• Melania Trump wore a pair of yellow Timberland boots for a surprise visit with US troops at the al-Asad air base in Iraq on Wednesday.
  • Some people have criticized her practical footwear choice, calling her "out of touch."
  • Timberland boots have gained iconic status in the hip-hop and fashion worlds, worn by the likes of DMX in the 1990s and Kanye West in the early 2010s.
  • Melania's fashion has been criticized for good reason in the past, like the time she wore the "I don't really care, do u?" jacket to visit immigrant children, and when she wore a pith helmet that carried colonial connotations in Kenya.
  • Unlike the criticism over those outfits, the backlash over her boots is not warranted.
  • The boots backlash also distracts from the recent military shake-ups that are likely the real reason for the Trumps' impromptu visit to Iraq.

Melania Trump surprised US troops in Iraq on Wednesday when she visited the al-Asad air base west of Baghdad alongside President Donald Trump, marking their first trip to the country after nearly two years in office.

But what the first lady wore on her feet a sensible pair of yellow Timberland boots is perhaps the biggest surprise of all.

Melania Trump Iraq Timberlands.JPG
Melania Trump Iraq Timberlands.JPG
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Melania has been known to wear less-than-practical shoes before, inciting backlash from critics who have scrutinized every inch of her outfits down to the sky-high stiletto heels she has worn while traveling to hurricane-stricken parts of the US and while planting trees in the White House garden .

This time, Melania ditched heels and opted for sturdy, flat, waterproof shoes that seem appropriate for a visit to an air base. Yet some people are still critical of her Timberland boots.

Some have argued that Melania was "out of touch" for wearing the shoes , pointing to racist remarks that were said to have been made by a Timberland executive, however it appears that those comments were never made.

According to Snopes, the false remarks originated from a December 2014 article from the now-defunct site Naha Daily , which cited the shoe company's unnamed CEO saying he did not want to see "Blacks and Latinos" in the boots. Snopes reports that a disclaimer on the Naha Daily's site said that its content was "based off current events in urban culture and entertainment" and "completely fictional."

Timberland boots are known as resilient work boots, which makes them a somewhat unexpected choice for Melania. But they've also become iconic in the hip-hop and fashion worlds.

Yellow Timberland boots were made in 1973, and were so successful that their manufacturer (then called the Abington Shoe Company) changed its name to the Timberland Company in 1978.

As the shoe approached its 40th anniversary in 2013, the Guardian heralded the yellow Timberland boot as one of the "most recognizable fashion classics."

The lace-up boots have commonly been worn as a heavy-duty work shoe, but they've also gained iconic status in the hip-hop world, worn in the 1990s by the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and DMX, and later by Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, and Rihanna, among others. As the Guardian points out, the boots are so influential they inspired the name for the record producer Timbaland.

Rihanna and Kanye West wearing Timberlands
Rihanna and Kanye West wearing Timberlands

The fashion world has also embraced the shoe. In the early 2010s, some menswear designers revived $170 Timberlands as a fashion piece, putting what has long been considered a construction-site staple on the catwalk.

Many people have rushed to the first lady's defense

Others don't get what all the fuss is about.

While Melania's choice in footwear might seem unexpected, it's not the first time she has worn Timberlands

After being photographed in a pair of stilettos, she changed into what appear to be the same pair of yellow boots to visit Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Melania Trump Timberlands
Melania Trump Timberlands
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It's also not the first time Melania's fashion has been criticized

There have been at least two occasions in 2018 when the first lady's fashion was heavily criticized for being seen as insensitive at best, and racist at worst.

The first was in June when she visited immigrant children who had been separated from their parents and held in a Texas border facility while wearing a Zara jacket with the words: "I really don't care, do u?"

Melania Trump jacket
Melania Trump jacket
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The second was in October when she put on a white pith helmet that carried connotations of colonialism for a safari at Nairobi National Park in Kenya .

melania trump africa
melania trump africa
Carolyn Kaster/AP

In her book, " Unhinged : An Insider's Account of the Trump White House," former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman said Melania uses style to "punish" her husband. She wrote that by wearing the "I don't really care" jacket, Melania "gladly, spitefully, wrecked her husband's directives to make him look foolish."

Read more: Melania Trump intentionally uses fashion to 'punish' her husband, Omarosa claims in her explosive new book

Another popular argument at the time was that the jacket was a political maneuver designed to take control of the narrative and to give the right a reason to lambast the media .

Regardless, Melania wearing Timberland boots to an air base in Iraq doesn't come near being as suggestive as her jacket with a clear message written in giant white letters.

The backlash to Melania's boots distracts from the military shake-ups that are likely the real reason for the Trumps' impromptu visit to Iraq

The post-Christmas trip came just a week after President Trump announced he would withdraw around 2,000 US troops out of Syria and pull half of the 14,000 US troops from Afghanistan.

The visit also followed the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, who elaborated on his decision in a letter excoriating Trump's "America First" policy .

Read more: Defense Secretary James Mattis quits, says his views aren't 'aligned' with Trump as the president upends major US policies

In a tweet about the president's visit, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote that the president and first lady traveled to Iraq "to visit with our troops and Senior Military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice and to wish them a Merry Christmas."

Read more: See the president and first lady surprise troops in Iraq the day after Christmas

Representatives for the White House and Timberland did not immediately respond to INSIDER's requests for comment.

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