The black leather combat boot was introduced to the U.S. Army in the mid-1950s based on the previous Boots, Service, Combat, Russet M1948, nearly identical except for color. The black leather combat boot was generally well-liked due to its sharp military appearance when shined and good qualities of foot support and protection. In an evolving series of models, the black leather combat boot remained an integral part of U.S. Army and Marine Corps field uniforms until the mid-2000s. At that time, the U.S. Military Battle Dress Uniform was replaced in all the services by digital camouflage utility uniforms and the services transitioned to rough-texture footwear, the ACB and MCCB.
The change was not just for appearance since black leather boots are not compatible with camouflage and also reflect as hot spots in night vision viewers. The end of the spit-shine requirement of the smooth black leather boots was welcomed by many but also seen as a step down from military tradition.
Boots, Leather, Combat, Black NSN 8430-01-030-2147, 8430-00-782-3131 From TM 10-227 (November 1981)
A unit of the 503rd Military Police Company wearing black leather combat boots falls into formation to receive assignments for Inauguration Day, Fort Belvoir, VA, 20 January 1981.
The M1948 Russet Combat Boot was the Army's standard leather boot until the transition began to black footwear to go with the new Army Green uniforms, adopted September 1954. In early 1958, soldiers who still had the russet color boots were instructed to use shoe dye to change the color to black, although russet boots were still being issued in the early 1960s as supplies were drawn down.
The Black Leather Combat Boot was worn with Army field uniforms, with trousers bloused into the boot tops, from the mid-1950s until approximately 2005, when the Battle Dress Uniform was phased out. This table summarizes the models of Black Leather Combat Boots over those decades. The table is not exhaustive. If you have additional information or can correct any errors, please contact Olive-Drab.com.
Combat Boot, Leather
Black leather version of the M1948 Russet Combat Boot, introduced in mid-1950s based on Army-wide transition to black footwear starting 1 Sep 1956.
McNamara Boot, first pattern
New design boot fielded for all services in 1962, standard until 1966. Named for SecDef Robert McNamara, famous for cost-cutting measures. 8 1/2 inch boot, no toe cap, full stitched-on smooth sole with oval of diamond tread pattern in forward portion. High cap on heel extends up back. 8-9 sets of eyelets. Smooth black leather. No half sizes.
Boot, Combat, Man's, Black Leather (McNamara Boot, second pattern)
Issued after 1965. 8 1/2 inch boot, 11 sets of eyelets, heel cap with double row of stitching does not go up the back. FSN 8430-068-3942 and FSN 8430-082-2051.
Boot, Combat, Leather, Black, Direct Molded Sole
MIL-B-43481 standardized 1967, issued at least to 1984, spec cancelled in 1990. Sole process same as Jungle Boot with ripple/wave pattern. Ten sets of eyelets. Heel cap does not go up the back. NSN 8430-01-030-2147, 8430-00-782-3131.
Boots, Combat; Mildew & Water Resistant, Direct Molded Sole
MIL-B-44152 standardized 30 Oct 1984, PGC 01895. Developed in early 1980s by US Army Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center, Natick, MA guided by requirements from Army and USMC. One piece sole/heel direct molded to the upper and has a deep lug Panama design, heel cap goes up the back. Issued with a full-length removable, urethane foam insert that has a fiberboard backing. Initially made with 10 sets of speed lace loops, but with Rev C of the specification (28 May 1993) changed to two sets of eyelets at the foot and eight sets of speed lace loops. Height 10 7/8 in., inside padded collar. Sizes 3 to 14, XN to XW for men and women. NSN 8430-01-198-1331, 8430-01-198-1427, 8435-01-221-3278, 8435-01-364-7089, 8435-01-366-3198
Boot, Infantry, Combat, Temperate Weather Type I
PGC 02823, part number PD 97-03B. Also called Boot, Infantry, Combat, Black (or Black ICB). Boots are leather with GORE-TEX® lining that creates a waterproof barrier around the foot to resist water, perspiration, and contaminants like POL. Combination polyurethane mid-sole and durable lug rubber out-sole ensure shock absorbency and traction. Limited flame resistance and conductive heat resistance making the ICB safe to fly. NSN 8430-01-514-5164, 8435-01-518-5755, 8430-01-502-0892 to 8430-01-502-1511
Note: FSN/NSN are examples or ranges and not exhaustive. Number of eyelets or speed loops can vary by shoe size.
McNamara Boot, first pattern. Size 9R dated December 1965. Photo: eBay seller cajunmil66.
Boots, Combat; Mildew & Water Resistant, Direct Molded Sole (MIL-B-44152C).
The Black ICB was superseded by the Army Combat Boot (Temperate Weather) in the mid-2000s, bringing the era of Black Leather Combat Boots to a close.
Private Purchase Black Leather Combat Boots
It has been a common practice for individuals to purchase non-issue black leather combat boots, a practice that is tolerated so long as the purchased boots meet military standards for both performance and appearance. Some units have adopted their own alternate standard for morale or historical reasons. Individuals may own multiple pairs, for example to wear issue boots to inspection, but purchase a more comfortable or supportive boot for daily use, owning several sets to meet different needs. Therefore, at any given time the boots worn by a soldier or Marine might not be any of the standardized boots listed on this page.
Boots may have an official National Stock Number assigned, but nonetheless have never been actually procured and issued through supply channels. Such boots meet military standards and may be officially procured at some time.
Issued boots were often customized by the addition of private purchase accessories. A common one was a lace-in zipper for quick on/off. Issue laces were replaced by more favored types, rough-out boots were smoothed and polished, heel and sole patterns were changed, various cushion inserts were tried, and other mods were made as desired by the soldiers for fashion or functional improvements.
The history of the Marine Corps' use of black leather boots tracks the Army history in most respects. The USMC Boondockers (hightop field shoes) were used in World War II and early Korea, a russet/dark brown short boot intended to be worn with leggings. The M1951 USMC boot replaced the boondockers with a high-top design, similar to the Army's M1948 Russet Combat Boots. The Marines' M1951 boot changed from brown to black in the mid-1950s. It featured roughout leather, a nailed and stitched sole with separate beveled heel, and ten or eleven sets of eyelets/hooks depending on size. The laces and eyelets were brown or black, matching the boot's leather color. Endicott-Johnson produced the M1951 boots under USMC contract.
The McNamara Black Leather Combat Boot (described above) was for all services, so the M1951 USMC boot was replaced after 1962. The Marine Corps did not thereafter have a boot custom designed for Marines, although Marine contract boots with unique markings were made.
Effective 1 Oct 2004, black boots (except safety boots) and green jungle boots were no longer authorized for Marine wear, for all utility uniforms. The transition from the BDU to the MCCUU left the black leather boot behind.
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