Leather thigh high boots being worn

Thigh-high boots, known also as thigh-length boots or simply thigh boots, are boots that extend above the knees to at least mid-thigh. Other terms for this footwear include over-the-knee boots, a name originally used for 15th century riding boots for men. These are sometimes called pirate boots, especially when cuffed. Over-the-knee boots are sometimes abbreviated to OTK boots. Lengths vary from reaching just over the knee to reaching almost to the crotch (referred to as crotch boots or crotch-high boots).

Thigh boots are made of materials such as leather, synthetic materials (including vinyl and sheet latex) or fabrics (including silk and polyester microfiber). Many are constructed with zippers, but some are designed as pull-on boots. Heel heights vary, but most styles are either flat or have high heels greater than 3 inches (7.5 cm). Heel styles vary from metal spikes to chunky. Like other boots, they can also have platform soles.

Thigh boots are considered by many to be erotic or kinky. They are used as fetish clothing in boot fetishism and shoe fetishism and also as part of leather fetishism and rubber and PVC fetishism. Cheaper thigh boots are often worn by female models, prostitutes and dominatrices, so many people consider them icons of such trades. Because of the latter, they are often associated with sadomasochism. Nevertheless, they are frequently sold by couture designers, perhaps because of the implied eroticism. Thigh-high boots are considered by many a symbol of women's power, authority and sex appeal.

The visual appearance of thigh-high boots depends on the length of the legs. Samantha Clark, in her book Outfits in Minutes, writes: "The shorter you are, the less leg there is above the top of the boot, when wearing footwear that ends above the knee. A very high heel helps to give the illusion of height, but when there is much more boot visible than leg; the effect is to optically foreshorten you."[1]


Late Victorian era

Pair of fetish boots, c. 1900, from a Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibit.

Laced leather boots were fashionable throughout the Victorian era for women. By the end of the 19th century, over-the-knee length laced leather boots were becoming a trend among London prostitutes wanting a style that would appeal to foot fetishists and clients interested in finding a dominatrix.[2]


Kinky boots, also referred to as fetish boots, are boots made typically with patent leather and high stiletto heels.[3] Their extreme characteristics intended to present a dramatic sexy appearance, such as by a prostitute or dominatrix. Characteristics often include very high heels, thigh- or crotch-high length, or unusual colors or materials.

Boots of this type, and specifically the thigh-high leather boots worn by Honor Blackman in her role as Cathy Gale in The Avengers, are referred to in the 1964 song "Kinky Boots" by Blackman and her Avengers co-star Patrick Macnee.

In fashion

In women's fashion, thigh boots run through cycles in both popularity and design. As referenced by several authors, the popularity of the motion picture Pretty Woman hurt the credibility of thigh boots as wardrobe staples.[4] Nevertheless, in any fall fashion season, one or more designers and retailers will take a chance on their appeal.[citation needed]

Like shoes in general, fashion thigh boots are marketed through several different channels. A key differentiator among these channels is the price point and construction:

Couture fashion designers marketing thigh boots will vary from year to year. Introducing a boot model is typically tied to the designer's theme for the line. These boots will typically be marketed at the highest price point for thigh boots and, usually, for shoes in general. Fashion designers market similarly, though at a lower price point.

A number of couture shoe design houses regularly include thigh boots in their collections, and the price point will be at a premium, just as with the couture fashion designers. Examples of these designers are:

Couture fashion designers regularly use the shoe design houses to design the boots and shoes for their collections.

Thigh boots are a regular staple of several Italian boutique brands, including:

The price point for these boots can be very high, particularly at retail boutiques, but will vary more than for couture designers. Some brands are available through eBay sellers and clearance sellers at discounted prices. The lowest price tier is typically the fashion retailers. Retailers who regularly market thigh boots in their line include:

Autumn 2010

In Autumn 2010, thigh-high boots repeated as a fashion highlight from Autumn 2009. Designers and fashion houses who showed them with their designs included:

Autumn 2009

The Autumn 2009 fashion season featured thigh-high boots as a key fashion accessory for the season, resulting in the style being declared a fashion trend in early 2009. Reaching a wider audience through fashion magazine editorials, the footwear style was shown in two different feature layouts in the September 2009 issue of US Vogue.[9][10] Numerous high street fashion stores featured thigh-high boots in their Autumn 2009 collections, with many fashion designers also featuring them in their ready-to-wear collections.

