Wednesday, September 19

Winklepickers: a history

Just like skinny jeans, the winklepicker shoe or boot is something that no self-respecting follower of The New Thing, male or female, should be without. (If you hadn't worked it out yet, the word 'winklepicker' comes from the sharply pointed toe, which is like a spike used to pick winkles out of their shells, see?). The shoe has an illustrious history, and has clad the feet of many an eminent subculture throughout the 20th Century.

The original winklepicker, although rare, was first worn in the 1920s and 30s, largely in the USA and usually with spats and a suit. The footwear went out of fashion in the 1940s, but when the new generation of 'teen-agers' began worrying their parents in Britain in the early 1950s, dressing in Edwardian suits and listening to rock'n'roll, one of their shoes of choice was the winklepicker.

As these Teddy Boys became Rockers in the 1960s, they started wearing more practical shoes for motorbiking around London, and their sworn enemies the Mods began to wear winklepickers to set off their Italian suits. Their style was to wear pointed Chelsea boots, with elastic down the side and high Cuban heels, and these were adapted by The Beatles to form part of their famous mop-top 'look'.

As the Mod culture died down and Swinging London became a hippy commune instead of a Lambretta parking lot, winklepickers went out of style yet again. But in the late 1970s, when The Jam were fusing modern punk with classic Mod rhythms and styles and The Who's Quadrophenia was released as a film, pointed Chelsea boots became fashionable once more. They leapt the gap from second-wave Mod to followers of both New Wave, who invariably teamed them with skinny jeans, and gothic post-punk.

As these cultures sadly died, the winklepicker slid into obscurity once more (although it did form part of the 'look' for both The Jesus And Mary Chain and Primal Scream, and some of the original goths have stuck loyally to their 'pickers). The current revival, on the feet of various individuals in the New Thing movement, is the most recent in the long chain, and, as well as being championed by many of the bands we feature here, the points are upheld by members of Klaxons, and The Mighty Boosh's Noel Fielding.

We at The New Thing recommend looking on the internet to find winklepickers, since they're still not part of mainstream fashion (again). Underground England tend to have a good range in their online shop as well as in their various stockists, and various goth-shops also sell them. You can also get vegan winklepickers online, if you have a problem with animals becoming fashion victims. Some of the more subculture-conscious shoeshop chains, like Office, also sell them.

Some people say winklepickers can make your feet go pointy. We say, 'fuck it, they look great'. Go and buy some, and bring the winklepicker back.


Ana Frightens said...

Winklepicker style shoes and boots have always seemed to be in style among certain gothic subcultures, being grouped together with other fetish footwear like brothel creepers and huge stacked platform heels.

If you're brave enough to go into fetish/"goth" shops, I recommend you do because it's hard to find cheap winklepickers online (over £70 for one pair?! It makes me cry. ) Plus, you can usually find winklepicker boots with stylised buckles and less common designs.

electriceyeonme said...

Ah wonderful you mentioned the vegan ones. They're normally cheaper than the leather ones as well for some reason.

Anonymous said...

Hello, check out for reasonably priced winklepickers :0)

Anonymous said...

i bought some from a few weeks ago, they're pretty cool but where i live no-one else wears them so everyone calls me Russell Brand, and he doesn't even wear cuban heeled boots does he? They're all wankers, and pointies FTW =D

jrokit said...

Have none of you heard of 1960 Winklepickers?
These are the ultimate original Winklepickers.
They are hand made in Italy by & designed by Robert Burnside here in England.
I recently purchased a pair & they are fantastic & really comfortable.
Check out the website for online purchases.

Anonymous said...

you should check out

i have a pair and the are awesome so comfy and look incredible