|Vogue 2009 via|
|Grace Kelly in Central Park via|
The trick to pulling off this look while you browse antique stores or sip a latte with the Sunday crossword at a sidewalk cafe, is knowing something of the origins of the gear and staying authentic. Of course, you can always break the rules, but that's way more fun to do if you know what they are first.
For example, if you're wearing this snazzy boot while you ramble around the farmer's market, don't be surprised if someone asks whether you play polo.
Want to see the boots in action? Click above.
|Captain George K.H. Cousmaker, 1782|
by Sir Joshua Reynolds
|Alexander I of Russia, 1837|
by Franz Kruger
Tall boots are made from cowhide, calf, or pigskin and their purpose is to prevent the rider's leg from being pinched or rubbed by the saddle and stirrup leathers, and to give some protection from brush and brambles.
The boot has a roomy, firm toe box to protect the rider's foot when on the ground, and a low heel to help prevent the rider's foot from sliding through the stirrup (and the rider possibly being dragged) should she unintentionally dismount.
Both types of boot usually have a spur rest to support the spur, and these days are available with a zipper that runs down the back of the calf to make them easy to put on without the aid of boot hooks.
Important note: Authentic riding boots do not have zippers on the inside of the leg. If you want to appear horsey, this is a dead giveaway.
The topline of riding boots has morphed periodically through history. The popular "Spanish" topline is cut higher on the outside of the boot to elongate the appearance of the rider's leg when seated in the saddle, while still allowing his or her knee to bend comfortably.
To get a long, elegant look with breeches, leggings, jeans or skirts without the annoyance of having your boot poke you in the back of the knee when you sit down, measure from the bottom of your heel to the crook of your knee when seated in a chair, then add about an inch. That number is the height of boot that will likely be most comfortable for you. That extra inch is added because most boots will drop a bit as they break in. The sales associates at your local tack shop can usually help you with the specific break-in characteristics of your chosen style and brand.
While you're at it, measure around the fullest part of your calf. Boot length and calf width can vary considerably between manufacturers, and even between models by the same manufacturer. Shops that sell riding boots usually have a chart for the various brands and models to help you select the most comfortable boot length and calf width.
|Field boots with a high Spanish topline, lacing, toe caps,|
stitched down outside leather tabs, rear zippers and spur rests
Field boots have lacing at the ankle to allow the rider to be more comfortable riding with the highly flexed ankle and shorter stirrup length required for riding over fences.
Field boots are generally tied with a straight bar lacing so they can be cut easily with a knife if necessary. The shoelace ties at the center, or the ends are tucked in.
|Brown field boot, plain toe, inner tabs, straight bar lacing|
It is acceptable for field boots to slouch a bit around the ankle. Black boots are standard. Brown boots are correct for schooling or less formal "cubbing" meets.
|Dress boots with moderate Spanish topline, spur rests and rear zippers|
There are a few equestrian boot traditions that either originated or perpetuated through the sport of fox hunting.
|Start of a fox hunt at Downton Abbey via|
I don't want to get too off-topic, but for Downton Abbey fans, Jane Asten's World at www.janeaustensworld.wordpress.com, has an interesting, balanced, and fairly comprehensive post on the history, traditions, attire, etc. of fox hunting here.
|Lady Mary at Downton Abbey via|
|Men's dress boots with brown cuffed hunt tops and outer tabs|
Black dress boots with brown cuffs are traditionally worn at a formal hunt by male members of the club who have been awarded their "Colors," and in modern times, a female Master or Huntsman. Colors are considered an honor, awarded by the Master of Foxhounds (MFH) at his discretion. For long-standing members of a hunt, wearing Colors means one has earned the privilege of wearing the club's color on one's jacket collar, club insignia on one's buttons, and certain other attire.
Ladies of the hunt who have been awarded Colors wear black dress boots with black patent leather cuffs. The wearing of cuffed boots is a tradition still known and actively practiced in the countryside, so do be aware of that when choosing riding boots for non-hunting wear.
Images: 1. Vogue, 2009 via mermaidinmadras 2. via Mermaidinmadras 3. Dehner 4. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 5. Hermitage Museum 6. Cavenders 7-8. Vogel 9. Fieggen 10. Dehner 11. Ariat 12. Powderham Castle, Devon 13-14. Downton Abbey via janeaustensworld.wordpress.com 15-16. Dehner