If you enter a leather bar, there’s a good guarantee you’ll see a few obligatory items on everyone. A harness, some type of underwear, and boots. Look down and you’ll see a sea of leather boots. Tall ones, short ones, some with buckles, and some with no laces at all. For some reason I can't quite explain, boots are just hot. They were one of the first leather pieces I owned (from Goodwill, but I still count it) and they started my snowball into the leather world. I’m not a huge foot fetish person (not saying I’m not a foot fetish person though), but the level of dominance that comes with cleaning a Sir’s boot, caring for the leather item that encases the foot of the one you worship, is truly intoxicating. Boot culture and boot worship in our leather community come from its connection to strength and dominance going centuries back, and today there is a whole group of Bootblacks who specifically dedicate their service to caring for the leather pieces in our community.
I definitely fell down a rabbit hole while trying to research the history of boots in leather culture, passing boot fetishism, boot worship, bootblacking, and the origins of the sexualization of boots in general, which I feel is all too much to get into in an article that is supposed to be primarily about how to care for your leather boots, so please look out for another article coming up next month called “Boot Love”, which will get much more into the history of the fetish of boots. I’ll also talk to a few my friends about how their boot fetishes started.
I can say that I was able to piece together that at least for gay men (because most of the boot types I'll be talking about are worn mostly by gay men at leather bars), boot culture came from a similar place as harness culture, which I talked about in my last Loving Your Leather article. Much of the leather culture came from the combat influence of post-World War 2, and the biker clubs that motorcyclists would frequent in the 50’s and 60’s. The first official International Mister Leather would happen in the 70’s, cementing the leather culture in the LGBT world.
And of course I couldn't talk about boots without mentioning the act of bootblacking, which, when googled, just seems like it’s a word synonymous with shoe-shining, but involves so much more than that. In our community, a Bootblack is a member who helps to care for the many leather pieces around (boots, harnesses, vests, hats, etc.), and is seen as an act of service and as pleasurable as a massage. Depending on the Bootblack they may offer other things like cigar service, chocolate and whiskey, or a quick shave. But primarily, the Bootblack’s mission is to clean and polish the leather pieces of their patron. It can be seen as an act of submission and service, or as an act of dominance and control. Bootblacking is so popular in the community that there are many Bootblack competitions, and International Mister Leather holds a subsequent Bootblack competition at the same time every year. (https://www.imrl.com/bootblack-contest/)
While in the rabbit hole about history, I was reading about boot fetishism on Wikipedia, and I ran into this paragraph that made me giggle with how it made gay men sound like animals in a nature documentary, BUT, it did actually teach me something important near the end:
It helped me by catagorizing the types of boots commonly seen at leather bars. I will say that I’m leaning into more of the masculine boot styles, so I won’t be talking today about the feminine boot styles like Heeled boots and Ballet boots. But I will be touching on those more in “Boot Love”. So right before getting into my care tips, I want to give some visuals and descriptions to those types of boots mentioned in my pull from Wikipedia.
As the name would suggest, these are a style of boot that comes from being worn in combat by militaries. They’re usually all leather or commonly a mixture of leather and heavy canvas or another woven material. The top picture I’ve included is closer to what an actual combat style boot worn by a solider might have looked like, but the 2nd picture of the Doc Martens is an example of a super modernized type of combat boot, used primary now for fashion.
Rigger Boots are a type of boot used mostly in the construction field. A working man’s boot. To keep on brand I found a picture of a black one, but most of them are a light tan or camel color. The marker of a rigger boot is that it’ll (usually) have no laces, and be a little flared out at the top to make them easy for workers to pull on quickly, sometimes over another shoe. They’re also usually slightly insulated to keep the ankle safe.
Jump boots look very similar to combat boots, and when not being used for their actual profession- i.e. on a random hot guy in a dark bar- it’s hard to tell them apart at all. But jump boots are used by paratroopers, who parachute to the ground and need a little extra support in their footwear. The toe and heel is reinforced for strength when touching down, and the lace up to about the calf provides specific ankle support.
Motorcycle boots are fairly self explanatory. They’re boots that are used for riding motorcycles. I included a picture of this Harley Davidson motorcycle boot mainly because it’s one I’ve been drooling over for months. But it also shows some of the important aspects of a motorcycle boot: the strong pronounced sole and the strap over the laces for added protection. I like this one because of the added metal elements, something found often in motorcycle boots. However, many motorcycle enthusiasts would probably call this boot a little short. Many of them are about calf height.
