Spats (was Re: looking for different songs (not at all on topic, really))

minnow at minnow at
Sat Sep 4 11:53:11 EDT 2004

>Roger wrote:
>>Spats cover the instep and ankle; they're worn over shoes to keep mud
>>and other spray off them. It's short for "spatterdash". Not a shoe at
>>all, therefore, but worn on the foot. (I think "gaiters" are the same

and Gili answered

>Unless I am very much mistaken, spats are *also* a particular type of shoe,
>so named because they look like they have spats on top. And which would have
>been worn by gangsters of the Al Capone era.

Dictionaries tend to say that a spat is a short gaiter fastened under the
instep of the shoe, but I think Gili is right on this.  I mostly think it
because they are a distinctive two-tone very suited to the umpteen
black-and-white thirties' gangster movies I watched once for reasons I
*won't* go into, and I noticed that it looked as if they were
all-of-a-piece in the films, with buttons up one side of the shoe (the
outsides as it were, on the left of the left shoe, right of the right) but
nothing to hold the top bit (the bit that ought to have been a separate
spat) down under the instep.

Gaiters go up the leg but don't cover the shoe, being designed to bridge
the gap between trouser and boot to keep the wet out.  Ask all those people
who wear them to walk on the moors in, like my beastly brats in fitness
mode.  You can buy gaiters in camping shops these days, and they fasten
with velcro and elastic instead of dozens of small buttons all the way up
and webbing over them.  See also gamekeepers and WWI army uniforms, gaiters
on every leg.


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