Compared: 1920s and 1970s Boots

One thing I probably don’t write enough about here is how fashion is constantly borrowing from its past. Someone once said to me that fashion ran out of ideas about 1967. I’m not sure that is true, but one does not have to look far to see borrowed ideas.

Above is a pair of hiking boots from Abercrombie & Fitch, from the late 1920s or early 30s. I don’t think that at the time these boots would have been considered to be “fashion” as they were a functional item worn for a specific purpose, and definitely not meant to be on the city streets. They were a style borrowed from the boys, so to speak, as men had been wearing this type boot in the woods for some time.

Today the lines between fashion and function is very blurred, with people wearing their workout clothing on the street and their jammies on airplanes, but in the 1920s, the rules were more rigid. It was a very big deal when in 1924 a brave woman in Italy first wore her pajamas on the Lido.

These boots are from the 1970s, and I’m sure that the similarity to the 20s ones is obvious. You see the same lacing with eyelet over the foot, and hooks up the leg. The below the knee length is the same. Both are made of leather.

But also striking are the differences. The 1920s boot has a low stacked leather heel. The 70s boot has a fashionable heel, covered with the same leather as the rest of the boot. The 20s boot has a ridge around the top of the foot to assist with the shaping of the leather, while the foot of the 70s boot is made from two pieces of leather. The toe shape is different.

What I find interesting is that the 1920s boot is obviously built for function and the 70s boots is obviously built for fashion. But at the same time there is no mistaking the fact that the 70s boot was inspired by the 20s one.

Even when mixed up, it’s easy to distinguish one boot from the other. It’s just one most thing to look for when trying to evaluate a piece of older clothing. Always look for the influences.


Filed under Collecting, Shoes, Sportswear

11 responses to “Compared: 1920s and 1970s Boots

  1. I think what I find more interesting is that the boots from the 1920s/1930s look to be in way better shape than the ones from the 1970s. I know a lot of things can influence how well preserved items are, but I still find it interesting, nonetheless. I actually prefer the lower functional heel of the earlier boots, and like the detailing slightly better, but then, I’m more of a utilitarian myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brikka

      I was thinking the same thing, Juliana – the leather looks much richer on the ’20s/’30s boots. I prefer their styling, too, with the lower heel and more substantial hooks. I’d be so tempted to wear them if they fit!


    • The leather on the 20s pair is much sturdier and thicker than the 70s pair. Being meant for the woods meant they had to stand up to rough wear. The 70s pair, being a fashion item, is made from a much sofer and thinner leather, and thus, don’t wear their age as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had a pair of boots just like these in the 1970s – but with a low heel like the one from the 20s. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jacq staubs

    I have always been reminded “everything old is new again” re: fashion. The past reinvents itself it seems every 20 – 30 years? Just long enough for the current generation to “discover” something new. the boots are (to me) a perfect example. true with menswear – somehow not as over the top.


    • Sometimes I wonder if all the ideas have already been taken!


      • jacq staubs

        i agree -only so much to draw upon -only so much history- i had a wonderful book ( 10,000 YEARS OF FASHION gifted to me by Vanda Pierce -then sadly borrowed/stolen. If by any chance you ever find a copy -you- will love it. Primarily covers fashion history and its evolution. Sums up your thought on this.


  4. And obviously this shows the value of an archive. You can compare the real objects, not just photos or drawings of the objects.


  5. I was going to say that there was a lot of invention in the 80s (Miyake) and then I remembered Mme. Vionnet. I do like it when the patterns for the new versions come around, because I can no longer afford the originals. I know, the drafting is different. but I have the old sewing books. I can adjust darts better than my bank balance.
    As ever, you are a treasure.


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