Since the 1960s, mod clothing has maintained its spot in sub-culture fashion. Boosted by films such as Quadrophenia and This is England, items such as Harrington jackets, polo shirts and stonewash jeans have proved to be mainstays of the mod lifestyles. A lesser known style staple of mod culture though is the monkey boot.
A monkey boot is a military style ankle boot, made from leather and with an unmistakable tractor tyre sole. Over the years these stylish shoes have been pictured being worn by music legends such as Pete Townshend and the Modfather himself, Paul Weller.
So how did these classics come to be so popular?
Life for the monkey boot began in Czechoslavakia as the Nazis were invading during world war 2. They stopped being used solely by the army and were embraced by the public in the 1960s, just at the time that polos were being buttoned up and braces were being clipped as the mod culture was springing to life with the ferocity of the guitar riffs that its followers bopped along to.
Like the equally loved Doc Martens, monkey boots were manufactured for work. These boots were tough, made with thick leather and even thicker rubber soles. Like the old saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and monkey boots are testament to this, keeping the same design, and in some cases being made in the same factory as they were many decades ago.
The rise to prominence in this time took an unusual route. Monkey boots became a popular choice of shoe in many households, but not among the men. They were inexpensive, and came in many different sizes, which made them the ideal boot for women and children. But it wasn’t long before these boots caught the attention of the mods.
At this time, the boots were made in their homeland of Czechoslovakia. Companies such as Svit, Zuch and Cebo were making monkey boots that look almost identical to the ones available now. Soon other countries began to take note, and monkey boots were more available in the UK. The style is still going strong, and the boots are still being made to this day, including our very own Ikon Original versions.
So how can you spot a monkey boot?
Luckily, there are a few very specific characteristics. Firstly, the tractor tyre sole. Impossible to miss even from the side, this pattern leaves a teeth-like shape along the edge of the sole, and a bottom of the shoe that looks just like, well, a tractor tyre.
Next up is the leather, most famously in oxblood red or black, it rises to the ankle where it is surrounded by a leather trim. Bright stitching covers the heel, and the middle of the shoe, often in an M shape. The oxblood traditionally is matched with yellow stitching and laces, and the black stays all black. The yellow stitching can be found on the Oxblood Cebo boots that were one of the most popular among the young mods of the 60s who were beginning to bring these boots to the
They’re famously tough to begin with, but once moulded, will be loyal shoes for years to come due to their durable build and materials. Once worn in, you’ll never look back. These boots are just as tough as they were in the 60s, and one of the most famous manufacturers, Grafters, are actually still producing monkey boots from the exact same factory they were back then.
Monkey boots were still worn throughout the 70s, but were again mostly worn by children and women, who throughout this decade continued to enjoy them. They were even issued as school uniform in some areas, and were pictured being worn by policemen.
Despite monkey boots not being as widely known as other mod shoes such as Doc Martens, they are still known among the mods as a timeless piece of mod fashion. Doc Martens even make their own version of the monkey boot, albeit using their famous air wair sole instead of the tractor tyre sole that makes a monkey boot so easy to spot.
At Mazeys, we are firm lovers of the rugged style of the monkey boot, and are proud to stock many different versions in our Ikon Original range, including traditional designs and more modern approaches.
So why have monkey boots stayed such a staple of mod fashion?
Well, above all else they’re a great boot. It’s not easy to find an everyday boot that is tough, durable, and affordable. The monkey boot ticks all three. Secondly, it’s now a classic. From its mysterious past in Czechoslavakia, to its emergence as a mod favourite in the 60s, the monkey boot has been on the feet of women, men and children throughout the decades, right up to now.
What makes these boots such a popular choice in my opinion is that they’re unlike anything else. It doesn’t take a second glance to spot a pair of monkey boots. They’re unmistakable sole, bright yellow laces and thick leather body have an immediate effect.
For over half a century, mods have worn the fashion that surrounds their culture, and monkey boots are part of that fashion. At Mazeys, we’re proud to make our own Ikon Original versions and to be a part of the story of this historic footwear.
Long live the monkey boot!