Boots are enjoying a golden age, no longer relegated only to fall and winter, rain or snow. Instead of a few pairs, women now possess “more of a boot wardrobe,” says Brittany Moeller, a women’s buyer for Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse.
Moeller, who has previously worked with DSW and Famous Footwear, as well as department stores, declares it exciting.
“We used to think of shoes (as) casual or dress. Boots cover all those needs; they’re comfortable, cozy. There are so many types and reasons to wear them.”
Uri Krause, owner of Via Veneto in Phillips Place, says boots are some of his best sellers. Krause, who has spent more than four decades in the shoe industry, credits customers with knowing what they like and how they expect boots to perform, whether paired with a special-occasion dress or worn to work every day.
Catherine Horgan, the longtime Charlotte wardrobe stylist behind Closet of Style, is a self-professed boot fanatic.
We asked these three local experts how to wear the most popular boots.
They agree women shouldn’t pigeonhole themselves into a type that “can or can’t” wear a particular style. “The majority of boots out there can be worn by most,” Horgan said. But making sure you nail the right proportions to allow for visual flow is integral to success, they say.
Over-the-knee (OTK): “This is one of those boots that all women swoon over,” Horgan said, noting that finally offering a flat-heeled version has upped its popularity even farther.
While the style’s appeal is nearly universal, its fit is far more exclusive. “It’s difficult to fit most frames. Proportions are especially sticky with a fitted OTK boot,” Horgan said.
“As much as I would love to offer this style up to everyone, it is best on the slight frame or height-blessed woman. And best worn with shorts, skirts and dresses.” Key to the look: Keep the distance between the boot and the short/skirt/dress short – 1 to 3 inches.
Krause agreed that OTK boots are a strong look for taller women with slender legs. And the biggest key to a great pair, in his opinion? Elastic in the back – but make sure the elastic sits below the knee to be comfortable, he said.
Moeller, who’s 5 feet tall, said OTKs aren’t off-limits to those of shorter stature, but you must be certain they hit a place on your thigh that doesn’t end up making you look shorter.
Riding boot: It’s the Little Black Dress of boots: You pretty much can’t go wrong with any option, and it will be a workhorse that can be dressed up or down. Regardless of age or body type, riding boots are timeless classics. “I will never tire of the riding boot. Ever,” Horgan said. “It transcends time … As long as the boot hits at least 1 inch under the knee and calf dimensions are considered, I can’t find a single reason not to own a pair.”
(And why have women loved them for so long? See Hope Nicholls’ take, 1C.)
Riding boots usually feature an equestrian-style detail, whether it’s a buckle or strap, and typically have a rounded, almond toe, Moeller said.
“They’re typically flat. We’re seeing some heel (now), but nothing more than 2 inches,” she said. “When you think of Ralph Lauren and riding horses, that’s the look.”
If you were to invest money in a single style of boots, this would be a good place to find value for the money spent. “If you do want a leather riding boot, it will be at least $100,” Moeller said.
For the customer who may not want to spend that much – or is part of the anti-leather/vegan contingent – “you can still get a good quality boot… There are a lot of options right now,” Moeller said. Brands that carry “vegan,” or synthetic, riding boot styles include LifeStride, White Mountain and others, she said.
Mid-calf or mid-rise: Proceed with caution, because this style can be tricky to balance, proportion-wise. And pay attention to the width of this boot’s top: The wider the opening, the more tricky it is.
“This is probably the easiest one to say, ‘This style is not for everybody,’ because of the same reason I don’t like capris,” Horgan said. “They hit at the widest part of your calf, depending on height.”
Boots that offer a shaft that can be folded up or down can help achieve the right proportion.
“I tend to like them best with tights and dresses,” Moeller said. She says the shaft height allows you to show a little leg, yet still makes you look taller.
The seemingly timeless cowboy boot often falls in this category, Krause added. And “the Western boot is always in fashion.”
Booties, or “shorties”: “This is the most versatile,” according to Moeller. “They really look good with anything.” They can be worn dressed up with tights and skirts, skinny trousers or jeans, or with over-sized sweaters, she said.
Krause pinpoints Arche as a brand popular with most age groups, and also one of the most comfortable. Many of the brand’s styles feature a short shaft and low heel – coupled with soft, flexible leather – that make it a hit with professional women who often wear slacks.
“The key is comfort,” Krause said. “You want to look good, but need the comfort of shoes. You don’t want to struggle to put the boot on feet, but (you) can wear them from morning to evening. They feel like bedroom slippers.”
Moto: This style seems to flatter most body shapes, “as it tends to hit 2 to 3 inches below the calf, allowing for definition and balance,” Horgan said.
The style is worn easily with jeans, leggings, skirts and dresses, a look that’s upped even more when materials are mixed.
But avoid getting too much going on, which can be distracting, Horgan said. The shearling-lined moto, wildly popular this year, is one of those that’s considered “heavy” and can drag the eye down if mixed with printed denim or leggings, or unstreamlined skirts, she said.