Monday, December 6, 2010

Shifting Boot Signification


Earlier Drafts: 
These distressed skinnies have gotten plenty of mileage this fall.

chunky cream sweater (Old Navy clearance)
polish (OPI Can You Tapas This?)
distressed skinnies (American Eagle)
cognac leather riding boots (Steve Madden, gifted)

How great are these boots?!  Last winter I bought the pair of affordable Steve Madden slouch boots which have featured prominently on the blog because I wanted to experiment with tall boots for the first time in ages.  I had sworn off tall boots in 2004 when I wore (what I thought were) a tasteful pair to teach and one of my co-workers informed me that my high school students were calling them "dominatrix boots."  They had a round toe and a thick heel, but apparently a boot didn't need a pointy toe or a stiletto heel to classify as "dominatrix" so long as it was a knee high leather one.

Boots have come a long way since then, no?  There are so many options available now!  It seems like they've moved out of "trend" territory and have established themselves over the past few winters as a women's wardrobe staple.  The attitude toward them seems to have changed as they've become more widespread, and they seem to signify differently, too.  When I wore mine to teach in 2004, I thought it was acceptable because all the businesswomen in Chicago, near where I went to undergrad, wore them to work in the winter.  Apparently they were still unusual in my more rural school district in an area with a more moderate climate.  Now they're so ubiquitous that unless a teacher's boots have an especially pointy toe or skinny, tall heel, I don't think students even blink.  Though I guess that wearing them with short skirts still gives tall boots a different connotation.

I found myself reaching for those gray boots more and more, and one of my favorite features of wearing them was how they could turn a cozy, casual outfit into a chic look.  I wore them so often, in fact, that I decided to ask for a nice, high quality pair of cognac riding boots from my husband for Christmas.  I love everything about this pair.  They fit my fairly slender calves, the hardware details make them unique, the leather is buttery but sturdy, and I love how the zipper up the back is incorporated in the design of the boot-- it gives them just a touch of a bada** feel.  It also makes them super easy to get on and off.

I also think the boots might have super powers.  My husband has been encouraging me along and picking up the slack as I try to get through my hectic end-of-semester, and strapping these beauties on for the last few days of sitting in front of my computer helped me push through and finish a really complex thought experiment.  We joked about putting their box under the Christmas tree, but being able to wear them for these next few weeks is a great gift!


  • Do you agree that tall boots signify differently now than they did even a few years ago? What factors do you think contribute to this change?
  • Have you adopted boots as a wardrobe staple?  If so, how many pairs do you own? And which colors do you favor?  I've been surprised to find that my gray pair seem even more versatile than a black pair might have been.
  • What do you pair with cognac leather?


Iris said...

Those boots are great. I am on the search for the perfect pair in black that will also fit my ridiculously large calf muscles :) If/When I do find them they will become a wardrobe staple for sure!

Diana said...

I adore boots - they are hands down my favorite type of shoe. This year my favorite color is cognac - I think it goes with absolutely everything.

I agree with you that boots are definitely far more ubiquitous now than they were. I've always liked and worn them - even in elementary school in the late 80's, I had some red cowboy boots that I was totally in love with and wore all the time (despite it being Southern CA and probably about 80 degrees out). Of course, this was before the age of tucking jeans into boots, so I mostly wore taller boots with miniskirts and stuff (which I still do, although the skirts now are not so mini as they used to be) and wore booties under jeans. In the past, I've definitely been known as "that girl with the boots." To be honest, I kind of miss being unique like that, now that everyone and their mother wears boots, although it's nice to have so many options.

Sarah said...

Great choice for your Christmas list, Liz. They look fabulous on you. Alas boots are not something I can wear due to my absurdly large calves. Even most "wide" boots are too small. I think the only route for me to go would be custom.

Plummy said...

Um, these boots are seriously awesome. That zipper detail really adds something a little extra to them. You'll have to let us know how comfortable they are (are they as comfy as the slouch ones?).

