Maniatis Bottier (French, founded 1920). Boots, 1920s. Left: Black leather, gold leather trim, and black twined cotton laces. Alfred Z. Solomon-Janet A. Sloane Endowment Fund, 2007 (2007.56a, b). Right: Red leather with black leather trim. Alfred Z. Solomon-Janet A. Sloane Endowment Fund, 2007 (2007.57a, b).
Maniatis, who was born in Greece, provided customized footwear for the likes of Cary Grant and Jean Gabin from his Paris shop in the ninth arrondissement. His location, near the Pigalle red-light district, perhaps helps to explain the design of these boots. They do not appear to be made for the stage, as their soles—original—are only lightly worn. They are also not of any fashionable style of the 1920s. In fact, they are most similar to late-nineteenth-century designs. While the exaggeratedly high and narrowed heel suggests a detail originating in the fetish community, the uppers appear to be cobbled from the conventional design of a Belle Epoque boot but with the addition of another panel to extend it over the thigh.
Although The Costume Institute collection comprises fashionable examples of dress and accessories from the last three centuries, an exception was made for these fetish boots, with their extremely high and tapered heels. The boots anticipate by at least a decade the stiletto heels of postwar fashion and illustrate the incorporation of designs originating from a world of highly specialized and esoteric tastes into the larger, ostensibly more normative, culture. The tendency of fashion to co-opt taboo and exotic elements from other periods, cultures, or, as in this instance, the demimonde, is one strategy employed for its constant reinvigoration.