Growing up, all my heroines wore big boots. I’m talking butt-kicking, Taking Care of Business, oversized boots that were, no doubt, the precursors to Harajuku street fashion. Sure the cutely-clad girls of Takeshita-dori, in their cartoonish platform footwear are a feast for alt-fashion-hungry eyes, but they owe a debt to their precursors – the big and small-screen ladies of my childhood whose boots were made for walking.
• Holly Hobbie (created in 1944) was my first idol. I had the calico-patterned lunchbox with matching thermos circa third grade. Holly took style cues from Laura Ingalls’ wardrobe (floral prairie dresses, patchwork aprons, floppy bonnets), which she paired with lace-up boots that said “horse farm” and “punk rock” at the same time. Though Marc Jacobs never named (as far as I know) Holly as an inspiration to his benchmark grunge collection, his flannel dresses and chunky boots seemed to send an army of Holly Hobbies down the runway. Re-launched two years ago, the updated Holly Hobbie sports rocker denim, floppy newsboy caps and — yep —big boots.
• Pippi Longstocking, a Swedish character created in 1945 for a children’s book series, blipped on to my radar with the broadcast show (filmed in Sweden starring Inger Nilson in 1969; adapted for American TV in the 1970s and 80s). Part Oliver Twist, part Peter Pan, Pippi embodied ragamuffin chic and rascally ingenuity. What to wear for such adventures? Smock dresses, artfully mismatched striped over-the-knee socks and blutcher boots.
• Rainbow Bright (created in 1984) rocked multi-colored moon boots with a mini dress. Somewhere between a drum majorette for the pride parade and a love interest for Napoleon Dynamite, Rainbow is for real, not fade away. Don’t believe me? Just keep an eye open for the day-glo costumes trotted out by countless thirty-something fans around Halloween.
• Lola, played by Franka Potente in the 1998 German film “Run Lola Run,” had Kool-Aid red hair, wielded a gun, and blasted through action scenes in thrift store pants and pull-on Doc Martens.
• Barabarella, played by Jane Fonda in the 1968 film of the same name, was a bit before my time. Yet her futuristic mod style is more enduring, and more often recreated, than any Bond girl. Who else could rock bikini briefs with cuffed leather boots? A big-budget remake is in the works for next year, rumored to star Rose McGowan. My only question: however will she top Fonda’s Go-go dancer-meets-Buckaneer style?
So, what do I take away from these ladies and their serious footwear? Well, girl-power, for one. Nothing wrong with a pair of stilettos, but it was nice to grow up with a TV-and-video Rolodex of female icons who could kick butt and look cute doing it. That my favorite — Holly Hobbie— has been reinterpreted through grunge fashion, Harajuku, and now an updated jeans-wearing version to inspire a next generation, makes me want to shop for a pair of really big boots.