The lad who runs the Head’s Threads & Heavy Treads FB page – which I recommend – recently mentioned that someone was planning to compile a kind of database of all the different classic boot styles, brands and interactions. This, he says, would hopefully make it easier to trace back different boot models to the time periods when they were made.
I think that’s an excellent idea. To make a start, I thought I’d post some pics of various Hawkins Astronauts boots and shoes I’ve saved over the years. Most of them were listed on eBay or similar sites. You see, I have a bit of an obsession with Astronaut boots – I really appreciate their awkward, ugly beauty. But I find it impossible to establish what time period any particular pair dates back to, because there’s almost no info on Hawkins boots on the web. I can only vaguely guess the decade. Virtually the only thing I’ve ever seen written on Astros was an article on the old Skinhead Heaven website, which only mentioned in passing that Astronauts were considered the ‘skinhead apex’ back in 1969–70.
Another big question is: who were Hawkins Astronaut 11-eye boots marketed at, apart from skinheads? They have a very distinct look that is definitely not ‘for everyone’ in the same way as the more universal Air Wair DMs are.
Whoever is planning to compile that database, feel free to use anything you see here, add it to your document, and build on the sparse information I’ve got. Good luck with your project!
If anyone knows more about the history of Hawkins Astronaut boots, can identify a style, or knows what year a pair might date back to, do tell us in the comments section.
Oh, one last thing: Astronauts were manufactured by G.T. Hawkins in Northampton (where Air Wair once was and Solovair is today), but came with a Dr Marten’s sole. There are more intricacies to the whole business structure, but I’d need a diagram to fully understand it, and I’m not sure I want to.
Let’s kick things off with this amazing deadstock pair of Hawkins Astronauts that I would guess were made in the 70s (although I have no actual info on them). To me, these are the kings of all the boots listed here. I have a similar pair, though mine are in far worse condition and a dried-blood burgundy rather than oxblood. As you can see, the shape is different from the latter-day Solovair Astronaut repros (which are probably based on a 60s style). These have a rounder toe and are not quite as elongated.
The shape of the ones below seems more like the Solovair Astros you get today, though not quite. Late 60s? Early 70s? Another deadstock pair in rich oxblood.
This, I believe, is pretty much the shape on which Solovair and Mikkel Rude based all their reproductions in the past 10 years or so: the 1960s Hawkins Astronaut boot. These are 10-eye rather than the more popular 11-eye model, though.
Here’s another one of them, but proper Spinal Tapesque 11-eye – one higher!
A darker-polished 11-eye pair, dating back to the 70s according to the ebay seller (but who really knows?). Personally, I’m cautious about antiquing very old boots – they can end up looking a lot more ‘antique’ than you bargained for.
These are interesting. A more Air Wair-like pair of 10-eye Hawkins Astros with external stitching. Note how far the eyelets are apart from each other. Probably 1980s.
Another intriguing pair: Hawkins Astronaut ‘Blackburn’. Late 70s? Early 80s?
There was an implausibly camp black guy who ran a junk shop down in Battersea that I would sometimes walk past for work. The shop was one big mess, and I always wondered how he managed to sustain it (in fact, he couldn’t – the last time I walked past, about two years ago, it was gone). Every time I popped in, he’d cheerfully point me to the latest skinhead-relevant items he’d retrieve from his mountain of trash. Among them was this pair of Hawkins Astronaut ‘Hightops’: you can’t tell from the pics, but they have a very odd square toe. He only wanted 35 quid, but I was fairly broke, and they were far too small for me anyway… Never seen this style before, never after. My guess would be 1980s.
Hawkins Astronaut whitetops, very dark oxblood with a cream trim. Same style as worn by the kid on the original cover of Richard Allen’s first Skinhead novel. 60s or very early 70s is my guess.
Brown 8-eye Hawkins Astros. ‘Cushion sole’ cross on the sole, but no ‘Dr Martens’ or ‘Made in England’ – early 70s?
Hawkins Astronaut 4-eye smooths in dark brown. The identifier code of this style was 5961. I remember well that the singer of Giuda wore them on stage when they played their 2016 gig at the Brooklyn Bowl in London.
Let’s finish with some of my own boots. This is a pair of Hawkins Astronauts very much like the first one listed here, although the burgundy is much deeper. My best guess is early 1970s. Very supple leather, probably the most comfortable pair of boots I ever owned. And even though they’ve visibly been through a lot in those five decades, there isn’t a single split in the leather… How’s that for quality?
Here they are again, next to the Solovair Astronaut repro for comparison. The ones without laces are Solovair, based (I believe) on the original 60s style. The ones with laces are my (70s?) Hawkins Astronauts – they have a chunkier toe and not such an elongated shape. Note that the sole is burgundy as well, which isn’t something that any of the latter-day reissues have replicated.
These are the very same Solovair 11-eye Astronaut repros on their own. They stopped making them with internal stitching about five years ago.
Finally, the excellent full-grain leather repros that Solovair were doing until 2016 or thereabout. If you got yourself a pair of these at the time (or the very similar Mikkel Rude ones), count yourself lucky. You can still get Solovair Astros today, but with external stitching and made of high-shine leather, which looks plasticky in comparison.