Gentlemens Boots – The Paddock

In keeping with my series on gentlemens boots I present to you the Paddock!

Paddock Boots in Two Tone Leather by Hope

Paddock Boots in Two Tone Leather by Hope

Horse riders of the nineteenth century needed something less cumbersome than the standard riding boot. Bookmakers responded to this need by developing the lace-up Paddock boot.  As the name indicates, this lace up ankle-height leather boot was ideal for Victorian gentlemen to wear around the paddock when training horses and seducing the fair maidens riding them. It stand to reason that the Paddock boot descend to us from the English riding tradition.

Paddock boots are still worn for equestrian work and Ariat makes athletic grade pairs. These are not the kind for a gentleman to wear in his regular wardrobe. I am using the term Paddock boot to apply to the ankle boot for men that fastens by laces (as opposed to the buckle of the Jodhpur and the rubber sides of the Chelsea) and where the boot’s collar is no more than a few inches above the ankle. It should go without saying only Paddock  boots made with both leather sole and vamp are appropriate for a gentleman. (I’m speaking to you, Michael.)

Fancy Footwear -The Fendi Take on the Classic Paddock Boot

Fancy Footwear - The Fendi Take on the Classic Paddock Boot

There are other styles of lace-up ankle boots for men. The elegance and lightness of the Paddock set it apart from the other types. The light and durable design of the Paddock boot proved very popular and they became the alternative footwear used with horses instead of  the knee-high ‘tall’ riding boots of the time. Tall boots are now usually only worn in very formal riding settings. They are also sometimes appropriate for a gentleman to wear outside of riding, but more of that later.

Bootmakers design Paddock boots in a variety of styles, given their qualities of lightness and durability. This variety of styles in turn makes them acceptable for wear in formal and casual settings where, say, a hiking or motorcycle boot would be extremely wrong. Cowboy boots require very special handling and are not for the faint of heart! (I’ll look at these types of boots soon enough!)

Traditional Paddock Boot from the Gentleman's Emporium

Traditional Paddock Boot from the Gentleman's Emporium

As I am in the warning mood, I would like to take a moment to caution against the use of ankle boots, or any boots for that matter, that make use of side zippers. One of the chief statements a quality leather boot makes is that its wearer has taken the time to dress and dress well. convenience is never a gentleman’s consideration, and should never be confused with functionality. Hurrying is not part of a gentleman’s appearance.

Paddock Boot Tricked Out in Brogue by Trickers, UK

Paddock Boot Tricked Out in Brogue by Trickers, UK

If you wear zipped boots you might as well wear a belt that fastens with Velcro! A Dandy steers clear of anything that might pull his attire into the realm of costume, and nothing indicates a costume in footwear faster than an unsightly zipper.

Article first published as Gentlemens Boots – The Paddock on Technorati.

Gentlemens Boots – The Chelsea

The More Traditional Chelsea Boot - Church’s Amberley

The More Traditional Chelsea Boot - Church’s Amberley

While the Chelsea boot looks modern it actual dates from Victorian era riding boots and is British in its design origin. According to Underground, the English Punk footwear maker,

The distinguishing features of the boots are the elasticated side panels, or gussets, in place
of laces or other fastenings. This was a very innovative design at the time, as it allowed the
Victorian woman to slip on her tight fitted ankle-boots more easily.

Jeffery~West Reinvents the Classic Chelsea Boot - The O'Toole Oliver

Jeffery~West Reinvents the Classic Chelsea Boot - The O'Toole Oliver

If fact, Samuel Windsor (UK Menswear retailer) details the development of the Chelsea for Queen Victoria in their blog,

J. Sparkes-Hall, bootmaker to Queen Victoria back in 1837 is credited with inventing what we now know as the Chelsea boot. The development of vulcanized rubber gave him the idea to produce an elastic sided boot that could be slipped in and out of with minimal effort.

In the patent Sparkes-Hall filed for his creation in 1851, he claimed ‘She (Queen Victoria) walks in them daily and thus gives the strongest proof of the value she attaches to the invention’.

It was the custom-made Anello & Davide Chelsea boots on direction from Paul McCartney and John Lennon of The Beatles that brought the boot into hipster culture once again.

John Lennon's Custom Chelsea 'Beatle' Boot by Anello & Davide

John Lennon's Custom Chelsea 'Beatle' Boots by Anello & Davide

The Chelsea boot has become a staple in any decent gent’s footwear wardrobe. They are stylish, comfortable, sporty, and look damn sexy. Add to this they are super easy to slip on and off, and fit snug during wear, and you’ll understand why owning several pairs is not excessive, but mandatory.

