In the history of pop music there have been some truly awful songs. Muskrat Love by The Captain and Tennille, Shaddup You Face by the Joe Dolce Music Theatre, and Don McLean’s American Pie are just three that spring to mind. But you have to go a long way to find a song quite so ghastly as Kinky Boots, a 1964 novelty single by Honor Blackman and Patric Macnee.
Boots was originally written by all-round “wit” Ned Sherrin for the groundbreaking British satirical show That Was The Week That Was (aka TW3). Originally it was just an instrumental piece that was played as backing to a segment on the growing popularity of fashion boots. But then someone had the bright idea of capitalizing on the popularity of the TV show The Avengers by adding lyrics and having the show’s stars sing it.
The Avengers had broken new ground in having Blackman abandon the typical damsel in distress model for a female sidekick. Her character, Cathy Gale, was unlike any female character seen on TV before; with a PhD in anthropology, she could also handle a gun and hold her own in a fight with formidable judo skills. Blackman’s leather costumes were originally designed for ease of movement in fight sequences.
Unsurprisingly, the fashions attracted a lot of attention, particularly the boots that were usually worn with the leather pants, skirts, and jackets. They quickly became one of the signature features of the show, along with Patrick Macnee’s bowler hat and tightly rolled umbrella. In France the show was called Chapeau Melon et Bottes du Cuir, which has an admirable sense of Francophone panache.
Back in Britain, of course, the only panache people understood was the acrid fragrance made by Lentheric. Gale’s boots, instead of inspiring admiration for their edgy style and elegance, were the subject of heavy-handed jocular references to “kinky boots.” Oo-er, look at the kinky boots! Naughty! It pains me to admit it, but my fellow countrymen are so terrified of anything even tangentially sexual that they find it easier to make a joke out of it. Benny Hill based an entire career on this.
If you want to see a prime example of this, you need look no further than a British mens’ magazine of the 1960s called Spick & Span. It’s not, strictly speaking, pornographic – bare breasts begin to pop up (or out) in the last issues before the magazine folded in the early 1970s. But it does say a lot about what the average British person of that era thought of as titillating (although it’s been gone for a good forty years S&S is still hugely popular with Brits of a certain age – its thread on Vintage Erotica Forums runs to more than 500 pages).
Spick & Span features statuesque women in poses designed to reveal their underwear, which is mostly of the stockings and suspenders sort (or “sussies” as the average reader of S&S probably referred to them). There were boots as well; short, calf-length ones in the early sixties, tight white vinyl ones in the late sixties and early seventies, and platform ones in the last days of the magazine. But the boots were always worn with stockings and suspenders. Because you have to have stockings and suspenders – they’re sexy! Right? Especially with kinky boots. Phwoar! The fact that boots of that generation were generally designed to be worn with tights or over bare legs never occurred to them.
“Kinky boots” has proved to be a very resilient phrase. Even 15 years after The Avengers, my mother – reacting to my growing interest in boots and boot design – came out with endless cracks about kinky boots. It’s now the name of an award-winning Broadway musical. The song itself is not a bad summary of the boot craze of the early 60s (see here for the lyrics – I can’t bring myself to include them in the post), but I can’t bear it because with its leering quality the whole thing reminds me of the nudge nudge, wink wink attitude to the boot.
And Macnee and Blackman can’t sing for toffee, either.
Wikipedia: Kinky Boots (song)
- Cover art for Kinky Boots: wikimedia commons
- Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman, The Avengers: wikimedia commons
- Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman, The Avengers: comic vine
- Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman, The Avengers: PA Photos via Friends Reunited
- Various models from Spick & Span and related publications: Vintage Erotica Forums