Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Are They Talking About: Cavalier Boots

According to the fashion machine, thigh-high boots are the way forward this autumn. (There's a great image roundup of these boots here). British Vogue is calling them them "cuissardes," which roughly translates into "thigh-huggers". Other style arbiters are calling them cavalier boots, which sounds dashing, but isn't quite right.

Authentic Cavalier boots are something different. They were originally made popular in the 17th century by the noble siders of King Charles I during the English Civil War.

The original Cavalier boots had wide, slouchy tops (not terribly practical in a rainy country but this was an especially foppish bunch of guys), wide toes (their foes, the Roundheads, favored pointy), and high heels, which had longstanding associations with the noble art of horsemanship, dating back to Genghis Khan, who stormed into the West with heeled boots holding his feet firmly in the stirrups during the bloodcurdling charge. Apart from the footgear, the Cavaliers were distinguished by their flowing, curly locks and the lace socks that draped prettily over the boots' tops.

Here's a picture by Van Dyck of Lords John and Bernard Stuart, decked out in Cavalier finery. Not quite what we'll all be wearing come fall, but you cannot argue that the boys don't have style.

(painting in the National Gallery, London)

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