For nearly 200 years, the Chelsea boot has been a favorite with everyone from the Victorians to The Beatles. They are an iconic piece of footwear – with a timeless and enduring design we take a look back at the history of Chelsea boots to see why they are still so popular.
Dating back to the Victorian era, a time in which entrepreneurial innovation was widespread, the creation of vulcanized rubber saw the advent of the Chelsea boot.
In 1839, American inventor Charles Goodyear claimed to develop a process that vulcanized rubber – meaning that the boots could be slipped on and off easily – whilst on this side of the pond, British inventor Thomas Hancock made the same claims. Whoever discovered it, it is important to know that without vulcanized rubber – if you’re feeling a little confused about what that actually is, it’s basically the addition of sulfur to rubber to make it more resistant, so basically elastic – the Chelsea boot would never have graced our feet, or the feet of the Victorians who first coveted them.
J. Sparkes-Hall, boot maker to Queen Victoria, actually designed the first Chelsea boot, but at this time you’d have been laughed down if you walked into your local shoe shop and asked for a pair of Chelsea boots. They didn’t earn street credit until the mid ’50s when they were picked up by the ‘Chelsea set’ – a group of media toffs (artists, designers and socialites) that hung about Chelsea and wore the boots. Before then they were known as ‘Paddock boots’ for their walking and riding uses.
By the 1960s, a Cuban heel had been added and bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were regularly seen wearing the boot. Variations were made on the original Chelsea boot to increase the ankle height and elongate the toe and with the fab four rarely seen out of the adapted shoe – commissioned by London company Anello & Davide – they were aptly re-named the Beatle boot.
Of course, where the style savvy went the Mods soon followed and they quickly started wearing Chelsea boots. The attention to detail and Italian inspired high fashion design of the Chelsea boot made them a favorite among the Mods.
For their versatility and timeless style, Chelsea boots have remained a firm sartorial favorite. Dressed up or down, the Chelsea boot retains an element of old school style that pre-dates today’s tracksuit culture.
The Chelsea boot is all about straightforward and simple styling so make sure the looks you create for your boots incorporate clean cuts and plain colors. We’re going for timeless and classic – these boots are no one hit wonder, so style them appropriately.