Miuccia Prada pushed the margins of fashion with her thigh boots designed for fashion.[11] One version even featured garters to suspend the tops from a belt. Right behind her was Stella McCartney,[12] featuring three crotch-length boots with synthetic uppers, in following with her usual animal-friendly practice. All three had snipped toes and extreme stiletto heels, and one featured a multi-patterned, pierced upper.

Other design houses showing thigh boots in their Autumn 2009 lines included:

As for the couture shoe designers, Christian Louboutin marketed no less than four different styles in Autumn 2009 – a front-lacing mid-thigh length with sculpted heel and hidden platform (Supra Fifré), a crotch-length, skin-tight boot with hidden platform, a chunky mid-thigh boot (Contente), and a chunky platform mid-thigh boot. In addition to one heeled thigh boot featuring an elastic cuff just above the knee and two pairs of flat over-the-knee boots in their couture line, Jimmy Choo's limited edition capsule collection for H&M[19] featured a mid-thigh black leather boot with a four-inch heel.

Spring 2009

Givenchy[20] kicked off the thigh boot trend conspicuously out of season in early 2009 with a western-style thigh boot in black leather.

Autumn 2008

Fendi[21] supported the thigh boot cause in Autumn 2008 with a chunky suede boot that featured a metallic leather accent around the ankle of the boot and at the top of the heel. The boot was carried by several different retail outlets and was available in black, brown, taupe, and gray.

Autumn 2006

Karl Lagerfeld styled all of his designs in the Autumn 2006 Chanel collection[22] with thigh boots. The boots were finished in a variety of materials, including black suede and different shades of blue denim.

Autumn 2005

Karl Lagerfeld showed the Chanel[23] black leather thigh boot with many of his Autumn 2005 designs that actress Anne Hathaway later wore in The Devil Wears Prada, which made her a fashion icon.

Autumn 2003

Narciso Rodriguez[24] created a stir in Autumn 2003 when almost half the models in his ready-to-wear show were wearing thigh boots with his clothing line. The boots featured four-inch heels and pointed toes. Phoebe Philo at Chloé[25] showed leather and suede thigh boots in several colors, including red and green, in addition to the more typical black and brown.

Autumn 2001

Roberto Cavalli[26] showed many of his designs in Autumn 2001 with thigh boots. The boots featured four-inch heels and pointed toes.

Thigh-high boots in contemporary media

Thigh-high boots have been worn by many celebrities in recent years. Ariana Grande has incorporated many styles of thigh-high boots into her signature look. Because of this many articles were published advertising thigh-high boots, resulting in a surge of demand for the item.[27][28] This could also be linked to the fact that the years of 2018–2019 saw a trend of popular 90's trends becoming fashionable again.[29]


See also: boot fetishism

Black vinyl fetish thigh-high (or thigh-length) boots
Red vinyl fetish thigh boots as art

Thigh boots as articles of fetish clothing date back to at least the 1950s when Irving Klaw used them in the costuming of the women in his erotic photography. Since that time, they have been a staple of fetish and adult photography. For instance, Bob Guccione photographed the 1982 Penthouse Pet of the Year, Corinne Alphen, in a pair of black leather thigh boots for her feature layout. Similarly, Dwight Hooker photographed the Playboy 25th Anniversary Playmate, Candy Loving, in white leather over-the-knee boots for her layout.[30]

Until the 2000s, fetish thigh boots were generally distinguished from fashion boots by being more extreme in many design dimensions, particularly heel height and platform height. In the late 2000s, this trend slowly changed as some couture designers, particularly Christian Louboutin, experimented with more extreme designs in their shoes. Consequently, the difference between the two now[when?] is more a function of the materials used. In particular, fetish thigh boots tend to be constructed of polyurethane (PU) or vinyl (often[when?] incorrectly referred to[by whom?] as patent leather).[citation needed] In addition, they are generally[further explanation needed][vague] produced in China and sold at low cost[clarification needed]. Some European cobblers have specialized in higher-priced thigh boots for the fetish market.[citation needed]

Iconography and symbolism in motion pictures

Motion pictures in which thigh boots were prominent in an actress' wardrobe include:

See also

Media related to Over the knee boots at Wikimedia Commons


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