All About Monkey Boots – From The Eastern Bloc To East London

With the constant talk about Americana and US-inspired heritage wear I’d say its about time to skip across the pond—or quite a few ponds, to be exact—and highlight a subcultural icon that has traversed the sands of time while managing to look better and better the longer they carry on. We’re talking about the Monkey Boot.

Thought to have been first created in what was then Czechoslovakia as military footwear, the Monkey Boot found its way to London’s East End and became a cult classic amongst skinheads and other subcultures. Nowadays, it’s produced by some of the finest bootmakers in the land and high-quality pairs regularly show up on our radar. With this in mind, we thought it was about time we took a closer look at this iconic style.

What Is A Monkey Boot?


Solovair Hi-Shine Monkey Boots Via Shoes International

Coming in darker colors such as black, brown, and oxblood, Monkey boots are a conventional mid-top, lace-to-toe-ish boot. with a leather or suede upper, embroidered detail (sometimes with contrast stitching) and perhaps most notably a rugged, beefed up, or lugged sole.

History Of The Monkey Boot


Vintage Monkey boot ad via Creases Like Knives

If you’re in the US, the phrase ‘monkey boot’ may mean nothing more than a boot for a cute little pet monkey. But for Europeans, this phrase goes much deeper than that. Thought to have been first created in Czechoslovakia as military footwear, the Monkey boot served its country proudly—that is until Nazi Germany took over, dissolved the Czech military, and likely stopped the distribution and production of said boots.

It is theorized that the pre-war stockpile was eventually liquidated after WWII throughout the continent, including to surplus stores in Britain, a place that like the US, subverted the drab functionality of military garb and made it their own. This was the catalyst for making people go bananas.


Girls in Monkey boots via Pat Burnside on Pinterest

Mixing elements of the high-top trainer, work boot, and hiking boot, with a little desert boot thrown in for good measure, the package may look like it was always meant to be, but there is a lot that goes into making this style unique. They were durable, easy to throw on and off, and went with just about anything in your wardrobe, it was a style too good to refuse for the East End kids who wanted to stand out from the Dr. Marten’s wearing crowd.

From kids and teens,  guys and gals, to mods and skinheads, the Monkey boot began infiltrating society through uniforms, cheaper alternatives to popular competitors like her aforementioned Dr. Martens, and durable exclamation points to outfits that served as a personal expression as much as a statement to the world.

Although written and recorded in 2010, Ska/Rocksteady Artist King Hammond’s “Monkey Boots” Captures just how prevalent the style was in skinhead culture


Vintage Grafter Monkey boots via Shoe Psycho (left) and via Creases Like Knives (right)

Like other types of boots throughout history, no one company had a monopoly on the Monkey boot. That’s why there were so many nuances in the model depending on the maker and even the country of origin. Czech exporters Cebo and Svit were notable makers from the homeland of the Monkey Boot, but a Polish manufacturer called Zuch also began producing the style which was heavily imported by British vendors after the style became popular in London.

The most notable maker, though, is Grafters. Arguably the archetypal Monkey Boot, Grafters have been made in the Czech Republic since 1969, before they were even branded ‘Grafters’ by British importers.

Who Is Making Them Today?


Solovair Monkey Boots via Union Clothing

Although not as popular today as during their peak, the heritage of Monkey boots is alive and well. From brands that have lived through the original hype such as Grafters, to newer, but just as dedicated brands like George Cox and Solovair, the original style is strongly represented. Even Dr. Marten’s has gotten in on the action.

And just as there are examples that stay true to the founding boots of yesteryear, there are some elevated examples that rock the boat, not because of details added, but rather details removed. For instance, the Trickers Super Monkey Boot evokes Monkey Boot energy with a lace-to-toe design but without the embroidered embellishments and even different soles, opting for some Vibram action.

Tricker’s x HAVEN Weather-Resistant Monkey Boots, available for $822 from HAVEN.



Grafters Original Monkey Boot, $72.60 from Universal Textiles


Solovair Black Hi-Shine Monkey Boot, $205 from Solovair


Dr Marten’s Church Vintage Monkey Boot, $170 from Dr. Marten’s


Trickers x Division Road Super Monkey Boots, $625 from Division Road