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Chelsea Boots, also known as Beatle Boots, come in many shapes, sizes and colours; Cuban heels or flats, leather or suede, rounded toe or Winklepickers, zip fasten or traditional elastic gusset boots - there's a style for everyone taste! This enduring style of boot is a fashion classic, instantly adding a mod, retro or rock and roll twist to any outfit.
Chelsea boots have thier fashion roots in Victorian Britain. The design is attributed to J. Sparkes-Hall, who was Queen Victoria's footwear maker, and who patented the design in 1851. He referred to the Chelsea Boots as 'J. Sparkes-Hall's Patent Elastic Ankle Boots' here, boasting that "[Queen Victoria] walks in them daily and thus gives the strongest proof of the value she attaches to the invention." These 'Paddock' boots - a little different to what we would recognise as the Chelsea Boot today - utilised vulcanised rubber for an elasicated side and featured a small heel and pointed style toe. J. Sparkes-Hall's advertised the boots many pro-points over other styles; "Requiring neither lacing, buttoning nor tying; they can be put on and off in a moment, without trouble and loss of time. The constant annoyance of laces breaking, buttons coming off, holes wearing out, and many other imperfections in the ordinary modes of fastening, suggested the improvement which is now presented to the public. No boots ever offered such variety of play and motion to the feet and ankles, or corrosponded so exactly to thier natural and anatomical form."
What was to become known as the Chelsea boot was became popular among horseriders and walkers. The development of vulcanised rubber by Charles Goodyear enabled the invention of the elastic gusset boot. The boots became fashionable towards the end of the 1840s, and was a prominent style in the West until the onset of World War I.
Chelsea Boots had a resurgence in the fifties and sixties in the UK, particularly with the advent of Beatlemania and the Beatles penchant for the style, leading to thier 'Beatle Boots' nickname being coined. These Chelsea Boots fit tightly and had a more pointed, Winklepicker toe than a traditional riding Chelsea boot, and also a centre seam from ankle to toe. In Autumn, 1961, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were shopping on London's Charring Cross Road when the boots at Anello & Davide, a theatrical footwear company caught thier eye. Four pairs were custom made with the addition of a Cuban heel - the first of many Chelsea Boot styles the Beatles would wear during the early to mid sixties. (However, the Beatles had been wearing Cowboy boots and Chelsea Boots since thier rocker Hamburg days).
Also added now was the Cuban Heel. In a letter to a fan who asked how high the heels were on Beatles Boots, George Harrison answered they were '1 inch for on stage' and '2 1/2 inch off stage'.
As well as the Beatles, Chelsea Boots were worn by almost everyone from the Rolling Stones through to Mods through to Jean Shrimpton! Their association with the Kings Road, one of the fashion centres of sixties London, found in Chelsea and Fulham in South-West London is believed to given them thier new moniker, the 'Chelsea' Boot.
Mods also adopted the Chelsea Boot in the 1960s, following the trend set by the Beatles and other pop stars. In the 1960s British TV show, The Avengers, John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, would wear Chelsea Boots with everything, whether it was a three piece suit or a tuxedo.