The World of Jean GaboritMakers of Fine Custom Boots and Classic Motoring Apparel
For nearly a century we have been crafting beautiful boots from the finest leathers at our workshop here in the Vendee region of France. It’s where we still design and make all of our boots today. Each pair is made-to-order, to your precise specifications and measurements, using skills and craftsmanship that have been passed down through four generations of the Gaborit family, who founded the boot-making business in 1922 and whose descendants remain intimately involved with the company today. We are passionate about what we do and love to share our passion and our stories with others. We hope you will enjoy our blog.
In 1908 the Duc de Montpensier made an expedition by motorcar through Indochina and later wrote a book about it – La Ville au Bois Dormant de Saigon a Ankor en Automobile (By Motorcar from Saigon to Ankor Wat), A century later two modern adventurers, journalists from the magazine Le Figaro, decided to retrace his footsteps, in spirit at least if not always on the original roads. We met them at a classic car show in Paris when their journey was still in the planning stages. They had been admiring the look of our vintage Aviator boots and wondering how a pair of such boots would fare on the long and difficult journey.
Very well, as it turned out. The duo needed boots that not only looked the part but were genuinely robust, comfortable in tropical conditions and able to offer protection against snakes and other crawlies. As for authenticity, our Aviator boots have quite a colourful backstory in their own right, being modelled on a pair of original WWI-vintage motorcycle boots left behind by an American soldier in 1918 and discovered in an attic in western France.
We made a pair of the boots to their specifications, treated the heavyweight leather so that it would stand up to the high levels of humidity and the rigours of the expedition. And off they went, suitably booted by us and attired in colonial-inspired clothing made by the French company Chapal, and looking as though they had stepped out of an old postcard. Driving a pre-war Citroen traction avant cabriolet and a Russian flat twin motorcycle, they set out from Saigon, with its whiff of French colonial charm, and meandered hundreds of miles through Vietnam, along the Mekong River and on to Ankor Wat in Cambodia.
They wore their boots throughout the journey and were filled with praise for them on their return. We understand they are still being worn and treasured to this day. They aren’t alone. Our Aviator boots have been used on expeditions and recreations all over the globe – from a vintage motorcycle expedition in Baja, Mexico to re-enactments of the 1907 Peking to Paris automobile rally. Above is a selection of some of the images that were shot during the course La Figaro’s Indo-China trip by French adventure photographer Thomas Goisque.
From The Bootmaker’s Bench
Spotlight on a Style
One of our most versatile and original styles the Volta is an over-the-knee boot that has struck a chord across a wide range of boot-lovers of both sexes since we first released it. Over the years we have seen it paired beautifully with mini-skirts on the one hand, and worn to stylish effect by equestrians on the other. As practical as it is elegant, the Volta – shown here in brown Nubuck suede – is fully lined and comes with a stitched leather sole for everyday wear.
Fashion & Glamour
Thigh boots – Sassy, Elegant, Demure and Daring
Jean Gaborit has been a name in high fashion and high boots boots for more than fifty years, going back to 1962 when Jean Gaborit – the grandson of the company’s founder – returned home from serving in the Algerian War and took over the running of the family business. Sensing change in the air, and looking around at the mood of austerity that had settled over France in the aftermath of the war, he decided to take the company in a bold new direction. He launched a collection of ladies fashion boots called ‘Copacabana’. Colourful, sassy and avant guard, the Copacabana collection grabbed the public’s imagination and became an immediate hit, splashing on the covers of glossy fashion magazines and becoming the latest fashion must-have in Paris, with the glamorous new boots selling faster than the company could make them. Success bred success. Another collection followed, then another.
By then the Swinging Sixties were in full swing. Mini skirts were getting shorter, while tall slinky boots were rising with the hemlines, their popularity helped along by TV shows such as The Avengers and Nancy Sinatra’s sizzling hot 1967 single These Boots Were Made For Walkin’. By the end of the decade the over-the-knee and thigh boot had become part of the cultural zeitgeist and enduring fashion icons – which they remain today, a staple of autumn fashion shows from New York to Milan. A feature in Britain’s Guardian newspaper declared the thigh boot to be boot fashion of the decade, “with help from Beyoncé, Kanye West even (British prime minister) Theresa May, the thigh-high boot is strutting its stuff in music, fashion and politics…”
Nobody knows the style better than Jean Gaborit. From demure over-the-knee styles that would look classy in the office to exuberant, flamboyant offerings that elevate the boot-maker’s craft to fine art, we have all the bases covered and in your choice of leathers, colours, and heel heights. And all made to your measurements, ensuring a perfect and enviable fit all the way up.
The Hilfiger File
Everyone knows that the world of high fashion works to tight, demanding deadlines. Just exactly how tight and demanding those deadlines can be we found out for ourselves when an stop-the-presses, hold-everything, order from Tommy Hilfiger lobbed into our e-mail inbox in the small hours of a Sunday morning. At first we thought it was some kind of a joke: could we make 14 pairs of custom thigh boots and have them in New York, ready for Fashion Week, in four days’ time? A flurry of e-mails back and forth across the Atlantic revealed that this was no joke; they were serious. It seemed that whoever was responsible for preparing their latest collection for the catwalk was also supposed to have arranged for custom thigh boots for the models to wear but had forgotten to do so. The show was in four days’ time, and they didn’t have the boots. Could we provide them?
We could certainly give it a try. It was after midnight when the request lobbed in. By 4am, we were set to go. By 9 o’clock on Sunday morning we had designed the boots and started cutting the leather. That evening we had leather sized and cut for 14 pairs of custom thigh boots. Monday morning and it was all hands on deck, and the sewing machines were rattling away in earnest. Lasts were prepared, soles were made, heels were trimmed and finished; every one of us was working flat-out.
Fortunately, since we are a full-custom boot-maker, we are capable of turning out entire boots in-house; no need to track down sub-contractors or send anything out to be done. We could do it all ourselves and we did. The team worked together like a well oiled machine. Clickers were cutting buttery soft leather leather in five different colours and crimping the vamps, before the girls in the closing shop took over and sewed these pieces into exquisite high boots. As each pair came off the sewing machine, it went to the guys who assembled them on the lasts they had prepared from the measurements Hilfigers people had supplied, and then put on the insoles they had crafted from scratch only that morning.
Hilfigers had promised to send a courier from New York to Paris to pick up the boots on Wednesday. Imagine our surprise then, when we heard the doorbell ring 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon and found a road-weary gentleman with an American accent standing on the doorstep eager to take delivery of the boots – a day early. They were that anxious to get them. Happily we had everything well in hand. We had a coffee with the rep while the boots were being given their final clean and polish. Then we loaded fourteen pairs of custom made thigh boots in the taxi, said our good-byes to the Hilfiger rep and sent him on his way to the Big Apple. Twenty-four hours later those boots were gracing the catwalk in the Hilfiger defile. And we were taking a well-earned rest.