|Vogue 2009 via|
|Grace Kelly in Central Park via|
The trick to pulling off this mien while rambling about the farmer's market, browsing antique stores, or sipping a latte with the Sunday crossword at a sidewalk cafe, is knowing a bit about the origins of the look and staying authentic. Of course, one can always break the rules of tradition, but it's much more fun to do if one first knows what they are.
For example, if you wear this snazzy boot, don't be surprised if someone asks whether you play polo.
Want to see the boots in action? Click above for a great video.
|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.
Each 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 the rider become unseated.
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 one wants to appear horse-y, 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 look of the rider's leg when seated in the saddle, while still allowing the rider's 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. 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 each brand of boots to help you get the most comfortable boot length and calf width.
|Field boots with 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 a highly flexed ankle and the 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|
|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 worn at a formal hunt by male members who have been awarded their "colors," and in modern times, a female Master or Huntsman. Colors is 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 their colors wear black dress boots with black patent leather cuffs. Cuffed boots is a tradition still 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