The History Behind Those Coveted Chanel Boots

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02 - FW_1991-92 RTW_Ad campaign by Karl Lagerfeld
A/W91 CampaignPhotography by Karl Lagerfeld, courtesy of Chanel

Whether adorning supermodels’ ankles or making movie cameos, Gabrielle Chanel’s favoured footwear continues to inspire today

Although Gabrielle Chanel wore her leather mid-calf motorcycle boots for almost any occasion, the esteemed designer never included a pair in her collections. “My ankles swell a little and with these boots, you can’t see a thing! One day we’ll do them for the collection,” she once insisted, though she never fulfilled the promise. Karl Lagerfeld has honoured his predecessor’s shoe of choice on countless occasions, however; one of his latest incarnations – the cap-toed, two-tone glitter extravaganzas that appeared for A/W17 – have already long transcended the catwalk, working their way onto every influencer’s feet, and into Instagram feeds and fantasies.

Not just an it-shoe, the classic Chanel boot boasts a rich history. Mademoiselle Chanel’s own pairs were created by Raymond Massaro, head of the house of Massaro – now part of Chanel’s collection of Métiers d’Arts. Then, her ankle-flatterers were cut from a blue felt that was almost black, occasionally appearing in a combination of white and blue. One of the biker boots’ most memorable outings was on a string of quilted-leather-clad supermodels for one of the most iconic campaigns of the early 90s. Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista (pictured above) were joined by Cindy Crawford, Stephanie Seymour, Karen Mulder, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen and Naomi Campbell in numerous editorial echoes of this moment.

Their appearance in thigh-high leather for A/W05 was immortalised in that make-over scene in The Devil Wears Prada and reiterated in the Paris-Byzance Métiers d’Art show in 2010. The rubber rain-boot form, seen afoot Lagerfeld’s recent waterfall backdrop for S/S18, was first introduced for A/W94, while other iterations – yetti-like faux-fur, crystal, two-tone leather, embroidered, and couture sock-boots, to name a handful – have engrained the boot firmly in our collective fashion memories. The Chanel boot might be the perfect example of Karl Lagerfeld’s infinitely woven narratives, his ability to pool inspiration not only from Mademoiselle Chanel’s pioneering vision but from her singular way of life.