Best Foot Forward: Regent's Romany Boot

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It is often said that you can gauge the character of a man by the style and condition of his footwear. If true, the winter months make it even more difficult for gents to keep their feet well shod, as rain and mud take their toll on the smartest of shoes. If the right footwear is worn, however, a man's foot game can remain strong whatever the season. Naturally, Regent have a suitably stylish solution: our Romany Chelsea boot.

Our Romany is named after the Grand National winning horse, Romany King. When Jason Regent rode Romany wearing a pair of Chelsea Boots, his feet fell through the stirrups. At that moment, he knew that he wanted to make his own boots with a longer neck, to avoid this problem.

The Romany is available in a soft and durable calf-skin leather of burnished burgundybrown and black. We've also made a more contemporary-looking waxed brown leather version. A welted sole, which allows the shoe to be resoled many times over, makes this a true investment piece. True to form, Regent's interpretation offers a classic twist on the much-loved Chelsea Boot, which is named after the affluent youngsters who sauntered stylishly along the King's Road in London's Chelsea during the 1960s.

Style icons wearing Chelsea Boots: The Beatles, David Bowie and Harry Styles



The Chelsea Boot is enjoying something of a revival among men and women at the moment, presumably because it is at once classic and casual, acceptable as workaday wear, but still ever-so-slightly avant-garde. But it was not always so. In 1851, when J. Sparkes Hall filed a patent for his new footwear, then known as 'Elastic Ankle Boots', marketing emphasised practicality over panache. Hall declared that his boots 'require no lacing, buttoning, nor tying; they can be put on and off in a moment, without trouble or loss of time'. His footwear, then, was the perfect choice for nineteenth-century Britons who, in the early phases of industrialisation, valued products that made use of new technological processes and reflected the period's focus on productivity and earnest labour. The industrial process that made the Elastic Ankle Boots possible was the vulcanisation of rubber, a technique that involved heating rubber and combining it with sulphur to make it harder and, crucially, more elastic.

Today, suede Chelsea boots are probably more common than leather, although it is not entirely clear why or exactly when this preference became preponderant. The Gentleman's Art of Dressing with Economy, first published in 1876, assumed that elastic-side boots would be leather. This makes sense, for the use of suede by Hall, which is generally more fragile than non-suede leathers, would have run contrary to his marketing campaign. On a similar theme, the book's anonymous author, who referred to himself as 'a lounger at the clubs', advised that the boots should not be worn with mock buttons or imitation lacings. He also disapproved of women wearing this style of footwear, although Queen Victoria was known to do so. He wrote, dismissively:

I would say the same style of boot worn by her sex is ill adapted to any above the social rank of general servant and Mile End mantuamaker.

Evidently, Hall's boots were proving to be very popular and some form of sartorial – and gendered – segregation was deemed necessary! Chelsea boots worn by Mods and the Beatles in the 1960s also appear to have been leather, predominantly black, which was most befitting of these young men's ascetic and edgy appearance. The Avenger's star, Patrick Macnee, who played the effortlessly stylish John Steed, did sport suede Chelsea boots, however.

Then, as now, suede would have been considered a more informal and luxurious choice of material for footwear. The popularity of suede Chelsea boots reflects how the association of Hall's Elastic Ankle Boots with the Sixties' 'Youthquake' made them an iconic style of footwear, and wardrobe staple for style conscious men – and women – the world over. Still practical – as the original marketing of 1851 claimed, they avoid 'the annoyance of laces breaking, buttons coming off, holes wearing out, and many other imperfections in the ordinary modes of fastening' – but with the accumulated associations of an Empress, rock musicians and intergalactic soldiers – the Imperial Storm Troopers in Star Wars wear white Chelsea Boots – the boots possess an audacious allure, of which Hall would have been pleased; the 'Lounger', perhaps, less so.

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