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Hessian (from Hesse in Germany) refers to a style of boot that became popular in the 18th century. Initially used as standard issue footwear for the military, especially officers, it would become widely worn by civilians as well. The boots had a low heel, and a semi-pointed toe that made them practical for mounted troops as they allowed easy use of stirrups. They reached to the knee and had a decorative tassel at the top of each shaft. The Hessian boot would evolve into the rubber work boots known as "wellies" and the cowboy boot.
When describing the appearance of Marley's Ghost in A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens mentions the tassels on his boots, indicating that they were Hessian style.
In the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Patience, Colonel Calverley sings a song about the military uniform, how impressive it looks, and the effect it has on women. The song specifically mentions Hessian boots:
When I first put this uniform on,
I said, as I looked in the glass,
"It's one to a million
That any civilian
My figure and form will surpass.
Gold lace has a charm for the fair,
And I've plenty of that, and to spare,
While a lover's professions,
When uttered in Hessians,
Are eloquent everywhere!"
A fact that I counted upon,
When I first put this uniform on!
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