Today, patent shoes are the versatile, playful pair we crack out to raise a glass to the rockers and slink into the night in style. It unifies an outfit to say “I’m here to shake things up, and look great doing it”. And of course, we think that should come without skinned animals - so we use vegan patent leather. Looks the same, feels even better.
Made from a shiny leather material with a smooth and glossy finish, patent leather shoes have been popular for centuries. The history of patent leather boots is a fascinating story that involves innovation, fashion, and even royalty. (Or at least, rock n roll royalty)
Invented in the early 19th century by a British inventor named Seth Boyden, it was discovered that by applying a coating of linseed oil and lacquer to leather, Boyden could create a highly durable and waterproof material that was also shiny and glossy. He named his invention "patent leather," and it quickly became popular in the fashion industry.
Patent leather evolved wildly from a formalwear staple for the wealthy in the 1800s, to women’s footwear of the 1920s popularised by the likes of Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich, to military boot material in World War II.
In the 1960s and 1970s, patent leather boots became popular again as part of the mod and disco fashion movements, frequently paired with brightly coloured clothing often seen in the club scene. The introduction of television and many new electric appliances in the ‘60s influenced public opinion that placed value on things that were modern, shiny, and new. Glossy black patent leather shoes were a standard part of the wardrobe. In fact, it’s commonly reported that during the 1960s Roman Catholic priests and nuns warned girls away from patent leather, telling them that the glossy surface of the shoes would reflect their underpants.
The 60’s also birthed The Beatles and, with them, the Beatle boots. A direct descendant of the Chelsea boot and flamenco boot, but with a pointed toe and a centre seam stitch running from ankle to toe, finished with a Cuban heel. The band saw Chelsea boots being worn by a London band in Hamburg, and on their return commissioned four pairs from London footwear company Anello & Davide, to complement their new suit image.
Beatle boots and patent leather later saw a surge of popularity during the punk movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s, worn by anyone from Debbie Harry to Iggy Pop.