Monday, 4 April 2011

Mysterious Vintage Boots

Vintage shoe experts, step forward! I have already asked folks over at The Fedora Lounge about these boots but haven't had any confident responses so it's over to you readers to solve this mystery!

My other half found an interesting pair of boots in the car boot sale on Sunday morning and we'd really appreciate some help in identifying a) what kind of boots they are and b) how old they are. They're supersoft brown leather, with leather soles and eyelet lacing up the front. The aglets at the ends of the laces are metal. Stamped inside with 'Saxone' in gold, and some numbers. Soles are stamped with 640 N (N for narrow? They're barely 2 inches wide at the arch of the foot!) Length of the boots is 10 and a half inches approx. They have a small, wide flat heel.

My other half is convinced they're womens' because of the small width but I'm not sure at all. The other odd thing is that the soles haven't got any real wear and are dotted with holes indicating that maybe something was attached - ice skates perhaps? However, there is no ankle-support whatsoever, it's soft, floppy leather, and the laces don't come far enough down the boots as is normal on skates.

My research so far has shown that the Saxone Shoe Co. Ltd was founded in 1901 and they had a factory in Kilmarnock, Scotland. I think they even had two factories there at one point when business was obviously booming! They made both men and women's shoes, but I have no idea if they did indeed make ice-skates. They made military style boots in the 1915-1918 period as I've seen a couple of old newspaper ads on the web for that sort of thing - click here for an example.

I'd be interested to hear your views - pics are below to help stimulate your little grey cells!


  1. Oh gosh I want them so bad! I'm no shoe expert, so I can't help much :( But my best guess would be that they're from the teens or 20s, maybe women's hiking boots? It is odd about the holes in the soles though, they certainly have that center toe stitch like ice skates do.

    What's the width at the ball of the foot? Looks super narrow.


  2. Looking at the discoloured shape around the holes on the sole I would say that they had a metal plate attached to the sole rather than a skate. That would also explain why the sole has relatively little wear. Definitly women's boots. Hiking or cycling boots......

    To digress I remember buying shoes at Saxone in the 80's :-)

  3. I think these might have been mountaineering boots (the holes are for spikes to cross ice fields and so forth). Randomly enough, I did a doctorate dissertation that focused specifically on the subject of women mountaineers from the mid 1800s onwards and have OODLES of old images of women hikers and climbers, so I am going to look into them and see if I can find more!

  4. further to my other post: yep, I am pretty certain these are hiking boots with holes to add spikes for more mountainous climbing. Check out NZ climber Freda Du Faur (photo taken in the 1910s sometime)...she was wearing similar ones climbing Mt. Cook in the 1910s-1920s, and wore puttees or socks? over hers
    A very very very cool find!!

  5. me AGAIN! Just came to my mind that maybe they could be ski boots? Many early 20th century climbers wore crampons or boots with nails around outer edges of boots (though I do know hobnail boots undoubtedly must have looked like yours on the bottoms?). I am not really aware of how ski boots from the later 1910s to 20s fastened to the skis, but I have seen pics of women wearing ski boots that look just like these:
    Maybe the holes are where the boots fit onto ski brackets?

  6. Oh wow, thanks for all of this info ladies!! Especially those pics, Baroness!

    It's all so curious. I was dubious about them being ski-boots because I wondered if the fastenings across the front of the boots and round the back of the ankle would have left patches of wear in the leather. But maybe they were just not used that much. The seller had no idea of their history, so no joy there.

    I found a page about hiking on the Vintage Fashion Guild website here that's interesting:

    And one on The Painted Woman's blog about ski fashions here:

    Eep, I'll get some more pics uploaded too of the soles and insides, they're really gorgeous boots!

    Thanks all!

  7. Oh and a little history of ski boots here:

  8. I did have a flash of inspiration last night as I lay in bed that they might be early golfing boots, again they had spikes in the soles in a similar design.
    Sorry only shoes in this picture but you get the gist!

  9. I would agree with the Baroness in saying hiking boots, and also that they are definitely womens x

  10. YES, Miss Magpie. I was just going to post this idea. I showed these to my avid golfer husband and I also do think these are 1910s women's golf boots and the holes are for the cleats!!! Mountaineering hobnail boots usually had way more nails!! Makes sense: Scotland being the birthplace of golf and all!

  11. Here's a link to a photo. Makes complete sense now, as the cleats for golf boots and shoes are normally on the toe box.


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