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Choices, Up to Your Knees
By David Colman

Chloé cuffed boot, $995 at Bergdorf Goodman. Stella McCartney stretch denim jeans at Saks Fifth Avenue. Martin Margiela scarf-tie blouse at IF. La Crasia gloves.
Photo Courtesy Joe M. Nitzberg for NYT
Full-length, half-length, fully fashion calf-length, brown boots, black boots, patent leather jackboots, low boots, high boots, lovely lanky thigh boots. "Kinky Boots"

IF you want to know what's in for fall, you can pop down to the newsstand for the 802-page September Vogue. Or you can log onto eBay and find a copy of the loony 1964 Decca single "Kinky Boots," recorded by Patrick MacNee and Honor Blackman, then the stars of the supercool spy spoof "The Avengers," where leather, sex, camp and high fashion collided for the first time.

Vogue will get you au courant (and does not require a record player), but the infectious pop of "Kinky Boots" will bore so deep into your brain that friends will beg you to learn a new tune. The song, a madly chipper send-up of the mid-1960's boot craze, illuminates this fall's fashion landscape in peculiarly expressive fashion.

Photo Joe M. Nitzberg for NYT

That is, boots are everywhere. There are 60's styles à la Nancy Sinatra; 70's styles à la Stevie Nicks; 80's styles à la Gloria Estefan; and 90's styles à la Shirley Manson. It is a puzzling sight for fashion seers used to declaring that one style of boot - Midcalf! Thigh High! - is The One For Fall. With flat heels and high heels, stacked heels and wedge heels, citified styles and country-fried styles, it is clear that one boot does not cut it anymore.

"They're really their own category now," said Jeffrey Kalinsky, the founder of Jeffrey New York. Shoes? Who needs them.

"I just don't feel good in anything else," D D Allen, the Manhattan decorator, said. "They're totally empowering. They make you feel taller and thinner and smarter and cooler, like your whole leg is one spring-loaded force."

She appears to speak for many. At Barneys New York, fall boot sales are already double what they were at this time in 2004, said Lisa Park, a vice president who oversees women's footwear. "We're selling them in every style," she said. "They're buying a classic dress boot but also something more rugged for the weekend and something for cold weather, like a shearling." Several styles are sold out, she added.

Photo Courtesy Joe M. Nitzberg for NYT

Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said she has noticed more and more boots in her own closet in the last couple of years. "They're now half my wardrobe, I think," she said. "It's almost frightening." Ms. Steele noted that like boots themselves, fashion and its hemlines are increasingly varied. "That thing about there being one look for a season is over," she said. "Having a few pairs of boots, which can go with a variety of lengths, is really functional."

She added, though, that in her view the allure of boots is not their practicality. "Boots send a different message than shoes do," she said. "They have a real Amazonian appeal. They're the tough shoe." Contrasting boots to sandals, with their suggestion of vulnerability, she said that boots imply no-nonsense practicality even when the reality - a pair in high-heeled purple suede, say - is something else.

Frivolous or hard-line, paired with floaty dresses or tailored suits, boots anchor looks with the offhand incongruity that is so appealing in fashion today. A high-heeled ankle boot gives an aggressive twist to a demure pencil skirt; an equestrian boot butches up a fuller, flouncier style; knee-high swashbucklers look sharp with stovepipe jeans. The overall effect is an unstudied, slightly tough chic that steps smartly from office to restaurant, fall to winter.

Photo Courtesy Joe M. Nitzberg for NYT

Come cold weather, some women are loath to wear anything else. "I love boots in the winter - short boots, tall boots, over-the-knee boots," said Katherine Ross, who as a vice president at Prada has more options than most. "They're the first thing I go to in the morning. I feel very comfortable in them, and there's a certain strength to them as well. They get me where I need to go."

They might take her clear into next summer. "I would say that more and more women are wearing boots 12 months of the year," Mr. Kalinsky said. Citing this summer's frenzy for cowboy boots, he said he had bought more boots for the spring season than in any previous spring and that, in relatively small number, they sold as briskly as sandals.

So why not pair those thigh-highs with a bikini? It certainly makes more sense than getting sand between your toes.

The above article is from The New York Times.






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