I totally agree that boots have changed meaning since a few years ago. I remember when I was younger and in middle school/high school I really wanted a pair of knee high boots (I'm not sure where I got the idea, perhaps from a photo of a French woman in one of my French classes?) but the best I could find was a pair of tall rainboots. Obviously, both the market and I have come a long way since then. :) I'm not sure why the change happened, but French women have been wearing kneehigh boots for ages. Overall, I've noticed a swing from the grunge of the early nineties to a more dressed up look currently (see: the popularity of peacoats, high heels, dark skinny jeans, designer labels) and the boots could be a part of that.

I own...hmm, four pairs of boots, if you count my actual rainboots. I would like to own one more, a super comfy brown pair to balance my super comfy black pair, but there's always one more, right? ;) I think my black pair is my most versatile, but that's because I tend to wear a lot of black and gray.

I do have a pair of cognac boots, which I love dearly but are still not the most comfortable shoes in the world (I've slowly been stretching them out to fit me). I tend to wear them with almost everything in my wardrobe, although I like to make sure I balance out the lightness of the boot color with another color that is equally light somewhere else in the outfit. With my standard outfits, this usually means a scarf that is either brightly colored or white. :) If you want to see some outfits I have made with my cognac colored boots, just look at all my posts that have been tagged 'Giusti boots.'

I'm excited to see what you come up with!

BiblioMOMia said...

I'm getting boots for Christmas too! It's such a lovely gift, especially when you get a pair that are just a bit more luxe than you might buy for yourself.

I absolutely agree that boots have become a staple wardrobe item. A decade ago, especially due to the popularity of bootcut and flared jeans, the only boots that were ubiquitous were short--as they had to fit beneath the pants. Even 5 years ago, boots weren't the mainstay of my winter shoe wardrobe like they are now. With the rise of skinny jeans--and then skinny pants in general--boots have become a major force, precisely because they're on display. I love that there are so many types that can be worn both for work and for fun, and I have at least a dozen pairs in varying heights, colors, and heels that help to get me through winter.

My newest purchases are a pair of leather UGG riding boots that actually look a lot like your Christmas boots, just with a layer of shearling inside, and a pair of plum leather Fryes (my Christmas gift) that I can't wait to wear with maxi skirts for the rest of winter.

S. said...

Liz, I love those boots!

After years of looking, I've finally found a pair of flat, brown/cognac leather boots that I LOVE and wear with everything (as you've seen!), but I struggled for a while to find just the right pair. I've previously owned a couple of pairs of not-quite-right tall black boots, which ranged from "totally uncomfortable/dominatrix" to "actually really frumpy." I'm currently without a black pair in my day-to-day rotation, but as I've opened up to mixing my neutrals more, I've found that the brown pair has proven incredibly versatile.

I think, actually, that the availability of boots in colors other than black is part of what has made them signify differently than they did a few years ago. I think it's totally possible that a tall, pointy-toed, stiletto-heeled boot in camel or cognac gives off a totally different (and much less "dominatrix") vibe than a tall black boot. It could be a number of other factors, of course, but that's one thought.

Shakespeare's Feminine Ending said...

I was the non-punk, non-goth, non what have you, girl in high school who had a pair of knee high tie-up black doc martens that I loved to wear with skirts and a sweater. Now and then someone would would make a whip like sound when I walked by. Dresses and boots, alone and together, are wayy more common now.

Scholar Style Guide said...

Such interesting thoughts from all of you guys, as always. There does seem to be a big distinction between wearing boots inside versus outside pants. I had a kickass pair of London Underground boots in high school that I loved, and they were pretty tall, but I wore them exclusively under jeans.

I also love little kids in boots. They remind me of this bada** pair of pink cowboy boots from Mervyn's I had as a child in California. They had a glitter lightning bolt like detail on the side and!! fringe. I was a total sucker for that Gap commercial last holiday season where the little girls sang "How CUTE are these BOOTS!?" and danced around. Kids look so cute clunking around in big shoes, for some reason.


Meredith said...

i of course just have the steve madden knockoffs target came up with. i thrifted them and that's pretty much my fave thing about them. your boots put mine to shame. sooo classy! :)