Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Footwear Style Watch

My opinion on Ugg boots, and what (not) to look for in cold-weather shoes.

My favorite part about fall is the boots. A good pair of knee-high, leather riding boots are definitely a must in any (aspiring) fashionista's wardrobe! Though often more expensive than other shoes, boots are what I consider to be an investment piece-- a nice pair will certainly last through several seasons, and they are an instant way of bringing both class and perhaps a little edge to any outfit. Additionally, boots are warm, which makes them ideal footwear for fall and winter; plus, they look oh-so-lovely with tights! I'm glad that riding boots, and more recently moto (or motorcycle) boots, are currently in vogue. Either the flat or chunky heels on these styles make them comfortable and practical for walking on slippery, leaf-strewn sidewalks. Both riding boots and moto boots fall into my favorites list for being both practical and stylish.

Another popular boot style for the past several seasons are Uggs, or Ugg-style boots. They are (generally) flat, calf-high or ankle-high, suede boots with fleece-lined interiors. Although I've never owned a pair, I do hear that they are extremely warm and comfortable, which partially explains their overwhelming popularity in recent years. Indeed, Ugg boots can be seen everywhere, especially on college campuses, even though they can cost upwards of $200 a pair! Unlike riding or moto boots, which are typically leather (or made from a durable kind of faux leather), Uggs usually have a suede exterior and traditionally come in a neutral tan or off-white color.

A reader recently asked me what my opinion was regarding Ugg boots, and frankly, I consider them a fashion don’t. Mainly, it is because they seem radically over-priced. I have no qualms with paying for high-quality, useful items that will last and last, but I don’t think that Uggs fit into that category.

First of all, their trademark look is very trendy, and on principle, I don’t splurge on trends. Unlike classic looks or styles, a very trendy look suddenly becomes tacky and an embarrassment when worn after it’s gone out of style. I refuse to spend money on clothing items that I can’t wear for multiple seasons. In five years, will the trademark-style Ugg boots still be in vogue? I doubt it.

Secondly, the suede exterior and light color are two more reasons why I dislike these boots; both qualities make the boots impractical for walking in wet conditions or on dirty or leaf-covered sidewalks. Considering the price tag on these boots, I would not want to risk environmental stains or water damage. I am aware that suede and leather protectant sprays and finishes are available (and encouraged) for use on these shoes; however, these are not always adequate protection against typical fall conditions. I do recommend protectant sprays for leather and suede to guard against every day wear and tear, but cold weather conditions are known for being extreme. I believe that quality boots should be durable and hearty, and they should provide an adequate barrier against the elements with or without a protectant spray. Tan suede just doesn’t seem that practical to me.

Finally, Ugg boots just look like house slippers to me: clunky, soft, and cozy. These are great qualities for pajamas or something worn around the home, but definitely not chic. I don’t find them professional-looking or sexy (or chic); the aura that these shoes proclaim is one of casual comfort and relaxation—and if that’s the vibe one is going for, then why would it be necessary to spend hundreds of dollars to do so? It just seems silly and wasteful, when there are so many more affordable and stylish options for being comfortable!

Instead, I suggest enjoying the colder weather in style with footwear that is comfortable, durable, and also chic. Most importantly, have the confidence to avoid trends. Classic looks serve better over time, and are both style- and budget-friendly.

This season I am on the style watch for a pair of sleek, waterproof riding boots for when the weather gets really yucky. (This was inspired after the three days of flooding that we recently experienced in Central Pennsylvania.) What is on your fashion wish list for fall footwear?

The above photo was taken by me in 2009 at Ohiopyle State Park in Western Pennsylvania.

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