Hessian (boot)

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Hessian boots worn by British hussar officer Winston Churchill, 1895

Hessian (/ˈhɛsiən/; from Hesse in Germany) refers to a style of light boot that became popular from the beginning of the 19th century.[1] Initially used as standard issue footwear for light cavalry regiments, especially hussars, they would become widely worn by civilians as well.[2] The boots had a low heel, and a semi-pointed toe that made them practical for mounted troops, as they allowed easy use of stirrups.[3] They reached to the knee and had a decorative tassel at the top of each shaft, with a "v" notch in front.[4] The Hessian boot would evolve into the rubber work boots known as "wellies" and the cowboy boot.

When describing the appearance of Marley's Ghost in A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens mentions the tassels on his boots, indicating that they were Hessian style. In Chapter 3 of Thackery's Vanity Fair, in a scene set in England during the Napoleonic Wars, Joseph Sedley is described as wearing Hessian boots.

In the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera Patience, Colonel Calverley sings a song about the military uniform, how impressive it looks, and the effect it has on women. The song specifically mentions Hessian boots (note that W. S. Gilbert's rhyme presumes the older pronunciation of Hessian (compare "Russian" and "Prussian"):

When I first put this uniform on,
I said, as I looked in the glass,
"It's one to a million
That any civilian
My figure and form will surpass.
Gold lace has a charm for the fair,
And I've plenty of that, and to spare,
While a lover's professions,
When uttered in Hessians,
Are eloquent everywhere!"
A fact that I counted upon,
When I first put this uniform on!

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  1. ^ Carman, W.Y. A Dictionary of Military Uniform. p. 72. ISBN 0-684-15130-8. 
  2. ^ Fiona McDonald (30 July 2006). Shoes and Boots Through History. Gareth Stevens. ISBN 978-0-8368-6857-9. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Chambers's encyclopaedia: a dictionary of universal knowledge. W. & R. Chambers, Limited. 1901. pp. 321–. Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  4. ^ Carman, W.Y. A Dictionary of Military Uniform. p. 72. ISBN 0-684-15130-8.