Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: The Boot by Bradley Quinn

It's a great time to be a boot lover, as the current fashion trend for tall, sexy, over-the-knee high-heeled boots is something I never thought I would see in my lifetime.

Thigh-high styles in particular were stigmatized not long ago, relegated to hooker-boot status, and something nobody would dare wear outside the bedroom, unless maybe you were in the sex trade. I just never thought they would break through into the world of mainstream fashion the way they have, and for that I am grateful.

I have been asking myself: why now? Ironically, the economy is in rough shape, unemployment is up, but these boots are luxurious in their use of material. Instead of reflecting austerity, these styles are opulent, and indulgent. Impractical, and sort of non-functional (have you ever tried walking in those things?). Ornamental, expensive and uncomfortable. It could be the influence of the Internet, and the widespread availability of online eroticism. Many celebrities are spotted wearing the tallest and sexiest boots available. (Check out celebrities in boots here.) Is it a type of status symbol? Maybe we are becoming desensitized, and it takes more extreme measures to get a thrill. There is an undeniable sensual and sexual nature to a tight-fitting boot. Both for the wearer and those of us who see them being worn. They are edgy and make a statement every time. Even non-fetishists can appreciate the sexual nature of these boots. They just are.

As it is, the more extreme styles of thigh-high boot appear mostly in high-end fashion and couture collections. It's the hang-out place for many articles of clothing that are steeped in fetishism, extremes of expression, fine materials and workmanship).

It's here that I get to the book which covers the world of boots in an up-to-the-minute way. Actually published in 2010, this is the only book I have seen of it's type that covers the boot exclusively. There are a lot of books on shoes, but this is the only one I have seen dedicated solely to the boot.

Bradley Quinn covers a bit of boot history, which of course is fascinating. Fashion and art always reflect the culture, technology and ideals of their times.

Styles that reference historical looks, like the swashbucklers below, are discussed.
Although there are examples of fetishistic styles, the book doesn't delve too deeply into the sexual aspects of the boot. It does give a number of profiles of specific designers, like the one on Joseph Azagury below:
Many of the book's pictures are taken from runway shows, like the Chanel images below.
Another typical spread, with couture boots on the left from Vivienne Westwood, Pucci, and Givenchy, and a 1890s fetish boot on the right.
Of course, Alexander McQueen is represented (below left facing page). The flesh-colored boots on the right are from Etro, and Givenchy rear-laced boots on the far right. Drool-worthy, all of them...
Boots are like chairs for designers; there is just an endless number of ways of covering the lower leg. I'm always inspired by the materials, colors, textures, patterns and techniques the shoe designers can come up with. And just when you think you've seen it all, up comes something new.
Christian Louboutin, one of the sexiest bootmakers on the planet. I love his last shape so much - it reminds me of how I draw boots and shoes in my fetish drawings. Fantasy made reality.
Viktor and Rolf's take on the motorcycle boot:

If you are into fashion, especially high-fashion boots, this is a great book for reference and inspiration. It's available here.


  1. Interesting observations. I think this is driven by pop culture and the need for celebs to be seen as leaders in sexual style. Years ago the rockers all wore leather pants. It was de rigeur after a while.. the uniform of a rocker.

    Fashion has always looked for ways of sexualizing the the female. The ready to wear stuff clearly tones it down, but the haute couture.. the snobby stuff will use the sexiness references it can find and lend an aid of respectability to it by tagging "fetish" styles with an international logo/brand. This then results in it being acceptable for street wear.

    Women simply follow like lemmings what is in and once the tall thigh high boot was declared a legitimate fashion every women who could afford them and walk in them bought and wore them.

    And once the flood gate opened... there was no boot style which was "over the top" except perhaps the "trashy" plastic platforms which strippers, pole dancers and hookers still wear.

    Many of these "extreme" boots are really ugly. No ifs and or buts about that. But many are stunning and detailed, elegant and very sexy and most suggest (to me at least) a dominant self assured female who is not afraid to use fashion as a tool to ramp up her sex appeal. Nothing new with that, but the tall boot is now an accepted tool.

    I've see a few stunners on the street and it was a treat. But the down side is that there are so many hideously ugly shoes and boots being worn by women it detracts from their sex appeal. This is much like tats which too many are tasteless and detract from the inherent beauty of the female. It does reveal how empty headed and clueless some are about design, beauty and what IS the essence of sex appeal. Extreme is not ALWAYS sexy... in fact it is usually NOT.

  2. Dear SanderO,
    I think you're on the right track, when talking about the celebrity angle. Stars need to project an image, and everything needs to be plus 1. Blingingly white teeth, flawless perfect tan, the tallest, sexiest possible heels. It makes sense that the bleeding edge of stylesetters would be feeding off of the erotic energy of something that would have been seen as more exclusively kinky just a few years ago, and the leather-clad rock star is a perfect analogy. There is a toughness and rebellious quality that adds to the sexual edge of the material.

    Your comment about fashion sexualizing the female has me thinking, and I'm more of the opinion that women are sexy already, and fashion allows them to "choose their plumage" as it were - to decide how sexy they would like to be on any particular day or occasion. They can choose to dress to communicate "look at me" or they can say "leave me alone" or anything in between all depending on their mood. I feel like it's an exciting time in fashion and culture, as women have such a wide range of "plumage" to pick from.

  3. Christopher,
    I've been considering this for decades and I've come to realize that the way it works in industrialized societies is that women have a subtle and no so subtle way of "getting what they want". Fashion and sex appeal w/ fashion a the arrows in their quiver. Of course women are sexy to me as men are sexy to women. But it is women who use the complex arsenal of sexual messages in their "Style" tool box. It hardly matters that men have defined what is sexy "fashion". One they get it, they use it. Some love to be "sexual objects of desire" and do it with either a dominant and submissive sensibility. Others are not comfortable with pushing the identity in such obvious ways. Some need the attention because of insecurity and others relish it because of self confidence. Some like being desired ALL the time and others like being desired WHEN they want it and from whom they want it.

    Going out in thigh high stiletto boots can be seen as inviting attention from males... And I suppose for a women who is hunting this would attract them! But what about the women who is not hunting but like feeling sexualized by her clothes? This can be a problem too.

    The good news is that there is more openness and self expression out there. The bad news is it's a bit confusing about the actual message... and if we out there are the intended target.

  4. I came here from another blog.
    I'd like to thank you for this review and for your blog in general.
    To me a very interesting book! I only wish they had more vintage high heel styles from the 1920s/1930s as often featured in the old magazine London Life in it.
    By the way: The white high heel platform ankle boot is not supposed to be from 1890. Beyond the style being more from a later period Linda O'Keeffe states in her book "Shoes" the date around 1935 (which would suit better of course)and is said to be from Austria. The boot is part of the collection of the Northhampton Museums and Art Gallery.

  5. Dear manoleat, thanks for the comment and correction, and I agree I wish there were more old-style boots covered in the book. The custom fetish boots from the 20s and 30s were just amazing, and for some reason Austria around that time period was a hotbed for extreme fetish styles.