Designers around the world are finding new inspiration in the utilitarian boot popularly known at the “combat boot” and recognized as the penultimate symbol of the punk and grunge subcultures, though originally designed for the military. This weighty, yet elegant boot goes by a variety of names – the ranger, the hiking boot, the army boot, or simply the lace-up. However, the name we know it best by is the name many designers are skirting, but knowingly implying – the combat boot, and it’s everywhere this season. There was remarkable synchronicity between New York, London, Milan and Paris. Dramatic and even violent combinations of red and black cropped up frequently. Paris exhibited the most daring versions paired with everything from serious tailoring to intimidating oversized outerwear, and the most dazzling evening wear.
Paris – Elegant and Dangerous
At the Paris menswear shows designers punctuated razor sharp tailoring with sleek combat boots defiantly worn as a dress shoe with supremely elegant suits. Hedi Slimane at Celine and Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen relied on the hard-edged weighted sole and elegant throat of the punk boot to bring a brutal, yet elegant quality to city-chic suiting. Vetements Demna Gvasalia moody, tailored looks were paired with black satin trousers neatly tucked into slick black lace-ups. Olivier Rousteing at Balmain released several new editions of their ranger boot in a glossy, black padded style with metal hardware and logo embossed cuffs. These uber-showy renditions add an instantly recognizable element to basic jeans and tee’s, though we saw them on the runway with hand painted leather trenches and, interestingly enough, sequined twill boucle jackets.
Kim Jones kept things simple and super clean with striped soles and a sleek upper at Dior Homme, while Dries Van Noten created a rubberized matte edition that softly complimented deconstructed padded coats. Brogues were given an edgy treatment at Saint Laurent and transformed into boots, adding a vintage flair with a classic rocker influence that still reads modern-day cool. Anne Demeulemeester’s bohemian brocades and loose flowing tunics are a less obvious combination with high laced military boots, yet the effect was romantic and adventurous. Yohji Yamamoto has been collaborating with Doc Martens for ages. His relaxed trousers were tucked into tall lace-ups giving historical inspiration to the more modern slim trousers. The men in his runway show exuded a quiet strength while wearing military boots with both humble wool jackets and officer trench coats.
The most dazzling women’s boots came from McQueen’s womenswear line, where densely studded combat boots accompanied jaw-dropping gowns and dresses, including a chandelier-inspired sheer mesh dress dripping with crystals.
Milan – Sporty and Colorful
The most colorful explorations of the combat boot came from the Milan this season. At Versace, sporty alpine boots with hiking laces were paired with satiny ensembles. Prada’s brightly colored, tread-soled boots contrasted with her military silhouettes, seen in bright pink and yellow, accented with utilitarian pouches. Moschino riffed on a mash up of playful military styles and sporty skiing attire with head-to-toe color and exaggerated embroidered text. Neil Barrett’s sleekly designed boots come in blood red, brown and black, all with a septum-style piercing at the laces.
New York – American Nostalgia
New York designers have been styling the combat boot with their collections for years, though they have a decidedly different look this season and reflect less the military heritage, and more the nostalgia of New York’s punk in the 80s. Menswear designer Todd Snyder and Landlord NYC blended a college prep feel with street smarts, and offer a back-to-school style infused with a hint of athletic toughness. Both paired Doc Marten style boots under professor-esque twill and colorful hoodies and tees. Snyder’s luxury animal print boot is contrasted by thick white soles, adding a sporty edge to an otherwise dressy boot.
At Gypsy Sport, Rio Uribe used found and recycled materials in his 90’s inspired collection of “genderless” clothing, modeled by a diverse range of genders and body types. Uribe’s military surplus style boot, and heavily padded mall-goth version are both intimidating and protective allowing the wearer to be themselves. Jeremy Scott covered his in graphic clickbait headlines from head to toe in the form of hand drawn newsprint, reminiscent of high school scribbles in the margins of notebook paper. Every look was styled with combat boots, many printed with the same pattern as his clothing. On a whole other level, Marc Jacobs Victorian issued lace-ups with dainty heels were shown with dresses and evening gowns. The tall boots brought strength and elegance to his very romantic collection.