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. 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.
Early boots consisted of separate leggings, soles, and uppers worn together to provide greater ankle protection than shoes or sandals. Around 1000 B.C. 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 1200 to 1500 A.D 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.
Types and uses
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).
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 as symbols
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
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (March 2010)|
- 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.
Types of boots
A type of boot can fit into more than one of these categories, and may therefore be mentioned more than once
Slang / Dialect Boot is also a slang word originating from Reading meaning the opposite of 'peak'.
Parts of a boot
For the parts of a boot, see Hiking boot#Parts.
- Fiona McDonald (30 July 2006). Shoes and Boots Through History. Gareth Stevens. ISBN 978-0-8368-6857-9. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
- Margo DeMello (1 September 2009). Feet and footwear: a cultural encyclopedia. Macmillan. pp. 65–. ISBN 978-0-313-35714-5. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
- "American English Thesaurus". "as tough as old boots" phrase. Macmillan Publishers Limited 2009–2012. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
- "It's been widely suggested that the "bootstrap" metaphor originated in the legendary tales of Baron von Münchhausen. As Chris Waigl recently pointed out on the Eggcorn Database (commenting on "boots-trap"), the original German version has a scene in which Münchhausen gets out of a swamp by pulling on his own hair. In an American retelling (supposedly), the Baron uses his bootstraps to pull himself out of a similar predicament. None of the 19th-century cites I've seen allude to the Münchhausen story -- instead, they often refer to pulling oneself over a fence or up a steeple. So if Münchhausen really pulls himself up by his bootstraps in an American version (which I have yet to verify), then the writer probably took advantage of preexisting imagery for an absurdly impossible task." Benjamin Zimmer, American Dialect Society, 11 August 2005
- "boot". The Free Dictionary, 2012 by Farlex, Inc. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boots.|
- Footwear History
- The History of Boots (Archive copy at the Wayback Machine)
- chapter about boots in online magazine Backpacker