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AW17 trend: Big boots bounce back

Sandra Halliday
13 March 2017

Has the ankle boot had its day? No, of course not. But designers don’t seem to be as fond of its as they once were and the recent catwalks were a powerful example of that.

It was as if they’d all got together to wage some kind of anti-ankle boot campaign. As if C.R.A.B. (the Campaign to Remove Ankle Boots) had met up in secret and decided to offer up anything and everything, except the most popular piece of footwear since the gladiator sandal.

OK, the ankle boot wasn’t completely out of the picture but instead of on many runways, we got another attempt to push over-knee boots into the mainstream.

Whether that attempt will succeed is open to question. These boots weren’t the just-a-bit-over-the-knee option with elasticated backs that most of us have one at some point in the past. They were stratospherically high, potentially presenting problems for those of us who are vertically challenged on whom they’ll look like anglers’ waders.

Not that I’m complaining. They looked good and worked well with multiple skirt and dress lengths without straying into hooker chic territory too often. In fact, when worked as elongated sock boots, they almost felt as if they weren’t boots at all, blending in with the overall look for after-dark as well as daytime.

Blending in was something they didn't do when worn with skinny jeans tucked in. This was a hugely popular look throughout Fashion Month and it’s one that will be hard to miss.

Given the difficulty of getting jeans to sit smoothly and comfortably under such boots, it underlined the fact that the ultra-skinny jegging-style jean is still with us and certainly emphasised the logic of the few collections that were pushing stirrup pants this season.

Worn with a skinny jean and maybe a biker jacket, the boots needed little detail to make an impact. But that didn’t stop designer going OTT. Their higher-than-high boots also came trimmed with multiple buckles, a key detail for the season that was seen on boots of all lengths and certainly on the wide selection of knee-high boots that strode down the runways.

In fact, it seemed as it designers felt unable to leave any of their boots alone this season, whatever the length. At their most extreme, zips, decorative zip pulls, straps and buckles, contrast colour or exotic skin panelling and lacing (or all of the above) turned them into star pieces that screamed out to be noticed.

As many labels report faster sales growth for their footwear ranges than their non-mini bags, it made me feel that if these labels expect you to buy one new item this autumn/winter, forget the tote or the backpack, it’s the boot that has the must-have appeal.

Very few came without some form of intervention. Slouch boots were a popular option (again a style spanning various lengths) and proved to be perhaps a more practical option for boot/skinny jeans combos, as well as adding a retro late 70s-into-80s edge to the season.

Colour also made a powerful statement from metallic mauves, to intense reds, teals, banana tones and more.  And materials added instant oomph to boots via exotic snakeskins, brocades, glitter and appliqué, plus fuzzy faux-style furs and shearlings.

The big question is, with all this activity going on for labels that sell at elevated price levels, what’s in it for the average consumer and for the high street?

Let’s face it, the Great British (or American, French, Japanese, Italian or Chinese) Public aren’t going to dump their ankle boots in one fell swoop, especially not to buy boots that are going be priced north of £1,000. Most of us have too much cash invested in still-perfectly-wearable ankle boots as well as in all the items bought to go with them, even if the prices were much lower than the crazy levels designer labels sell their footwear at these days.

And the mass-market might baulk at the damage a new style that involves considerably more material and detail than the simple ankle boot that has carried it through quite a few seasons now would do to margins. Just think of the trouble that would cause at a time when consumers are more price-conscious than ever.

That said, at the most recent edition of Pure, I saw quite a few companies who managed to bring in over-knee boots at prices that wouldn’t look out of place on Asos or in Debenhams, which means faux leathers and furs, plus cloth could help us ring the style changes.

So what to expect come October? Ankle boots all round, most likely. But for the brave (and/or the rich) a chance to break free and have some fashion fun. Can’t wait.

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