Lastly, are Riding boots! These are used in horse riding. They usually don't have laces, and they're tall, going up to the knee or just underneath. They keep them without laces and so plain like that so there isn't any hardware to harm the horses that are being ridden. But of course, there are also laced options. Boot fetishism in general is said to have stemmed from the sensuality and dominance of female riding boots in the 17-1800s
Now, to jump into the care tips! Obviously the best thing you can do for your boots is polish them, but there are other important steps as well!
- Know what type of leather you have - The first step to caring for your leather boots is making sure you know about them! That is, that you know the type of leather they're made out of. For the types of boots I’ve talked about, worn in bars, they’ll mostly be made from a Cowskin leather. But that may not be the case, especially as cheaper materials are being covertly used these days. Make sure you check that information when you purchase your boots, or if buying secondhand, ask a local Bootblack or leather-crafter what they think your boots are made out of. Usually, their knowledge can be trusted. But, I also ran across this great article from ThreadCurve that gives you a great visual of a lot of the other common types of leather you’ll see in the world. (https://threadcurve.com/types-of-leather-boots/)
- Buy boot shaper inserts - One thing that will help a lot with the maintenance of your boots are shaper inserts. Most of these, and the easiest ones, just look like plastic squares that you roll/fold into a boot shape, and stick into the boot. Simple as that. The structure and the tension keeps the boot standing upright, instead of falling over on itself. I’ve also seen some shaper inserts that are inflatable, and a smart DIY version, where a friend took a couple of summer pool noodles and cut them up into boot inserts.
- Get the right shoelaces - It might sound silly, but shoelaces can be a very important part of caring for your boots! They are the part of the boot that you interact with the most, right? Plus nothing is worse than getting ready to go out to the leather bar and having your shoelace snap. I've found the most durable for my boots to be woven nylon, giving it that braided look, with a waxed finish, which is what makes it look a little shiny and feel rigid.
- Polish Polish Polish! - I know I mentioned this at the beginning, but being the most important step, I feel it should be mentioned again! Make sure to give your boots a good polish. It’s smart to have a couple of rags set aside specifically for this use, because shoe polish will stain most clothes and towels. Also, it’s smart to actually use a saddle soap first, to clean the leather, and then use a shoe polish to give it a shine. Don’t do this too often though, just every few months.
- Take a chance to visit a local Bootblack - And of course, if you're able to sit down with a Bootblack, do it! A lot of leather bars and events will allow a Bootblack to set up and take care of their bar patrons, usually on a donation basis, and many of them give those donations to charity, to keep it as an act of service rather than an act of profit. Sitting down with a Bootblack can be a very relaxing and sensual experience, and you’ll walk away with clean and shiny boots! Sounds like a win-win to me.
Some of the leather crafters near you, or leather shops online, carry leather boots but it can feel hard to find the perfect style of boots that you want. Goodwills and other second hand stores can be a great place to look for boots on a budget (which I often am). Also Ebay is wonderful, or another app with a similar buying/selling function called OfferUp. If you have the money, or if you just want to swoon over boots, my favorites are on the Harley Davidson Footwear website (https://www.harley-davidsonfootwear.com/US/en/home), and a great place to find a very wide selection is Stomper’s Boots (https://stompersboots.com). The other items I mentioned in the case section (boot shapers, shoelaces, saddle soap, and polish) can all be found through online shopping.
I hope in this article I was able to help you understand a little bit more about your leather boots and how to care for them, but there’s still so much more to be explored in the fetishization area, so once again please look out for another article I’ll be putting out next month called “Boot Love” that will be diving much deeper into boot worship and its origins. Being someone who already loved boots and have felt arousal just by looking at them, learning more about this topic and the service aspect behind it has absolutely strengthened my fascination with it, and my willingness to submit. I don’t know if I’ll become a Bootblack myself, but I'll definitely seek out situations where I may attempt to service someone like one.
And as a final takeaway from my article, could we all please give a big round of applause and a resounding THANK YOU to the Bootblacks in our community who continue to care the leather that covers our scene and keeps us all looking sexy.