Although recently popularised as #OTK through the likes of Kendall Jenner and other influential celebrities, over the knee boots, or cuissardes as they were originally called, have a historic part in fashion and culture.
Being any boot that fully or partly covers the knee, there is a plethora over the knee boots, ranging from thigh high to waders and encompassing all between.
These long boots were first sported by male riders and workers. With new lightweight hose and a decline in full plate armour, men of battle (as well as those in trade) benefitted from a protective foot (and leg) wear.
The masculinity of the over the knee boot was again centralised but toyed with through pantomime theatre and the principle boy. Acting as a young prince or eligible bachelor, the actress would ironically be in a much more sexualised outfit than those usually ascribed to female actors. These breached roles required actresses to wear short tunic style pieces with thigh high boots – a look not all too dissimilar from the ‘lampshading’ fashion trend.
It wasn’t until the ’60s that over the knee boots really became feminine footwear. Even then, it was not readily accepted, and was considered by many as risqué, uncouth footwear. It was in 1962 with Balenciaga’s fall collection that the tall boot was brought into the wardrobes of so many. Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic alligator boot, designed by Roger Vivier, then dominated and ensured that over the knee boots were not going anywhere soon.
With queues forming outside London’s ‘Bilba’, it was evident that over the knee boots were still an absolute staple in the ’70s. Not only that, but they were emerging in new bold coloured canvas and leading the youth further into liberation.
Whilst these taller boots have undoubtedly been available and adapting since the ’70s, and likewise their very beginnings, they certainly have re-emerged. Millennials now parade the trend, probably having been discouraged from them during their adolescence for being cheap.
But now that is certainly not the case. Thigh high boots have infiltrated the luxury fashion market, with retailers using leather and bespoke custom made shoes. Whilst Kim Kardashian has notoriously paraded a Perspex pair, the fashion trend is not excluding the more conservative lady. As a country girl, Kate Middleton often sports a long boot, and Theresa May has also joined the army of #OTK followers.
Clearly, today’s women are not donning over the knee boots as an attempt at physical protection. Maybe it’s just a re-emerging fashion, just evidencing the cyclical nature of the industry. Perhaps it’s linked to androgynous dressing or gender liberation. It could even be an assertion of power, given the association of cavalry and the harsh divergent from ascribed femininity. But whatever the reason, over the knee boots have undeniably resurged and there are a variety of ways in which we can wear the trend. Consider investing in a pair with longevity, as this trend is going nowhere fast, and inevitably will resurface!
Words: Steph Ryan