Black Patent Leather Chelsea Boot from Gucci

Black Patent Leather Chelsea Boots from Gucci

Article first published as Gentlemens Boots – The Chelsea on Technorati.

Gentlemen’s Fabrics 101 – Silks

Silk – the word itself mimics the fabric it names as you say it flowing softly through your lips only catching slightly at the end.

Assorted Giorgio Armani Silk Ties and Neckties

Assorted Giorgio Armani Silk Ties and Neckties

Silk comes from the harvested cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry tree moth, Bombyx mori, and in domesticated fashion on silk farms in a practice called sericulture. Bombyx mori is a completely domesticated moth and it is entirely dependent on humans for its reproduction and does not occur naturally in the wild. If it was not for human need of silk, this creature would cease to exist.

The Silk Moth Bombyx mori from Wikipedia

The Silk Moth Bombyx mori

Silk farmers practiced sericulture in China since the Yangshao period, dating back as far as much as 5 000 years BCE. The top producers of silk cocoons are China, India, Uzbekistan, and Brazil, with silk production also occurring in many other countries. The cocoons are then unraveled to produce a single, long thread which is then woven into the fabric known as silk, which may then be dyed and made into clothing. Silk has industrial uses as well, but they do not interest us here.

Alexander McQueen Mens Spotlight Jacket in Painted Silk

Alexander McQueen Mens Spotlight Jacket in Painted Silk

Since ancient times men have worn silk garments. Aileen Reibeiro details how Rome forbid men to wear silk clothing through their sumptuary laws in her book Dress and Morality. What a shock modern Italian designers like Versace, Gucci, Prada and Armani, among others, would have had when confronted with such restrictions! It is also considered haram (forbidden) for men to wear silk under the teachings of conservative Islam, yet halal (allowed) for women. The Kingpin aesthetic is not so restrictive.

The history of silk being a luxury fabric as well as being painted and dyed have associated flair and colour with it. And so should the gentleman considering adding silk to his wardrobe. Silk is a material that can easily have you veer into a look that is neither flattering or gentlemanly. However, in the Kingpin aesthetic you can use silk effectively to present yourself as a man who enjoys the finer things and is bold enough to show it. Besides ties, I find silks to wear well in the heat, and in more tropical climates, and even the beach or when boating. Be careful not to over do it! Refrain from complete silk outfits! Balance a silk shirt with linen trousers for a more grounded look. Wear the level of vibrant colour you feel confident in wearing and no more, else you should quickly resemble a lost clown instead of  romantic figure! It should go without saying that the best silk piece a gentleman can acquire is a top rate silk top hat.

Victorian Gentleman with Silk Top Hat and Waistcoat and Tie

Victorian Gentleman with Silk Top Hat and Waistcoat and Tie

Gentlemens Shoes 101 – The Slip-on

The slip-on, or the loafer, is an innovation in gentlemens shoes from ’30s Norway. They are a laceless shoe that is based on the basic moccasin construction. Originally worn by Norwegian farmers, the slip-on was promoted in the United States by shoemakers, including Maine bootmaker G.H. Bass, who sold them as ‘Weejuns’ adding the distinctive diamond cut-out strap across the top. This leather slot remained ornamental until prep-school boys in the ’50s began inserting pennys into them, creating the term ‘penny loafers’ a term which is still applied to Bass Weejuns and similarly styled slip-ons. The popularity of this casual, or leisure, shoe has brought the English and Italian designers, among others, to raise this once haughty slipper to the ranks of classic gentlemens footwear.

While at first only used as a house shoe, the Slip-on, is perfect for a gentlemens leisure activities, and some very stylish Slip-ons are even suitable for some work environments. This pair of Slip-ons featured in Mister Crew has a spectator design:

Leather Slip-ons in the Spectator Style

Leather Slip-ons in the Spectator Style

and of course there is the often duplicated, but never replicated, Gucci Slip-ons, like these burgundy ones from the 80s from Rice and Bean Vintage:

Vintage 80's Gucci Burgundy Leather Loafers

Vintage 80's Gucci Burgundy Leather Loafers

where Gucci has made the Slip-on a mainstay of their design innovation, almost to the point you’d think they have something about tying laces…