THE ETERNAL COOLNESS OF SNAKESKIN BOOTS
Everyone knows that the coolest rock star in history is Keith Richards, and the coolest element of his style were his snakeskin boots. The word Iconic has been overused to the point of meaninglessness, but those boots practically define the word.
When I was sixteen and living in London, a friend from California came to visit. His primary goal, it turned out, was to find a pair of python boots, "like Keith's." I hope he still has those boots, knee-high with a small platform. I would gladly kill him for them.
But before Keith, there was Marlon Brando in 1959, in the roll of a guitar-playing drifter in "The Fugitive Kind." He was a smoldering but vulnerable hunk, nicknamed Snakeskin after his battered snakeskin jacket. The jacket was a brilliant idea, adding to the metaphor of his character and establishing snakeskin as the garb of outlaws.
I'm using outlaw loosely, to include not just tormented drifters but also pimps, whose flair with snakeskin has given us the great pimp Icon (sorry but he IS an Icon, ask any pimpologist) Bishop Don "The Magic" Juan. Over the years, it's clear to see how pimp style has influenced rocker style, and there is quite an overlap. Think of Stevie Ray Vaughn, who took it to the limit, and also loved him some snakeskin boots.
But let's get back to Keith. In any coolness competition, Patti Smith is usually mentioned, quite rightly. And Patti Smith has named Keith Richards as her biggest influence and personal idol.
Who can blame her? Keith was the prototype for every guitar player, for every would-be rock star, for everyone obsessed with style. Keith made it look easy. The hair, the scarves, the earring, the attitude, and most unforgettably those snakeskin boots.
Personally, I have two pairs of snakeskin boots and I would have three if I hadn't given away a pair to an awful girl who didn't deserve them. They were blue pointy-toed cowboy boots that I got on eBay. If you're reading this, blue boots, come back to me! I promise to treat you better!
This season, high-end designers like Balenciaga and Margiela are sending snakeskin boots down the runway, after Saint Laurent paved the way in 2015. As GQ put it, "Big name designers and indie brands alike are embracing the most badass kind of animal skin boot." Ew! In any case, it's not a new trend, GQ, it's a tradition, for fucksake.
Axl Rose wore a snakeskin jacket and so did Gram Parsons. Ossie Clark made snakeskin jackets an everyday sight in 60's London, and his clients included Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Britt Ekland, Verushka, and Twiggy. His pieces from those days are now the Holy Grail for collectors. Most of us won't be able to find an affordable snakeskin jacket or coat, but boots are still within our reach, thank god.
Adam Lambert wears snakeskin boots and so does Jon Bon Jovi, but they can't take the cool away. The cool is embedded, thanks to Keith. His style has been copied by Lenny Kravitz, Steven Tyler, and Johnny Depp, to name just a fraction of wannabe's, but they forgot to start from the ground up. Hint to them: It's the boots.
Whenever I see a picture of a giant python, I see a pre-pair of boots with maybe a matching handbag and belt. That’s probably how a sculptor feels about a big block of marble. It is merely waiting to become art.
Miista is giving us snakeskin-patterned boots for spring, in two perfect colors: Aqua blue and a peachy pink. If I had to choose, I'd get both. Because there's nothing as satisfying, stylewise, to look down and see how dope your own boots are.