A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 29, 2019
“Your mother wears army shoes!” (insult)

"Your mother wears army boots/shoes!” (or “Your mother wears combat boots!") is a mild insult that was popular in the 1950s among teenagers, but is now historical or used for comic effect. “Your mother--” insults, like “Yo mama” jokes, are older than this.

The meaning is somewhat uncertain, and two explanations have been given. After World War II, army shoes/boots were sold in surplus stores, so the insult could mean that the mother is poor. Another explanation is that the mother got the army shoes/boots by having affairs with army men.

“Aw your mother wears army boots” was printed in The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec) on May 1, 1948. “Aaaah, your mother wears army shoes” was printed in The Sunday Sun (Baltimore, MD) on February 12, 1950. “If you do spill, you are no doubt one of those characters whose mother wears combat boots” was printed in the Evansville (IN) Courier on July 28, 1956.


1 May 1948, The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), “Press Pass No Open Sesame, Cartoonist’s Sad Discovery After Embarrassing Heave-ho From Movie, Wrestling Match” by Wilbur Arkison, pg. 16, col. 1: 
We were very patient and father-and-son-ish but when he finished all the comment we got was something which sounded like “Aw your mother wears army boots.”

12 February 1950, The Sunday Sun (Baltimore, MD), “Reverse English: The Newest Fad in Teen-Age Talk Puts, Everything Backward Except the Multiplication Table” by Ralph Reppert, magazine sec., pg. 9, col. 4:
“Aaaah, your mother wears army shoes.”

12 March 1950, Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), ‘Teen Talk,” pg. 17-G, col. 1:
You can squelch your friends Baltimore style with such remarks as “Turn blue please,” slightly milder than “drop daid,” or “aaah, your mother wears army shoes.”

10 October 1951, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, “Draft Women? Educators Look Askance at Idea” by Jean Cook, pg. 14, col. 1:
“Your mother wears Army shoes” may be more fact than fiction if the next big recruiting drive doesn’t meet its quota.

24 February 1956, Lancaster (PA) New Era, “Entertainment” by Dick Kleimer, pg. 11, col. 8:
She’s (Francis Faye—ed.) now with Bethlehem and they don’t care if she wears combat boots, as long as she’s her ever-loving self.

28 July 1956, Evansville (IN) Courier, “Front Row Center” by Jeanne Suhrheinrich, pg. 8, col. 3:
If you do spill, you are no doubt one of those characters whose mother wears combat boots.

1 February 1958, Evansville (IN) Courier, “Front Row Center” by Jeanne Suhrheinrich, pg. 3, col. 5:
I can’t print what I really think but I’ll bet her (or his) mother wears combat boots.

24 May 1959, Paris (TX) News, “Christy Hamman, Versatile Senior,” sec. 1, pg. 8, col. 5:
“You’re crazy and your grandmother wears combat boots to church.”

14 May 1961, Paris (TX) News, “Latin Club Has Orientation Tea,” sec. 1, pg. 12, col. 8:
During the takeoff Messala also told Ben Hur that her mother and sister had leprosy—to which Ben Hur (Richard Abshire) replied, “So what! Your mother wears army boots!”

4 September 1961, Philadelphia Inquirer, Douglas Watt column, pg. 11, col. 7 :
Cannonball Adderly reports the atomic age has had an effect on teen-age talk. He lists some expressions he heard youngsters using: “Aw, your mother wears combat boots"..."Your old man’s in orbit"..."Your uncle drinks jet fuel.”

17 May 1963, Detroit (MI) Free Press, “These 3 Local Benefits Will Aid Children,” pg. C-7, col. 3:
The Redford Suburban League Theatre Guild will present a four night stand of the musical comedy “My Aunt Wears Old Army Boots” Friday and Saturday and May 25 and 26.

6 September 1964, Hartford (CT) Courant, “Is the City Master of All It Surveys?” by James D. O’Hara, pg. 3B, col. 5:
“Ah, yer old lady wears army boots.”

9 August 1965, San Diego (CA) Union, “Point of View” by Donald Freeman, pg. A10, col. 1:
“He (the critic, such as Donald Freeman, in the opinion of “Anon”—ed.) uses ridicule and indulges in the immature ‘Your grandmother wears army boots’ type of criticism.”

23 April 1967, Evansville (IN) Press, “Ernie Lenn Looks at Fads and Fancies,” The Sunday Look, pg. 23, col. 5:
SAYINGS—“67 Skidoo” and “Your mother wears Army boots!” Both of these are updated versions of older sayings.

OCLC WorldCat record
Your mother wears combat boots
Author: Paul B Miner; Carl D Clark
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : Noumenon Foundation, ©1977.
Series: Noumenon chapbook, 6
Edition/Format: Print book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Your mother wears Army boots! : a treasure trove of insults, slurs, and putdowns
Author: Jordan L Linfield; Joe Kay
Publisher: New York : Avon Books, 1992.

Google Groups: alt.usage.english
what the phrase” your mother wears army boots” means?
Ray O’Hara
12/31/06
(...)
Its a taunt about how poor one was. Army boots were cheap and in good supply after WWII. Nobody uses it anymore except for comedic purposes.

Oleg Lego
12/31/06
(...)
It’s an insult. I always took it as shorthand for “Your mother puts out (supplies sexual favours) for the troops, and in return receives gifts, army boots being, effectively, a very low price.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Your mother wears combat boots : humorous, harrowing, and heartwarming stories of military women
Author: Michele Hunter Mirabile
Publisher: Bloomington, IN : AuthorHouse, ©2007.
Edition/Format: Print book : Biography : English

Urban Dictionary
your mother wears army boots
During WWII prostitutes who followed the troops around, sometimes wore army boots or combat boots. It’s akin to calling some one’s mother a prostitute.
“your mother wears army boots” is a vintage version og a “your momma” insult.
#hooker#whore#slut#ho#your momma#insult#derogatory#rude#put down#diss#dis#burn#owned#pwnd#throw down#fight#argument
by geeflyboy February 15, 2011

Twitter
James Urbaniak
@JamesUrbaniak
Your mother wears army boots. A style she developed when she fronted a punk band in the ‘70s. Anyway what I’m saying is your mother is cool.
4:11 PM - 14 May 2017

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Saturday, June 29, 2019 • Permalink