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The Fashions behind Watson Boots

Our new All Day, Every Day collection debuted a very unique boot, the Watson Boot! These delightful canvas lace-up boots are modeled after original late Victorian/Edwardian sporting boots, a unique feature of a unique time in fashion history.

Last year, we introduced our Kedwardian shoes, which are based on original tennis shoes. Think of Watson like Kedwardians’ cousin. These two styles evolved around the same time, and were used for the same type of activities (though Kedwardian was a bit more leisurely in nature, of course).

Canvas and rubber Edwardian bathing shoes

Sporting culture became quite popular in the late 19th century, as technological and societal developments lead to increased access and increased interest in athletics. Games like lawn tennis were integrated into societal engagements for leisure classes, and sports became popular topics in journalism. We know all about how cycling impacted women’s rights movements and dress reform, and how swimming became popular as a leisure activity. As sporting culture developed, so did footwear technology, and the need for specialized sporting shoes and clothes.

The latest in sportswear in Vogue Magazine, May 1909.
Edwardian lace-up cotton canvas athletic boots, 1915.

The invention of the rubber sole in the second half of the 19th century was revolutionary for athletic shoes. Rubber soles are ‘grippy’ by nature, making them perfect for athletic footwear. Rubber soles were used on plimsolls (predecessors to sneakers), tennis shoes, sporting boots, bathing shoes, galoshes, and more. Canvas fabric provided a more breathable, flexible, and lighter material for the uppers of athletic shoes than leather. Together, rubber and canvas were optimal for athletic shoes and boots. As the 20th century dawned, canvas and rubber sporting shoes were established as the standard for athletic pursuits.

These ladies are wearing plimsolls on the beach in 1922. They were popular beach shoes!

1916 Keds Champion sneaker for women, from the collection at the Bata Shoe Museum.

Heeled tennis shoes like Kedwardians were used for more casual lawn-tennis playing, while flatter soled shoes and boots were used by more serious players, like Maud Watson (the first female Wimbledon champion). A boot that went to the ankle (or over it) protected the ankles from the elements.

This 1919 Keds advertisement from Ladies Home Journal shows canvas sporting boots, oxfords, and pumps.

This excerpt from an advertisement for Franklin Simon & Co. from the March issue of Vogue in 1914 shows off a pair of ankle-high tennis boots (267). The boots in this advertisement had soft leather uppers and rubber soles, as opposed to canvas uppers like Watson.

This snazzy outfit is from an Abercrombie & Fitch Co. advertisement found in the July 1919 edition of Town & Country.

Want to learn more about sport shoes? Shoe historian Thomas Turner, mentioned in our post we did back when Kedwardian was released, specializes in sneaker and sport shoe history. His article ‘The Production and Consumption of Lawn Tennis Shoes in Late Victorian Britain‘ was very helpful while researching the history of Victorian/Edwardian sport shoes. Turner has also written a book called The Sport Shoe: A History from Field to Fashion if you would like to learn more.

Our Watson Boots are comfortable, easy to break in, and oh-so-attractive. Pair them with your own historic tennis ensemble, or a walking suit, or even a bathing costume!

Pre-Order is Open
Aug.25-Sept. 8, 2023
$20/€20 Discount Per Pair

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