Atomic Blonde

Last weekend, I took a trip with my wife to see Atomic Blonde. For those of you who haven’t heard of this movie, it stars Charlize Theron as an MI6 agent (yeah, right) who is sent into Berlin in the last days before the fall of the Wall. The film is full of Cold War treats, including a missing list of spies, double agents, the Stasi, Berlin counterculture denizens, sultry French secret agents, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of beetle-browed KGB thugs for Ms. Theron to fight. I should say up front that it has some of the most brutal fight scenes I’ve ever seen; Theron’s MI6 officer, Lorraine Broughton, gets beaten black, blue, and bloody, and even though her assailants come off much worse, it’s still hard to watch. It also has a thunderous soundtrack of eighties pop (Neunundneunzig Luftballons turns up a few too many times for my liking). I loved it. My wife, who has a “thing” for Theron’s co-star, James McAvoy, was quite pleased too. This, however, is all by the by, because my main reason for writing this post is to discuss whether Lorraine Broughton’s boots were period-appropriate.

Bone crunching hand-to-hand combat aside, Atomic Blonde is quite a good movie if you’re interested in fashion. Theron is togged out in a succession of gorgeous ensembles, which include some amazing footwear. There is a great scene where she takes down a couple of would-be kidnappers, armed only with a red patent stiletto pump by Dior, while traveling at high speed in the back of a Mercedes. But since this is a blog about the history of fashion boots, let’s focus on Lorraine Broughton’s supposedly 1989 vintage boots, which – of course, are nothing of the sort. But neither are they so far from the truth either.

If you work in the marketing department of Stuart Weitzman, then you’re going to be pretty happy with Atomic Blonde, because Lorraine Broughton wears no less than three of the company’s boot styles. First up is the venerable 50:50 boot, which is almost – but not quite – old enough that our heroine could have worn the actual boot; the 50:50 was first launched in 1993, a mere four years after the events of the movie. If you are, by chance, the sort of woman that spends her time getting into bloody, bone-crunching, fights to the death with Russian thugs, the 50:50 is definitely the boot for you. Ms Theron wears her in an extended battle in an East Berlin stairwell that was almost too much to watch.

The second pair also proved quite handy in a scrap. These were the Weitzman Lowland boots, a very tall thigh boot in stretch leather. The low heels of this style also make them a good choice for those who need to fight off several Berlin cops, as Ms. Broughton does in yet another of her epic battle scenes. Although, as she says in the movie, if she’d known that was going to happen, she’d have chosen a different outfit.

Most articles about Atomic Blonde‘s fashion that I’ve seen only note two pairs of Weitzman boots, but the eagle eyed will spot a third style. This is the leather version of the Highland boot, more commonly seen in its suede version adorning the legs of various celebrities and supermodels. Lorraine Broughton dons a pair to go undercover in East Berlin. Undercover, in her case, means a beanie and a brown wig. She still looks exactly like Charlize Theron. The Highland, as its name suggests, has a higher heel than the Lowland, and this may be why Lorraine doesn’t do quite as well in her fight in an East Berlin movie theater as she does in some of her other tussles.

So, are these three pairs of boots period-appropriate? Kinda. The late eighties were more noted for over-the-knee boots that were loose fitting, low heeled, and suede, but styles in leather do make an appearance, starting around 1988. In the August 1988 edition of UK Vogue, an editorial entitled “Guinevere” discussed the emergence of “a new heroine” emerging from “the age of chivalry… at the London collections there was a distinct feeling for Camelot… moody velvets, jewel and dull metal colours, Gothic points and drama in brave accessories – metal work, gauntlets, thigh boots, and borzois.” So we do have thigh-high boots, but more of the doublet-and-hose variety than the urban chic sported by Lorraine Broughton. Certainly none of the contemporary styles were quite as tall or as pipe-cleaner narrow as the Highland and Lowland, and no-one was experimenting with the fusion of leather and stretch fabric seen in the 50:50.

Which brings us to the final pair of boots, Saint Laurent’s metal studded chain leather booties. These fetish-infused, stiletto heeled babies, seen in close-up striding along a London sidewalk in the rain, are absolutely period perfect, as typically eighties as shoulder pads, “Frankie Says” teeshirts, or puffball skirts. When Broughton is hanging out in techno-infused Berlin nightclubs, seducing her fellow agents, she totally looks the part. The Eighties were, more than anything, the age of the ankle boot.

Anyway, who cares? Go watch the film. It’s awesome. Vorsprung durch Technik, as we used to say in the Eighties.


  • Anon. 1988. Guinevere: New Style Heroine. Vogue (London), August 1988: pp.114-120.
  • Dargis, Manohla. 2017. Review: Dressed to kill, ‘Atomic Blonde.’ New York Times, July 27, 2017. Retrieved 9/9/2017.
  • Howard, Courtney. 2017. Charlize Theron sports some killer footwear in ‘ATOMIC BLONDE.’ 9/9/2017.
  • Soo Hoo, Fawnia. 2017. Charlize Theron kicks ass in ‘Atomic Blonde.’, July 24, 2017. Retrieved 9/9/2017.

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