The crushing symbolism of the boot

The black Jackboot has long been used to represent oppression. What makes it such a powerful visual?

Published October 16, 2011 9:00PM (EDT)

   (Courtesy of Mirko Ilic)
(Courtesy of Mirko Ilic)

This article originally appeared on Imprint.

ImprintSince WWI, the image of the Jackboot has been used repeatedly as a symbol of totalitarianism and military aggression, often embellished with a symbol -- just so you know who is oppressing whom.

Help Britain

Fight to Prevent This

Nazi Boots


Rand Paul

Why the sole of the boot (funny choice of words ... it must be my English)? Because everything underneath the sole of the boot is insignificant and small: bugs, worms, little men/creepy crawlies.

Because of this, the oppressed often portray themselves under the boot.

Time Magazine

The Big One

At the same time, the oppressors try to disguise themselves (like the recent example of UDC, the right-wing political party in Switzerland, in their campaign against immigration). They portray immigrants (painted black, of course) stepping on the pristine Swiss flag.

Or sometimes, they don’t want to pretend at all, like skinheads on the covers of their CDs.

But in some other cultures, the sole of the shoe is considered one of the filthiest things because the sole is in direct contact with dirt and feces. That's why lately we see images of people stepping on photographs of local tyrants, dictators, and "bad guys.” But sometimes if they can't step on their face, they try to throw shoes at their face.

This new “spring/uprising” movement of the little man creates a new visual trend captured perfectly by the latest poster of Amnesty International.

As Robert Crumb says, Keep on Truckin’…

Keep on Truckin'

All images courtesy of the author.

Watch the Flickr slideshow with 80+ more "boot" images:

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

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By Mirko Ilic

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