Swellboy on… the hussar boot

A historic cavalry boot much beloved of Quentin Tarantino is the star of Stella Tennant and Isabella Cawdor’s new collection for Holland & Holland

Ludwig Reiter’s versatile Husaren boots for Holland & Holland (£995) are secured by a cunning combination of lacing and straps
Ludwig Reiter’s versatile Husaren boots for Holland & Holland (£995) are secured by a cunning combination of lacing and straps

Versatility is often lauded as a sartorial attribute, but I find that garments designed for multiple purposes can disappoint – I tend not to wear evening dress made of shower-proof stretch fabric with luminous weft. Actually, come to think of it, that is not a great example, as, if I were to mount the Pashley once more and cycle off into the West End, a stretchy, weather-proof, glow-in-the-dark dinner jacket might be just the garment I’d need to take me from saddle to soiree… but you get the idea.

Instead, I think that true versatility emerges over time, a truth that is amply (if not universally) acknowledged by the new boots that Holland & Holland is selling: with leather lacing that cunningly combines with an ankle strap and an extra strap at calf level for good measure. Robust soles and a waxy finish to the leather complete a robust country boot.

Thing is, this is not a new boot. It may be new to the Mayfair gunmaker, but anyone who served in the cavalry of the Austro-Hungarian Empire will recognise it immediately, as will anyone who went skiing in Austria between the two world wars or, for that matter, anyone who fancies himself as a scholar of the Tarantino oeuvre. A women’s version is made for Holland & Holland by Ludwig Reiter (which sells a male version, as does men’s style site The Rake), established 1885 in Vienna as a maker of cavalry boots, and appropriately enough bears the name Husaren (“Hussar”, £995).

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The clever lace/strap assembly was added about a century ago, by which time the Austro-Hungarian Empire may have been out of business, but winter sports were catching on and the hussar boot was appropriated by skiers who liked being able to operate the strap with one hand.   

Maybe it was while studying the history of the Habsburg-era cavalry or the equipment of interwar skiers that he first saw them… it doesn’t really matter… but Tarantino clearly knows his footwear, as the boots were given a prominent supporting role in Inglourious Basterds (which starred the Austrian actor Christoph Waltz).

Now they have caught the eye of fashion maven Stella Tennant, who has included them in the collection that she and Isabella Cawdor create for “Double Dutch” – if you are doing any late-season shooting, they are just the thing.

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But I am already thinking beyond that. Although I have yet to conceive of a summer use for the Hussar, I can quite see the style appealing to the luxury industry’s favourite architect Peter Marino, who, having already launched his own line of writing instruments with Caran d’Ache, should think about developing some motorcycle boots with Ludwig Reiter.

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