When I visited the Zapatista caracol or base in Oventik this past August, I noticed that all of the men wore these combat boots, boots that many activists from throughout the Americas were familiar with and boots that were marketable products for activist tourists visiting the indigenous revolutionary camps.
Juxtaposed with highly commercialized boots were women clad in highly embroidered colorful huipiles, or three-paneled woven textiles embroidered with both spiritual iconography and fashionable colors and shapes of the times. When interviewing Caleb Duarte, Mexico-based artist who has worked alongside Zapatista artists, what he felt like was the significance of fashion in the social justice work of the Zapatista, he asserted that it was less fashion and more garments for utilitarian purposes.
So while combat boots may serve utilitarian purposes for revolutionaries reclaiming space in mountainous terrain, they arguably served a very different purpose for teenagers waging symbolic war against society in urban cities in Europe and other continents with similar punk movements.
Combat boots also infer notions of gender, particularly when expressed in the gendered hegemonic space of the fashion runway. In analyzing the new trend of combat boots with evening gown being showcased on the runway in 1992, New York Times writer Woody Hochswender reports, “Such boots enable the wearers to distance or disassociate themselves from the frippery of the dress -- and the idealized femininity it implies -- without completely renouncing it. And this dynamic roughly approximates the position of some women today, caught between new, authoritative roles and the siren call of the feminine fashion tradition.”
This is less about the co-opting of the Punk Movement and more about the Punk Movement co-opting the utilitarian garb of revolutionaries staging war for their survival.
In many ways the current state of the Punk Movement could be wearing the combat boot not only in symbolic solidarity with revolutionary movements but also a gesture of showing that one is sartorially ready to support such revolutionaries in real, physicalized manners.