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Some basics for bootmen

Dress Boots

Zipper Boots

Nunn Bush Boots

Giorgio Boots

Durango Boots

While many other styles of boots found their origins in vocational necessity or environmental practicality, the side-zipper dress boot is strictly a product of the fashion-conscious. This particular style of boot found its way to the general male population in the 1960s and enjoyed popularity through the 70s and 80s. Through their company names of Nunn Bush and Brass Boot (as well as their own name), The Florsheim Shoe Company was the leader of the pack in bringing this particular style of boot to the fore in the later decades.


Though subtle variations existed, the style of the zipper dress boot was fairly consistent across the board by the mid '70s. Each boot had a zipper on the inward-facing ankle allowing for greater ease in sliding the boot on and off. Supple leather uppers with a leather lining were most common (though some makers used man-made materials when choosing low production cost vs. higher quality). Invariably, the sole was crafted from a smooth leather, while crepe or rubber soles were also available but less prominent. Most zipper dress boots had a rounded toe and a shaft of 7" - 8", though shaft heights of 10" - 12" could also be found. (Knee-high styles of zipper dress boots did exist, but these were mostly refered to as Platform Boots with chunkier heels, and were worn by the flashy musical artists of the '70s like Rick James or Earth, Wind & Fire, for example.)

Most side-zip dress boots sported a lower heel, typically 1-inch or shorter. However, makers such as Giorgio Brutini decided to buck that trend and added a 2-inch "Cuban Heel" for a sleeker, more stylized look. Established bootmakers in the country/western genre, like Tony Lama and Durango to name a few, found it difficult to ignore the popularity of the side-zip boot and decided to put their own creative thumbprint on this style, giving the boot a slightly more pointed toe with fancy western stitching.

Chelsea Boots

Chelsea Boots

It can be argued that the Chelsea Boot may have been the "forefather" to the side-zip dress boot that we know today. The term "chelsea boot" has evolved to encompass an entire family of snug fitting, ankle-high boots that pull on as opposed to lace or zip. Thought to have been used previously as a type of riding boot, this style soared to celebrity status in early '60s Europe thanks to the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, whose members were often seen wearing them. The most notable feature of most Chelsea Boots is the elastic sides which run from the heel to the top of the boot, allowing greater ease in slipping on and off.
Dress Boots

Dress Boots

During its heyday in the '70s to mid '80s, the side-zip dress boot was crafted with subtlety, exhibiting a simplistic and unassuming style with very little in the way of flashy stitching or fancy design. This style seemed to appeal to a slightly more mature audience. In fact, before its decline in the late '80s, it could be said that this style of boot was on one side of a seemingly ever-increasing generation gap in fashion. While the Campus Boot enjoyed immense popularity mostly among high school and college students (thus the name "Campus" Boot), the side-zip dress boot was well-represented in the 30+ age group, mainly reserved for "jacket and tie" situations such as working at the office or attending religious services.

Thanks to modern-day makers like Kenneth Cole, the zippered dress boot has witnessed something of a comeback these days. Due in no small part to an overhaul in design, this style of boot has reached a wider audience among younger men. Designers such as Mark Nason and Steve Madden have pushed the original boundaries of the style, incorporating exaggerated features such as blunted toes, overly pointed toes, fancy straps and eye-catching overlays. Materials have expanded to include suede and other distressed leathers.

There are many companies that make zipper dress boots. For the classic style zip boot, look to companies like Florsheim, Nunn Bush and Giorgio Brutini, among others. For a modern style, look to makers such as Kenneth Cole, Mark Nason and Steve Madden. A great selection of both classic and modern styles from many different makers is available online through the website.

Text from Wikipedia article on Chelsea Boots, various internet sources, and Bootpup. Pictures from Zappos and various internet sources. Text of this article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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