The History of Chelsea Boots. The queen of boots, created for a queen
Few pieces of a wardrobe have as much history (and as good) as the history of Chelsea boots. It all starts in the middle of the 19th century, years before football was invented. Queen Victoria of England loved to ride horses. But the lace-up boots she wore became entangled in her stirrup. So she asked the royal shoemaker, the mythical J. Sparkes-Hall, to invent some comfortable solution to wear, put on and take off and also without laces. The invention of vulcanised rubber by Charles Goodyear of Springfield, Massachusetts in 1844 provided an elastic solution that could well be used as a closure. So the birth of these boots would not have been possible without the state-of-the-art technology of the time.
The Royal Boot
Queen Victoria (the same queen of the Kinks song) not only liked the boots she was given for her equestrian hobbies, but she also wore them for walks. And so, the inventor left it in writing when he patented them in 1851 and that the history of the Chelsea boots began. “Queen Victoria walks in them every day and thus gives the most convincing proof of the value she attaches to the invention.” These boots were called “paddock boots” at that time, as their first area of use was the stables.
However, the most popular riding boots were already higher back then, so their use became more and more widespread as an elegant and comfortable boot for everyday life.
Boots for work
Its advantages of use made it pass from the royal palaces to the world of work and the rural world all over the world, being a practical boot for the hardest jobs since the First World War.
Thus worldwide this boot with elastic was widely used as a boot for the countryside or was even used by some of the military (this has been referred to us by some of its former users. And also, the very good memories they have of its extensive and prolonged use, in very difficult conditions).
Our favourite boots in the first half of the 20th century were still without their current name. They were simply called boots with an elastic closure and were a shoe used for work.
Why is the Chelsea boot called Chelsea?
But as time went on, in the mid 1950s, at 128 Kings Road, the Fantasie café opened. Apart from being one of the first cafés to serve espresso, the premises and the surrounding area began to fill up with business and an increasingly interesting clientele. Designers, bohemians, musicians, writers, revolutionaries, artists, black sheep from good families, along with stray bullets from all walks of life begin to stop in this neighbourhood, Chelsea. And all this wonderful conglomerate of talent began to be known in the media as the “Chelsea Set”.
Mary Quant, the creator of Bazaar and designer of the miniskirt commented on her neighborhood of operations in the 1960s. “We were at the beginning of a tremendous fashion renaissance. There was hardly a day when Chelsea wasn’t mentioned or appeared in the newspapers. Chelsea suddenly became Britain’s San Francisco, Greenwich Village and Left Bank. The press published her wineries, her bars, her girls and her clothes. Chelsea ceased to be a small part of London; it became international; its name interpreted a way of life and a way of dressing much more than a geographical area”.
And the media, seeing the popularity that was taking the neighborhood as the epicenter of fashion and cultural agitation, began to call this boot that was so usual to see both the boys and girls of this wonderful group, as the boot Chelsea.
The Beatles Boots
Then, The Beatles see in a shop of Covent Garden, Anello and Davide, some Chelsea boots in the window. They enter and ask them to customize a Chelsea boot, with a high Cuban heel and a very pronounced toe. The Beatle Boot has just been born. So, taking advantage of the Fab Four pull, their design was going to be known worldwide. And from them it became a basic piece in the wardrobe of the young people of the sixties. A comfortable, elegant, stylish piece that was perfect for the motorbike. Thus, the Chelsea boots fitted perfectly with the Mod movement.
From West London to the world
These boots began to be worn by countless garage and rock&roll bands in both England and the United States. Groups from the Rolling Stones to the Velvet Underground, from the Remains to the Chocolate Watch Band were always elegant. Almost always in a suit and with their unmistakable Chelsea boots.
In the following generations, and with the help of successive musical revivals, there was always a small remnant of Chelsea Boots worn by bands and by the people of rock & roll, with their backs turned completely to the fashion of the moment or to the majority style of dress. In fact, they were not easy to find and the quality Chelsea boots were only available as very expensive ultra exclusive pieces. Or in the rough versions used as functional work boots. In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s large garage, power pop or revival mod bands dressed them with dedication. Of course they were still worn by the big stars of classic rock & roll, so the Chelsea Boots were basically boots “in a musical context”.
Chelsea Boots in the 21st Century
The story of Chelsea boots continues. And so we come to our days. Now the Chelsea boots have not left the stages, but somehow they have become again a basic and ultra elegant piece that as always, fits with a casual style and can also be worn with a suit. A narrow last that stylises the footprint, a short shank that hides perfectly in the trousers. A piece that is comfortable to wear and easy to put on and take off.
At Beatnik Shoes we have Chelsea boots for both men and women, with an English last in black calfskin.
And we have them in brown leather and suede too.
And just as Queen Victoria wanted, almost two centuries after their invention, Chelsea boots are still a magnificent boot with no laces to get tangled up in. And all the history that remains to be written.