These Boots Are Made for Walking, Walking Over You

Since 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'

Watch the Flickr slideshow with 80+ more “boot” images:

If you liked this
Check out more of Mirko’s slideshows:

Boy “O” Boy: The (sometimes) clever use of the “O” throughout movie history
Ceci N’est Pas Une Roquette: A history of subliminal flying machines
The Spirit of the Stone Type: A look at comic book type etched in stone
Stone Type: A history of movie type etched in stone
The Story of O: How designers use the letter O as a design motif
Holiday Spirits: Pardon me, there’s a lady in my drink
Off With Her Head: What would Henry VIII Do?
Why I Became an Artist: Pictures of artists drawing their models
Books on Books: Using pictures of books to sell books
Beauty and the Beast: The evolution of a classic pose
George W. Bush, Advertising Star: When companies use our president to sell stuff

17 thoughts on “These Boots Are Made for Walking, Walking Over You

  1. Pingback: How to Cover a Revolution — Imprint-The Online Community for Graphic Designers

  2. Pingback: Mad Man: The Long Strange Tale of Kim Jong-Il’s Advertising Career — Imprint-The Online Community for Graphic Designers

  3. Joseph McCarthy

    Find the Red under your bed! :))
    “The term McCarthyism, coined in 1950 in reference to McCarthy’s practices, was soon applied to similar anti-communist activities. Today the term is used more generally in reference to demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character and/or patriotism of political opponents”

  4. Ozymandias

    Good points Meghan. What is lost on the author here is the fact that Paul is a small government Libertarian. The metaphor simply doesn’t apply. To use it as an example is simply a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the facts. It is an example of the social Liberal mindset to promote memes through simple metaphor rather than using appropriate metaphor and imagery to effectively express ideas. Unfortunatey something that is all to common in our lazy industry today.

  5. Meghan Long

    Out of all the images on this page and the 80+ more available in the flickr stream, the one that was chosen as the leading image to accompany the headline “These Boots Are Made for Walking: Walking Over You” in Imprint weekly (where I first found this story) was the Rand Paul image. The fact that this image was chosen over “80+” others does seem indicative of a bias to me, especially considering the general left-leaning (even proselytizing) tone of this and most other design blogs. It’s discouraging to be constantly faced with the idea that if I do not subscribe to the same brand of social liberalism as some of the most vocal, successful and writerly designers, that I do not belong in the profession (or at least, in the academic world of design.) I agree with others that it’s ironic to discuss the metaphor of stamping out the “insignificant and small,” while denying the design community’s tendency towards doing this very thing to a perceived minority group.

  6. J Kendall

    What we have here is a collection of very intelligent comments – each one furthering your stated goal of ‘expanding the design conversation’.
    However, your obvious leftish leanings make you want to stamp out any differing opinions with your own metaphoric jackboot. Thank you for a lesson in how the liberal mind works!

  7. Ozymandias

    I’m not sure how the Rand Paul boot makes sense, as a Libertarian small government type, it is out of place (aside from what people think about Paul personally) it simply doesn’t fit the metaphor. The essential problem here is that this particular metaphor has become so cliche it is hardly worth a mention any more, even a mention as a historical example is well-worn. Maybe we need a boot representing lazy, tired cliches stamping out the expectations of the weary consumer.

  8. Steven Heller

    The language of design and the idioms of power are important elements of visual literacy. These are but a small sample of the boot (or shoe) as symbol of FORCE. Like the iron fist, the the foot stamping on or out a smaller critical mass, has been used by left, right and center. It is a tool to show oppression and dissent. The fascinating thing about these images is how all sides are represented.
    To accuse Ilic of pushing a left agenda is short-sighted. Not to see this post as a primer in the duality and ambiguity of even strong symbols is to be blind to the facts. This is not an ideologically pure post, but an aggregate of different popular uses of a common concept.

  9. Mirko Ilic

    I’m quite puzzled about this post being labeled as promoting “the left side of any issue” especially since the post starts with a poster of the Nazi Jackboot trying to crush the Statue of Liberty, a poster of the Nazi Jackboot crushing a church, or a poster of the red SSSR Jackboot crushing Estonia. Not to mention the movie poster “The Last Word” from 1980, which looks like something created by Tea Party supporters today. And let’s not forget: almost half of the posted images are not political at all. 
    It seems like the accusation of being “narrow minded” is based on one, single image: the Jackboot with Rand Paul’s name on it. Obviously, somebody didn’t bother to see rest of the images in the Flickr collection, otherwise they would also see the image of “Obama Tyranny” with the Obama Jackboot stepping on the U.S. Constitution.
    Does not having your facts straight, again, give me the right to label this as a right-wing attack? Or does this make me too narrow-minded?

  10. Jeff Millet

    This post is itself, a jackboot. A thinly-veiled, poorly-considered attempt to put a boot to the throat of anyone who opposes the oppressive views of the “hard leftists”. Sorry, Mirko. It appears your readers have foiled your plot. But take heart, the “hard righties” have plenty of positions freedom lovers should disagree with as well. And remember that center thinkers, who make up the majority of America, have grown tired of and have little patience for such extremely intolerant positions. Ease back over to center. Open your mind. Help fight organized crime. Relect no one!

  11. J Kendall

    As always the left-leaning media pushes their religiously strict views. Why do creatives feel they have to be a liberal – always the more narrow-minded party in my opinion.

  12. Mr Williamson

    This article is very offensive. I subscribe to this link to learn about design, and printing. Not to be subjected to a political statement. I am sick of all this negative political crap. Please take me off your list.

  13. dash

    Do you have any images illustrating the current administration’s take on the BP oil spill (they said they were going to have a “boot on the neck” of BP)? Or a poster for the racist comment the president made during a recent speech (about taking off “bedroom slippers” and putting on “marching boots”)?

  14. G Williams

    How sophomoric and transparent – You contrived this entire post just so you could present that silly Rand Paul image didn’t you. @Kenneth Jones, good point! A giant Jackboot steps on copyright laws that are set up to protect, amongst other things, the rights of the individual artist.

  15. Kenneth Jones

    I do enjoy an interesting collection of graphic design, especially here– identifying the jackboot as a symbol of power and control.  As an educator and artist, I am wondering about the legality of posting these images here in Imprint without giving credit, and also in the Flickr set, under the “PRINT” account, which only tags the individual images as “all rights reserved”. The practice of copying and pasting copyrighted images on blogs and websites without license and the seemingly infinite archives on flickr that are mostly homebrewed scrapbooks of ephemera meets search engine meets scanner are undeniably a good browse, but is this good practice–and is it really legal to do so ?
    The Jackboot Flickr set works as an educational tool and in a classroom would most likely fall under “fair use”.  But unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case here, especially as it is braided within the profit world of publishing.
    One of the hardest challenges as a educator, especially of the visual arts, is presenting trajectories of image production and consumption.  How images are imagined, created then distributed, archived and collected.  Ownership of the image is a playing field with many boundary lines.  Mostly, these lines are invisible to folks who view what’s on the web as free. 
    The research required to designate ownership and the subsequent acquisition of rights to publish copyrighted works is part of the burden in creating new works.  The sloppier we become as we publish works, the muddier the trail becomes for the next. 

  16. Larry Launstein Jr

    Interesting you should mention Rand Paul – the son of Ron Paul, in one of your jackboot pictures. I say this because if you switch the name to Paul Rand, you get one of my creative influences. And Paul Rand knew how to design a logo!