Although dating from before Napoleon, since the twentieth century jackboots have been strongly associated with totalitarian motifs. The word is commonly used in Britain as a synonym for totalitarianism, particularly fascism, although jackboots and similar types of footwear have been worn by various British regiments since the 18th Century. Following the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared that the democratic rights of the Falkland Islanders had been assaulted, and would not surrender the islands to the Argentine "jackboot".
The term is perhaps less used in America, although in 1995, National Rifle Association (NRA) president Wayne LaPierre sparked controversy when he referred to overzealous federal agents as "jackbooted government thugs"; the comment caused former U.S. President George H.W. Bush to resign his lifetime membership in the organization. The resignation of so public a figure as Mr. Bush prompted an open letter from the association to the former president to be published in major newspapers; the letter included a litany of alleged and settled cases of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms abuses and an assertion that LaPierre and the NRA were merely borrowing a well-worn phrase uttered by other public figures in their calls for reform of the agency, among them Representative John Dingell of Michigan.
The boots are connected to fascism, particularly Nazism, as they were issued by the Wehrmacht and SS during early phases of World War II before Germany encountered leather shortages. When goosestepping on pavement, the large columns of German soldiers marching in formation created a distinct rock-crushing sound which came to symbolize German conquest and occupation. The same style of boot had been in use with German armies in World War I and before.
Jackboots can also be associated with the armies of the former USSR and East Germany. Jackboots are still a part of the modern parade and service attire of the army of Russia, and several other former Soviet states.
The "Jackboot of Oppression" is sometimes referred to as the policy of zealous computer network administrators who lock down their systems tightly.
The Motörhead protest song, "March or Die" features the lines "Sword and shield and jackboot heel" in reference to its use by fascist military.
The Minutemen song "If Reagan Played Disco," which mocked the far-right politics and faux-populism of Ronald Reagan, included the lyric "he'd shoot a ton of shit/ you can't disco with Jackboots."
Jackboots and Effingham style boots were at one time frequently used in science fiction movies as part of the generic futuristic footwear or space boots. This was mostly because they were readily available from costume suppliers and it is considerably cheaper to redress existing costumes which are usually rented by studios. This spaceboot look has mostly disappeared after Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced a new sensibility into futuristic fashion.
Jackboots: Footwear as Metaphor // Old-Fashioned Riding Boots Are Hard to Find - Especially On The Feet of Federal Agents
May 28, 1995; These days, if you want to stir up a little quick anti-government lather, the thing to do is invoke the image of a person in...