If there’s one thing that I enjoy writing about as much as the history of the fashion boot, it’s the history of popular music. Of course, there is a long and complex association between the two (which will form the basis of a later and more detailed posting). But for now, I want to consider just one aspect of this, which is the resurgence of the boot in the early/mid 1990s and what relationship – if any – exists between this and the rebirth of classic rock music that in the UK became known as “Britpop.”
If you approach rock from a purely American perspective, then the early nineties was all about Grunge – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden et al. It wasn’t exactly what you’d call “fun” music, unless your idea of fun was sitting in your parents’ basement with the lights out cutting yourself.
Meanwhile, in the UK, rock was following a different trajectory. Sometime around the mid-80s, people began to rediscover 60s soul music. From there, it went via neo-psychedelic “Baggy” rock in the so-called “Second Summer of Love” (1988), cross-fertilizing with the dance music of Acid House, and eventually re-emerging in the mid-90s as an exuberant brand of retro-flavored, guitar-based rock that was known as Brit Pop.
The early 90s was when club culture really exploded in Britain. It had happened before, in the late 70s and early 80s – a very diverse fusion of music and fashion. In its early 90s guise, the look was predominantly sixties and early 70s – platforms, miniskirts, bright colors, fake fur – combined with a healthy shot of fetishism – latex, pvc, piercings. And boots. Lots of boots.
So if boots hadn’t quite hit the mainstream again in big way, they were certainly on the cutting edge of fashion. If you thumb through the pages of style magazines from this period, like SKY, Arena, or The Face, you’ll find not just fashion editorials, but ads, features on clubs, and a host of other material featuring women in a wide variety of boots.
Variety was the key feature – there were lace-up boots, zip-fastened boots, pull-on boots, platform boots, high-heeled boots, low-heeled boots, ankle boots, knee boots, and thigh-high boots. They came in every possible variation of material and color. There was no general rule to it. It was whatever the wearer happened to think was cool.
Ultimately, it was the rich foundation established in the clubs that was drawn on by the major designers and fashion journals to revitalize the fashion boot in the middle part of the decade. The look retained its hold in popular music, as girl bands like Eternal, the Spice Girls, and the cruelly underrated Fluffy, took boots onto the stage and Top of the Pops. But that’s another story.
- Time Out, July 12-19, 1995: own scan
- Patsy Kensit & Liam Gallagher: Vanity Fair, March 1997 via http://www.dailymail.co.uk
- Lena Fiagbe, Gotta Get It Right, 1993: music stack.com
- Outfit for clubbing, Company 1997[?): own scan
- Berri, Shine Like a Star, 1995: cdandlp.com
- Spice Girls, ca 1995: poulet-poulet.blogspot.com
- Fluffy, ca 1996: alwaysontherun.net