Bovver boot

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Bovver boot
Type Footwear
Material Leather
Place of origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Dr. Martens, Grinders, Solovair and others

A bovver boot is a type of boot that has been associated with violence. Such boots are generally of sturdy design and may be steel-toed. They have been considered as offensive weapons used by hooligans for kicking opponents while street fighting.[1][2] The boots became known in the late 1960s in the United Kingdom, and continue to be a fashion statement associated with rebellion.


The term bovver in the UK developed as a th-fronting slang term (probably Cockney) for "bother", and was used in connection with aggro (aggressive behaviour) by skinheads and hooligans in the late 1960s.[3][4][5][6] Heavy steel-toe boots were stereotypically worn by skinheads, and were termed bovver boots.[1][5][7] Initially, heavy black army surplus boots were worn, but later, yellow-stitched Dr. Martens were adopted as the boots of choice.[8][9][10][11][12] Use in football hooliganism was countered by warnings to fans that they would have to remove such boots in order to attend football matches.[13]

Punk rockers were seen in the 1970s to "[stamp] their bovver boots",[14] with the boots being part of their "sartorial expressions of violence and disgust".[15] Punk rockers continued to be associated with bovver boots until the mid-1980s.[16] Punk fashion and the "years of teenage boot-wearing rebellion" since the 1960s gave way to trainers, with the arrival of Britpop in the mid-1990s.[17] In 1998, UK high street chain Boots promoted a ladette cosmetics range with a model "dressed in combat trousers, bovver boots and goggles".[18]

Journalist Laura Barton wrote in The Guardian in 2008: "After years in the wilderness, the bovver boot is back".[8] Fashion magazine noted that the boots have migrated "from the feet of adolescent rebels to celebrities".[19]

Cultural references[edit]

Punk rock band The Nipple Erectors released a song in 1977 titled "Venus in Bovver Boots".[8] Bovver boots were seen in the 1980s British TV series The Young Ones, being worn by punk Vyvyan Basterd.[10] Musician PJ Harvey was noted as "appear[ing] immersed in rock 'n' roll" around the time of her album Dry in 1992, due in part to her "leather apparel, hair in a bun and black bovver boots".[20] In 2000, the Birmingham Mail referred to broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson as "old bovver boots".[21]


  1. ^ a b Paul Beale; Eric Partridge (2 April 2004). Shorter Slang Dictionary. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-203-38007-9. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Wordsworth Editions, Limited (1 January 2007). Concise English Dictionary. Wordsworth Editions. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-84022-497-9. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Miriam A. Locher; Jürg Strässler (27 August 2008). Standards and Norms in the English Language. Walter de Gruyter. p. 54. ISBN 978-3-11-020698-2. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Allied Chambers (1998). The Chambers Dictionary. Allied Publishers. p. 189. ISBN 978-81-86062-25-8. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Tony Thorne (1 January 2009). Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. A&C Black. p. 151. ISBN 978-1-4081-0220-6. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  6. ^ Jonathan Bernstein (30 July 2012). Knickers in a Twist: A Dictionary of British Slang. Canongate Books. pp. 12–. ISBN 978-0-85786-945-6. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Eric Partridge; Tom Dalzell; Terry Victor (2008). The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Uncoventional English. Taylor & Francis Group. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-415-21259-5. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Tony Thorne (3 December 2009). Jolly Wicked, Actually: 100 Words That Make Us English. Little, Brown Book Group. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-0-7481-1478-8. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  9. ^ Fracassini, Camillo (February 3, 2000). "A spot of bovver as DM boot factory to be closed". The Scotsman. Retrieved March 4, 2013.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  10. ^ a b Mortimer, Ruth (December 1, 2001). "Too bootilicious for your feet: call them what you like -- Dr Martens, Doc Martens, DMs, Docs -- but very few shoes have a youth following like Doc Martens". Brand Strategy. Retrieved March 4, 2013.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  11. ^ Thompson, James (June 18, 2012). "Doc Martens bovver boots aim for £200m". The Independent. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  12. ^ Gunn, Cathy (March 31, 1996). "Max hangs up his boots with £200m". The People. Retrieved March 4, 2013.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  13. ^ "Great Games: Chesterfield 2 Aston Villa 3". Birmingham Mail. March 14, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  14. ^ "We all rebelled against the estabishment to get our teenage kicks, but has much changed?". Western Mail. December 6, 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2013.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  15. ^ Horyn, Cathy (February 3, 1992). "Harley's Roar On the Runway". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 4, 2013.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  16. ^ Fallon, James (May 31, 1993). "The doc is in". Footwear News. Retrieved March 4, 2013.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  17. ^ Barton, Laura (June 16, 2008). "After years in the wilderness, the bovver boot is back". The Guardian. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  18. ^ Ward, Amanda (May 1, 1998). "The bad ladettes; They're the girls with Geezer Power and don't give a damn who knows". Daily Mirror. Retrieved March 4, 2013.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  19. ^ "Dr. Martens". Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  20. ^ Cavanagh, David (February 25, 1995). "Nemesis in a scarlet dress". The Independent. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  21. ^ Young, Graham (June 29, 2000). "They're in the Army now!". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved March 4, 2013.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)