by Walter Thulin
Combat boots began as a practical extension of the military uniform, but evolved from practicality into a statement. Adopted from World War II infantrymen, combat boots became a staple of goth, punk, and heavy metal subcultures. Today, these heavy, proletarian boots are seen more often on the runway and in high-end nightclubs than in the grunge underground they came from.
Combat boots trace their lineage back to the Assyrian Empire; soldiers were issued a standard set of hobnail boots. However, modern, lace up combat boots have their roots in the Napoleonic Era. These boots were laced up just past the ankle and were designed to mold themselves after repeated marching.
Following World War II, and then Vietnam and Korea, overstock military boots made their way into the general population. As combat boots were adopted by certain subcultures, they emerged as symbols. During the Vietnam War, the combat boot arose as an anti-war and feminist symbol. In the 60s, combat boots came to symbolize the civil rights movement.
Today, the commodification of combat boots has both spread and subverted the boots symbolism. Runway’s now play on their rugged nature by adding in straps, heels, or statement bedazzles. As the boots evolve, so have their target audiences. Less seen now in underground meet-ups than clubs, combat boots have solidified their position in the lineup of fashion staples.