go-go boots
Hessian (boot)
Rigger boots
Russian boots
Ugg boots

Sport boots
Cowboy boots
Chelsea boots
Engineer boots
Football boots
Harness boots
Hiking boots
Motocross boots
Motorcycle boots
Motorcycle cop boots
Mountaineering boots
Racing boots
Ski boots
Snowboard boots
Snow boot
Touring boots
Wetsuit boots

Work boots
Australian boots
Hobnail boots
Cold weather boots
Cowboy boots
(mainly workwear)
Hip boots (waders or fishing boots)
Wellington boots (rubber or farmer boots)
Galoshes (overshoes)
Logger boots
Rigger boots
Steel-toe boots
(safety boots)
Tanker boots
Snow boots

Equestrian boots
Cavalry Jackboots
Riding Boots
Field Boots
Dress Boots
Hunt Boots
Top Boots
Paddock Boots
Jodhpur Boots
Postillion Boots
Cowboy boots
Hessian Boots

Military boots
Combat boots
Jump boots
(paratrooper boots)
Cavalry Jackboots
Hobnailed Jackboots
Jungle boots

Boot Brands
Chukka boots
Doc Martens
The Frye Company
Hush Puppies
Merrell boots
R. M. Williams
Georgia Boot
Red Wing
(Inventor of the rubber soled boot)
Steger Design
Tony Lama
UGG Australia
Wesco Boots
White's Boots
Wolverine World Wide

Patagonia Footwear

Boot accessories
Boot jack

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