The author has graciously shared with readers of the Victorian Web this passage from the second edition of her Fashion in Costume, 1200-2000 (2000), published by A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd., which retains copyright. Readers wishing to obtain the book can e-mail the following address:

Half-boots (calf-length) or knee-length boots were now rare, worn if at all only for riding, but the short ankle boot continued throughout the period, the elastic-sided variety holding its own against the laced fastening until the 1890s. Dandies favoured a pointed toe during the 1850s-60s and again in the 1890s, and a long, blunt, squaretoed shape was worn during the 1880s. Buttoned boots with cloth tops, another vogue of the 1880s, corresponded with the fashion for wearing short gaiters with knickerbockers and spats with more formal clothes.

Footwear in Sidney Paget's illustrations of A. Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories that appeared in the 1901-02 Strand Magazine: Left: country boots and ankle-high boots. Middle: spats. Right: The groom, who is described as soemthing of a dandy, wears pointy shoes. [Click on these images for larger pictures.]

Spats, in white, light grey or fawn, were buttoned at the sides and fastened under the foot with a buckled strap. Boots with contrasting tops, particularly patent leather with kid or cloth tops, continued in fashion until about 1920, as did spats. Boots and shoes were black or brown until the 1890s when white was introduced for summer wear. Laced shoes might be worn from the 1880s, particularly for summer, occasionally with fancy socks. Normally socks were black, even with light shoes. From the mid 1890s they were supported by sock-suspenders, bands of elastic worn below the knee with a pendent clip , to hold the top of the sock. Rubber and canvas shoes, forerunners of the American sneaker, were worn for tennis from the late 1870s.

Until the 1890s some men liked to wear thinner-soled elastic-sided boots for evening in place of pumps, but the low-cut pump in patent leather with a large flat bow of grosgrain ribbon was worn more or less universally from the 1890s until the 1920s.

Links to Related Material


Nunn, Joan. Fashion in Costume, 1200-2000. 2nd edition. A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd; Chicago: New Amsterdam Books, 2000.

Last modified 2 December 2013