“High button boots were the dominant boot style for men and women through the end of the century. In the 1880s, James Morley began production of high button boots with a new sewing machine attachment that more securely stitched the buttons. The making of one pair of boots from start to finish could be accomplished in 15 minutes. Boots featured between 12-20 buttons depending on individual style and taste, and either a scalloped design around the button hole or a simple and plain lap. As the style continued into the 1890s, actresses and dashing women favored the high button boot for it’s fashionable method of hiding the ankle while hinting at the leg. The iconic Gibson Girl is shown wearing high button boots in the Edwardian style after 1900.
Because so many tiny buttons were on the boots, the button hook was invented. At first, they were a luxury item, but as they became more common they were viewed as a regular dressing accessory, much like a hairbrush and mirror. Button boots were considered more secure than laced boots because they didn’t come unlaced or loosen with wear through the day. Certainly there were many other styles of boots available for men and women, but just a quick browse through an antique ladies’ magazine will reveal that the high button boot was considered the most fashionable, the most modest, and the most necessary type of boot for ladies to wear. Men were encouraged to own a pair of laced shoes for bad weather, a pair of Oxfords for the summer and a pair of button up boots for all other occasions.
After the turn of the century, the high button boot lingered until World War 1. In 1914, rationing of leather and other goods necessary pushed the boots to the side and frugality took hold. The rise of hemlines and the flapper fashion demanded new shoe styles and the Mary Jane and T-strap styles took hold. In America, President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 announced that high button shoes would no longer be indexed on the Bureau of Labor Statistics charts. While they had waned for many years, the high button boot was officially “over” after a good 30+ year run of dominating shoe fashions.”