From the Archives: Combat Boots Through the Years

Favored by “it” girls like Bella and Gigi Hadid and Hailey Baldwin, combat boots are a must-have for women’s wardrobes this fall.

Hailey Baldwin, Alexander wang, combat boots, celebrity style, Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin out and about, New York, USA - 27 Jul 2018BOOTS BY ALEXANDER WANG WEARING BEC AND BRIDGE DRESS
Hailey Baldwin out and about in New York in July 2018 clad in Alexander Wang combat boots.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

But the shoes weren’t always a part of sartorially inclined folks’ closets. As its name implies, the combat boot got its start as a men’s military shoe. It came with practical features like a sturdy leather upper, a rubber outsole and even a steel toe.

The shoe’s history as a fashion item dates back first to the ’60s and ’70s, when the Dr. Martens boot became a staple of British punk style. Teamed with mohawks, tartan kilts and ripped stockings, the shoe emulated the counterculture — and by the ’80s, the fervor spread to the United States, thanks to the popularity of bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash.

The Clash - Paul SimononThe Clash in concert, Mont de Marsan 2nd Punk Festival, France - 05 Aug 1977
Paul Simonon of The Clash onstage in 1977 in France.
CREDIT: Ian Dickson/Shutterstock

In the ’90s, the boots were common stock among members of the Seattle grunge scene. They had their first brush with high fashion at the Perry Ellis spring ’93 show, which infamously got then-vice president of women’s Marc Jacobs fired. While the grungey show put Jacobs — then just 29 years-old  — on the map, it was a challenge to the fussy status quo of New York Fashion Week, footwear included.

Outtake; Model on the runway of Marc Jacob's iconic grunge collection for the Perry Ellis spring 1993 Ready-To-Wear collection on November 3, 1992 in New York.Article title: "New York's Motley Crew"
Naomi Campbell on the runway at Perry Ellis spring ’93.
CREDIT: Fairchild Archives

In celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary last year, Jacobs collaborated with Dr. Martens on an updated version of the shoes from that Perry Ellis show.

Marc Jacobs x Dr. Martens
Marc Jacobs x Dr. Martens boots.
CREDIT: Marcjacobs.com

Given their current pervasiveness, combat boots aren’t as anti-establishment as they once were — except when they feature a fresh twist.

Bella Hadid wearing Prada combat boots during Paris Fashion Week on Sept. 30. Take the monstrous form of Prada’s fall ’19 combat-inspired silhouette, which laces up to nearly the knee and features whimsical pocket detailing, or the innovation of Dior’s spring ’19 take, which features fishnet cut-outs.

Bella Hadid, pink blazer, button-down shirt, mom jeans, Prada boots, combat boots, celebrity style, street style, New York yankees hat, mini bag, model off duty, Bella Hadid out and about, Paris Fashion Week, France - 30 Sep 2019
Bella Hadid out and about during Paris Fashion Week on Sept. 30.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
Model backstage, shoe detailDior show, Backstage, Spring Summer 2020, Paris Fashion Week, France - 24 Sep 2019
A detail shot of fishnet combat boots from Dior spring ’20.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Click through the gallery to see more combat boots through the years.

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