The Cultural History and Significance of Go Go Boots
When you think of a set of footwear that’s emblematic of a specific historical era, probably the best example In recent memory is Go Go boots. Even though still being worn today, they will always be most closely associated with social changes that occurred in North America in the mid-1960s. You might say the two things fit together like, well, a foot and boot.
Until that 1960s period, women’s boots had generally been simply utilitarian, designed for activities that were too strenuous for ordinary shoes, or just worn to protect the feet during bad weather. But in the 1960s, young people threw off many restraints of society, and these boots became not just a fashion statement, but were almost part of a uniform which signified that the young person was part of the “new generation.”
Go Go boots have a low heel with a pointed, rounded, or chiseled toe. They come up generally to mid-calf or almost to the knee (though some later versions climbed above the knee). At first, they were the popular dancing boot; hence their name, derived from the “Go Go dancers” in the new clubs and discotheques. The boots were usually made from plastic or vinyl, having a shiny modern look, coming in bright colors that matched the new dress styles. The typical boot was white, but women often purchased boots in shades corresponding with their accessories or clothing.
Most importantly, the boots were designed to display women’s legs as skirt hemlines rose higher. The shorter the skirt, the higher the boot seemed to climb. Eventually the footwear grew tighter, which further accentuated the shape of the leg, and the zipper or other fastening was frequently placed at the back of the boot, so the shiny, sleek, modern look wasn’t interrupted.
André Courrèges is the designer most often given credit for introducing the Go Go boot. In 1964, his collection featured what he called the “Moon Boot,” a white plastic, calf-high, low-heeled boot with a cut-out strip near the top. The look became popular, and soon this footwear went into mass production. Younger teens and girls usually wore a looser boot, but women went for boots with a tighter, sexier look.
In 1966, Nancy Sinatra further boosted the Go Go boot’s popularity with her hit song, “These Boots are Made for Walkin.” The brash, forceful lyrics, like the footwear, reflected the new independence and self-confidence experienced by many young women as the Sixties brought them more freedom.
Moving into the 1970s, Go Go boots evolved, often using more natural materials and sometimes featuring higher heels and laces up the front or down the back, instead of other fastenings. When skirts gradually lowered again, the boots also became less prominent as a fashion feature, once again evolving into more standard outdoor wear. They no longer stood as the symbol of a whole generation.
Yet the Go Go boot has never completely vanished, even if it now sometimes uses different names. Like other social changes of the 1960s, it has been assimilated into the wider culture. But the origins of this footwear style will forever be associated with the Sixties and the birth of an exciting new generation.