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A spat is a type of classic shoe accessory covering the instep and ankle. Spats were primarily worn in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A left felt spat

Contents

Spats as items of uniform

Spats are still used as a traditional accessory in many marching band uniforms in the United States.

French infantry wore white spats for parade and off duty wear until 1903. Italian soldiers wore a light tan version until 1910 and the Japanese Army wore long white spats or gaiters during the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.

Spats continue as a distinctive feature of the Scottish dress of Highland pipe bands, whether civilian or military. The modern Royal Regiment of Scotland, into which all Scottish line infantry regiments were amalgamated in 2006, retain white spats as part of their uniform. Prior to that date most Scottish infantry units in the British Army wore spats. For Highland regiments in kilts spats reached halfway up the calf. For Lowland regiments in trews spats were visible only over the boots.

Most regiments of the modern Indian and Pakistani Armies wear long white spats into which trousers are tucked, as part of their parade dress. Other full dress uniforms which still include spats are those of the Finnish Army, Portuguese Republican National Guard, the Carabiniers of Monaco and the Italian Military Academy of Modena. In the Finnish Navy, spats are part of the winter uniform. The U.S. Navy Honor Guard and Rifle Guard still wear them while performing ceremonies.

Spats for safety

Spats are still used today in certain industries for safety reasons. In foundries molten metal pourers often wear leather spats to keep splashes of molten metal from burning their feet. Even a small splash that lodges in a shoe or between the shoe and ankle could cause a severe burn. Many welders also wear leather spats for protection from sparks and metal splash. Some chainsaw operators wear protective leather spats to prevent injury from accidental chainsaw contact with the foot or ankle.

In Japan, the term "spats" refers to leggings.

In American football, the act of taping the outside of one's cleats using athletic tape is known as "spatting."

Spats in popular culture

  • The Disney comic and cartoon character Scrooge McDuck, a stereotypical capitalist, wore spats—but no shoes. Rich men depicted in the cartoon The Flintstones would also wear spats without shoes, as did Drooper of the Banana Splits.
  • Spats Colombo, the villain in the film Some Like It Hot, wore white spats.
  • Michael Jackson wore spats in the video for and performances of Smooth Criminal and for the performances of Dangerous and history tour.
  • Babar the Elephant, the famous children's book character, wore white spats.
  • The famed English comic writer P. G. Wodehouse published a book of short stories titled Young Men in Spats.
  • Agatha Christies 'Hercule Poirot' (as portrayed by David Suchet in the ITV Television dramas) is usually seen sporting a pair of Spats.

At least one shoe company, Stacy Adams, offers a high top dress shoe replicating the "spats" look.

See also

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