The History of Boots
For many men, walking into the shoe department of a major store can be daunting; there are oftentimes so many styles from which to choose. But to observe shoes carefully is to realize that most footwear falls into a handful of categories: sandals/slippers, moccasins, boots, court shoes (tuxedo pumps), oxfords, and sneakers. And for the gentleman who enjoys a comprehensive lifestyle, having a pair of shoes from each category is essential.
Man has worn shoes from time immemorial; the oldest known footwear—a pair of sandals made of woven sagebrush bark and found in Fort Rock Cave in the state of Oregon—is believed to be at least 10,000 years old. The oldest known leather shoe was found in a cave in Armenia and dates from around 3500 B.C.E. Ötzi The Iceman, who lived around 3300 B.C.E, was wearing footwear constructed of bearskin and deer hide. It is believed that shoes were first created to protect the foot. But over time, its purpose became twofold: to protect and decorate.
As with coats, lifestyle is a major factor in determining what type boots a man will wear. And there are boots designed for just about every type of lifestyle: A gentleman-farmer has his Wellingtons (also called “gumboots”); a fly-fisherman has his waders; a Tom of Finland enthusiast has his biker boots; a Texas oilman has his western boots; a gentleman of the dressage has his riding boots; and for yet other gentlemen, the only boot worth wearing is a Timberland….
The earliest boots consisted of separate parts: soles, uppers, and leggings. But around 1000 B.C.E., the various components were joined to form a single unit. One of the earliest examples of an integrated boot dates from around 900 B.C.E. It is a pair of terracotta boots, presumably a replica of what she would have worn in life, found at the cremation burial site of an ancient woman and is housed at the Ancient Angora Museum in Athens. Some 2,000 years later, between the 13th and 16th centuries, a type of soft leather boots worn by the nomads of eastern Asia was introduced to China, India, and Russia by Mongol invaders. By the 18th century, Hessian (German) soldiers, contracted by the British to fight against the colonists in the American Revolutionary War, were wearing knee-high boots.