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Thigh-high boots, known also as thigh-length boots or simply thigh boots, are boots that extend above the knees. Other terms for this footwear include over-the-knee boots (abbreviated OTK boots; the full term is also used for the 15th century riding boots for men, later adopted by women) and, especially when cuffed, pirate boots. Lengths vary from reaching just over the knee to reaching almost to the crotch (referred to as crotch boots or crotch-high boots).
Thigh boots are made of materials ranging from various leathers to various synthetic materials (including vinyl, polyurethane, or latex) to various fabrics (such as silk or polyester microfiber). Many are constructed with zippers, but some are designed as pull-on boots. Heel heights vary, but most styles are either flat or with heels greater than 3 inches (7.5 cm). Heel styles vary from metal spikes to chunky. Like other boots, they can also have platform soles.
Thigh boots are considered by many to be erotic or kinky. They are used as fetish clothing in boot fetishism and shoe fetishism. Cheaper thigh boots are often worn by prostitutes and professional dominatrixes, so many people consider them icons of such trades. Because of the latter, they are often associated with sadomasochism. Nevertheless, they are frequently sold by couture designers, perhaps because of the implied eroticism.
Late Victorian era
Laced leather boots were fashionable throughout the Victorian era for women. By the end of the 19th century, over-the-knee length laced leather boots were becoming a trend among London prostitutes wanting a style that would appeal to foot fetishists and clients interested in finding a dominatrix.
Like shoes in general, fashion thigh boots are marketed through several different channels. A key differentiator among these channels is the price point and construction:
Couture fashion designers marketing thigh boots will vary from year to year. Introducing a boot model is typically tied to the designer's theme for the line. These boots will typically be marketed at the highest price point for thigh boots and, usually, for shoes in general. Fashion designers market similarly, though at a lower price point.
A number of couture shoe design houses regularly include thigh boots in their collections, and the price point will be at a premium, just as with the couture fashion designers. Examples of these designers are:
Couture fashion designers regularly use the shoe design houses to design the boots and shoes for their collections.
Thigh boots are a regular staple of several Italian boutique brands, including:
The price point for these boots can be very high, particularly at retail boutiques, but will vary more than for couture designers. Some brands are available through eBay sellers and clearance sellers (e.g., YOOX) at discounted prices. The lowest price tier is typically the fashion retailers. Retailers who regularly market thigh boots in their line include:
Miuccia Prada pushed the margins of fashion with her thigh boots designed after hip boots for fishing. One version even featured garters to suspend the tops from a belt. Right behind her was Stella McCartney, featuring three crotch-length boots with synthetic uppers, in following with her usual animal-friendly practice. All three had snipped toes and extreme stiletto heels, and one featured a multi-patterned, pierced upper.
Other design houses showing thigh boots in their Autumn 2009 lines included:
As for the couture shoe designers, Christian Louboutin marketed no less than four different styles in Autumn 2009 – a front-lacing mid-thigh length with sculpted heel and hidden platform (Supra Fifré), a crotch-length, skin-tight boot with hidden platform, a chunky mid-thigh boot (Contente), and a chunky platform mid-thigh boot. In addition to one heeled thigh boot featuring an elastic cuff just above the knee and two pairs of flat over-the-knee boots in their couture line, Jimmy Choo's limited edition capsule collection for H&M featured a mid-thigh black leather boot with a four-inch heel.
Thigh boots as articles of fetish clothing date back to at least the 1950s when Irving Klaw used them in the costuming of the women in his erotic photography. Since that time, they have been a staple of fetish and adult photography. For instance, Bob Guccione photographed the 1982 Penthouse Pet of the Year, Corinne Alphen, in a pair of black leather thigh boots for her feature layout. Similarly, Dwight Hooker photographed the Playboy 25th Anniversary Playmate, Candy Loving, in white leather over-the-knee boots for her layout.
Until the 2000s, fetish thigh boots were generally distinguished from fashion boots by being more extreme in many design dimensions, particularly heel height and platform height. In the late 2000s, this trend began to change as couture designers, particularly Christian Louboutin, began to experiment with more extreme designs in their shoes. Consequently, the difference between the two now is more a function of the materials used. In particular, fetish thigh boots tend to be constructed of polyurethane (PU) or vinyl (often incorrectly referred to as patent leather). In addition, they are generally produced in China and sold at low cost. An example line of inexpensive fetish thigh boots is sold under the brand name Pleaser.
A select group of European cobblers have specialized in higher-priced thigh boots for the fetish market. Legendary among these was the London-based Little Shoe Box, which crafted both ready-to-wear and custom thigh boots in leather and real patent leather. The Little Shoe Box, however, ceased operations in 2005 after 40 years of operation. Three other cobblers, Leatherworks Ltd. (London), Biondini (Italy) and Jean Gaborit of Paris have continued the tradition of producing higher quality fetish thigh boots. Jean Gaborit also specializes in boots and made-to-measure boots.
Jean Gaborit maintains its own online shop, but most other fetish boots sold online are commonly sourced from either Pleaser or Biondini—the latter more in Europe.
ICONOGRAPHY AND SYMBOLISM IN MOTION PICTURES
Motion pictures in which thigh boots were prominent in an actress' wardrobe include:
In the 1990 film Pretty Woman, the protagonist, Vivian Ward (played by Julia Roberts), wears her black vinyl thigh boots throughout much of the first part of the movie as a symbol of her role as a prostitute.
In the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada, the protagonist, Andy Sachs (played by Anne Hathaway), completes her ugly-duckling-to-swan transformation by strutting confidently into her employer's offices wearing a pair of Chanel black leather thigh boots. Andy's wardrobe for this scene and the rest of the movie was styled by noted costumer, stylist, and designer Patricia Field.
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