Now that we’ve opened up the paratrooper fashion trunk the next special airborne uniform piece that has made the list is the infamous “Jump Boots.”
The United States’ Airborne Soldiers were one of the most specialized group of individuals during World War Two and were equipped and uniformed as such. Their overall combat uniform was the M-1942 Paratrooper Uniform, which consisted of the M42 Jump Jacket and the first combat cargo trousers issued in the 20th century. The uniform would not have been complete without a nice shiny pair of boots to go with it.
One of the primary reasons why paratroopers were issued specialized uniforms was due to the nature of their missions. Airborne units would be expected to sustain themselves and fight behind enemy lines for days on end. The cargo pockets on their uniform were needed for extra equipment and ammunition. Their boots however were designed to give extra ankle support for rough parachute landings. They were designed by Lieutenant Colonel Yarborough who also designed the actual Parachutists Jump Wings, the M-1942 Uniform and also various other parachute delivery equipment.
The boots would cause ripples across military history and most recently in the world of fashion. The boots were unique in the sense that they were calf length and completely leather. The reason why this was so unique was that up until this point, American soldiers and the majority of soldiers in the world, were issued low-quarter or ankle boots with some type of wool wrap or canvas leggings/gaiters. This measure was implemented because the low quarter boots needed to be worn with their dress uniform and also in combat. This division of combat uniforms and dress/formal uniforms is covered in further detail in an earlier post.
The actual paratrooper boots became a symbol of the airborne soldiers and were highly sought after by other non-airborne soldiers. Even today in the airborne community and often heard at the United States Jump School a “leg” is a normal or regular soldier. The term originated in WWII and was originally “Straight leg” and this referred to the lack of bloused trousers on non-airborne soldiers. This perpetuated the symbolism of the Jump boots because paratroopers bloused their trousers into their boots. The act of blousing their boots and their M-1942 Paratrooper Cargo Trousers led to German soldiers famously nicknaming Paratroopers “those devils in baggy pants.” They were so desired that during the war, non-airborne Soldiers would just about trade anything to get ahold of a pair. This would also cause some fights between real paratroopers and those who would wear them on leave or furlough. A hot set of boots as you can see!
The boots themselves were eventually replaced by the “Double Buckle” M-1943 Combat Boots beginning in 1944, around the time of Operation Market Garden in Holland. Many paratroopers retained their jump boots and continued to wear them until the end of the war and during the early years of Germany and Japan’s occupation. Although the American military had converted to the “Double Buckle” boots at the end of the war, the popularity and durability of the Jump Boots was hard to ignore and eventually a version of them were issued to all soldiers in the Korean War and in the early stages of the Vietnam War. The boots themselves have gone through various configurations and they have been one of the many models of boots that have been the “boots on the ground” for every American conflict since WWII up until modern day.
Their popularity and transition can be seen in the photographs below.
The WWII Version compared to the Vietnam War era version and Modern Dress Uniform Version.
The Tactical Jungle Version & The Desert Tan Version of the Jump Boots.
All the versions of the boots showcased above can be found online at ShoeLine
The boots have become quite popular and can be seen worn in their original reproduction versions from WWII or their designer versions.
The WWII Reproduction Versions of the boots are popular in the Vintage clothing / Rockabilly fashion communities.
The boots continue to be a symbol of an elite group of soldiers in the United States Army, being that the soldiers on “Jump Status” can wear Jump boots with their dress / formal uniforms bloused and everything. Featured below.
A modern American Soldier wearing the Army Service Uniform (ASU) w/ Jump Boots.
The original WWII Boots are extremly hard to find, but you may have luck finding them on eBay or at antique / military shows. I will warn you though that you can expect to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars for an original set of WWII Paratrooper Boots. WWII Corcoran Reproductions and the modern versions featured in the post, can be found at any surplus store or online.
I have listed below some quality reproduction companies that sell the WWII Brown Version of the boot.
WWII Impressions $140.00
T.F. Quilty Co. $139.00
At The Front $135.00
American Jump Boots were designed to jump out of airplanes, land behind enemy lines, and survive combat. That might be a lot to ask of a normal military set of boots, but Jump Boots met the challenge and proved their worth, conflict after conflict.
With a set of these boots on, there really isn’t any runway or challenge you couldn’t conquer in your daily missions.