King Henry VIII’s football kits boots were listed within the Great Wardrobe of 1526, a shopping list of the day. They were made by his personal shoemaker Cornelius Johnson in 1525, at a cost of 4 shillings, the equivalent of £100 in today’s money. Little is known about them, as there is no surviving example, but the royal football boots are known to have been made of strong leather, ankle high and heavier than the normal shoe of the day.
Moving forward 300 years saw football developing and gaining popularity throughout Britain, but still remaining as an unstructured and informal pastime, with teams representing local factories and villages in a burgeoning industrial nation. Players would wear their hard, leather work boots, which were long laced and steel toe-capped as the first football boots. These football boots would also have metal studs or tacks hammered into them to increase ground grip and stability.
As laws become integrated into the game in the late 1800’s, so saw the first shift in football boots to a slipper (or soccus) style shoe, with players of the same team starting to wear the same boots for the first time. Laws also allowed for studs, which had to be rounded. These leather studs, also known as cleats, were hammered into the early football boots, which for the first time moved away from the earlier favoured work boots. These football boots weighed 500g and were made of thick, hard leather going up the ankle for increased protection. The football boots would double in weight when wet and had six studs in the sole. The football boot had arrived…
Football boot styles remained relatively constant throughout the 1900’s up to the end of the second world war. The most significant events in the football boot world in the first part of the twentieth century were the formation of several football boot producers who are still making football boots today, including Gola (1905), Valsport (1920) and Danish football boot maker Hummel (1923).
Over in Germany, Dassler brothers Adolf and Rudolf formed the Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) in Herzogenaurach in 1924 and began producing football boots in 1925 which had 6 or 7 replaceable, nailed studs, which could be changed according to the weather conditions of play.
Football boot styles shifted significantly after the end of the second world war, as air travel became cheaper and more international fixtures were played. This saw the lighter, more flexible football boot being worn by the South Americans being thrust onto the world stage, and their ball skills and technical ability amazed all those that watched them. Football boot production shifted to producing a lighter football boot with the focus on kicking and controlling the ball rather than simply producing a piece of protective footwear.
1948 saw the formation of the Adidas company by Adolf (Adi) Dassler after a falling out with his brother that was to form the cornerstone of football boot maker rivalry for the preceding years up to today. Brother Rudolf founded the beginnings of the Puma company in 1948, quickly producing the Puma Atom football boot. This led to interchangeable screw in studs made of plastic or rubber for the first time, reputedly by Puma in the early 1950’s but the honour is also claimed by Adidas (Read the Story on Footy-Boots). Football boots of the time were still over the ankle, but were now being made of a mixture of synthetic materials and leather, producing and even lighter shoe for the players of the day to display their skills with.