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The World of Jean Gaborit

Makers 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.

 

Featured Posts

Mystery in Montmartre

The discovery of a 1930s Parisian taxi sealed away for decades in a secret chamber beneath an old house in Montmartre brought a mystery to our doorstep – one which eventually led to the making of our authentic pre-war leather motoring coat, the Gabin.

Finely turned heels

The slender elegance of a high heeled boot is wonderfully easy to see and admire - who can help but notice! - but have you ever given thought to the design, craftsmanship and engineering that goes into creating the heels themselves? Or the careful...

The Art & Sole of Custom Boots

Once upon a time every boot-maker worthy of the name custom made their own boot soles – it was simply a part of the deal. After all, the sole is literally the foundation of a boot. Getting this part right is essential to crafting a pair of perfectly fitting custom boots. The only way to ensure this is to custom make each boot sole, individually, in house, to the precise size and shape of each client’s foot. And that is precisely what we do.

Summer of the American Soldier

One of the many pleasures of being a bespoke boot-maker is meeting our customers and hearing their stories – like this one that led to the development of our popular Aviator boots, an authentic WWI design. It all began with the discovery of a mysterious old pair of boots in the attic of a house in La Rochelle…

The Curious History of Men in Heels

An exhibition called Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels is on display at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto Canada. It explores the story of more than 400 years of heel wearing by men, from 17th century aristocrats to the rock stars of today. We talk to curator Elizabeth Semmelhack about men in heels.

Wellington – And Those Boots

“If Lord Wellington had any boot maker other than myself,” crowed George Hoby, Regency London’s most fashionable celebrity bootmaker, “he would never have had his great and constant successes, for my boots and prayers bring his Lordship out of all his difficulties.” If Hoby said so himself. At the very least he helped design the classic boot style that bears the Iron Duke’s name to this day.

A motoring expedition in our Aviator boots

 

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.

 

Details of our Aviator boot. Fully gusset sewn to keep out all types of weather. Available up to a European size 54 – US men’s size 19.

From The Bootmaker’s Bench

Selecting the best leathers

Leather is one of the most beautiful and versatile materials known to man. It is also one of the oldest, having been used by bootmakers for thousands of years. As fine custom bootmakers we use many types of leather in our range of boots, from the chunky pit-tanned leather we in the soles of our men’s walking, riding and field boots, such as the Aviator, to the sheerest ultra-fine sheepskin we use to create our highly sensual stretch-leather Coco and Eros thigh boots. To learn more click here.

Have Trouble Finding Larger Sizes?

Anyone who has larger-than-usual feet knows how difficult it can be to find stylish footwear, and if you have really big feet it can sometimes seem downright impossible. It’s a problem faced by an increasing number of men and women these days as average foot sizes continue to get bigger while manufacturers typically stay within the same old traditional size ranges from decades ago. Shoppers looking for fashionable knee- and thigh-boots in larger sizes are generally out of luck. Not here at Jean Gaborit. We offer all of our styles in sizes up to 48 while certain of our motorcycle/field boot styles are available in sizes up to 54 – that’s approximately a US men’s size 19.   

Boot Care & Maintenance

Beau Brummell, the great arbiter of men’s fashion in Regency London, is said to have recommended using the froth from a freshly opened bottle of champagne to put a shine on one’s boots and keep the leather soft and supple. As discerning French boot-makers we can’t help but think of better uses for champagne. That said, fine leather boots do require a bit of care and attention to keep them at their best.  Here are a few tips.

Spotlight on a Style

The Volta

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

H = Q*(12+3s/8) – High Heels Meets Rocket Science

Physicists from Britain’s University of Surrey have devised a playful mathematical formula for determining your optimum heel height. The formula? h = Q (12+3s/8) And it seems to work!

Fabulous in High Heels

Aspiring to wear killer heels is one thing, walking beautifully in them is something else. For those willing to put in effort to achieve perfection, classically trained dancer and high-heel aficionado Sarah Toner offers a class called Fabulous in High Heels at her studio in London and has written a book for practicing at home

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.

Historical & Vintage

The (nearly) Lost Art of Making A Proper Hessian Boot

At Jean Gaborit we go to great lengths to ensure that our historic and vintage boots are authentic down to the tiniest detail. It’s not always easy. Generations pass, old skills and methods are lost or forgotten, and the paintings and photos we’re left to work from seldom include the sorts of details a boot-maker needs to turn out a classic. Never was this truer than with our Hessian boots.

The Foch Trench Boot

One of our customers brought in a pair of century-old WWI trench boots worn by his father in the muddy battlefields of the Western Front and treasured by him for years afterwards. We were more than appreciative, we were captivated. And so came about our Foch Trench Boot – authentic in every detail, right down to the buckles from the same French firm that made the originals.

Blucher – The Other Boots on the Ground at Waterloo

Wellington’s were not the only stylish boots on the ground at Waterloo. Somewhat overshadowed by the Iron Duke – at least in the popular English retelling of the story – is the gallant Prussian field marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, whose eponymous field boot was adopted by armies all over Europe.

Fashion Boots

Boots for Guys

Vintage Boots