Shoes. How many pairs do you own? 10? 50? 100? Don’t gasp – you’d be surprised how many of us own upwards of 50 pairs, including the moldy/heelless/just can’t bare to part with them pairs stashed shamefully at the back of the closet. So how many pairs are enough? Let’s look at the type of shoes first…. starting with the winter shoe closet.
The style of winter shoe you own largely depends on the climate you live in. I had to completely re-assess my shoe collection after living through (OK, barely surviving) my first winter up here in Akita. My beautiful shiny, polished leather soled boots that proudly pranced through the streets of Tokyo, barely saw any daylight up here in winter. With the snowy, slushy conditions, they would be ruined in a matter of weeks, and the flat leather soles would have had me skating through town. Heaven forbid I get rid of these beauties! So after the last bronzed Autumn leaf has fallen each season, I begrudgingly pack them away until the snows melt and I can see finally the ground again (a truly exciting moment up here after 5 odd months of freeze).
However, snow bunnies, fear not! These days there is a range of comfortable yet stylish snow & slush friendly options to keep your tootsies in fine form. Personally, I love the Hunter boot range – not just the wellies, but the insulated quilted snow boots that I recently snapped up (the black are almost sold out across Japan which tells me that I’m not the only fan). Super warm, comfy and slick, with skid-proof grip soles, these snow boots (pictured below) are bound to help ease the pain of the long icy Akita winters (I’m a South-African born Aussie. I don’t fare well in minus temperatures).
If it rains a lot where you are, then regular wellies are perfect too (again, I favour the Hunter brand for their quality, durability and simple, sleek design – oh and they now come in a wised range of fun colours to brighten a dreary day. I have a pair in British Racing Green that go with just about any outfit, and a glossy chocolate quilted pair with some inner insulation, that are great for Autumn through winter).
Ok so you’re not a welly fan. I get that. Wellies are just so practical up where I am. Don’t get me wrong – I love a solid leather winter boot (by now most of you know how I feel about pleather/vinyl footwear, but if you prefer non-leather, Japan is certainly the place for options in that sense.)
In my opinion, a couple of decent pairs of leather boots are most definitely a necessity in any closet. A pair of basic black, knee-length or ankle boots is a winter shoe staple. Go flat if you can’t deal with a heel. If you feel better propped up a tad, a wedged heel can add height while maintaining stability. Luckily fashion has held onto the wedged heel look for the past few seasons, so there’s bound to be something out there that takes your fancy.
This season saw the return of the cowboy boot. Both knee-high and ankle styles work in this genre (I prefer ankle styles). If you go for this look, I recommend seeking a simple version in a basic tone like black, brown or grey, which won’t date as much and offer a versatile appeal.
Suede ankle boots are super hot, but suede footwear requires a lot of tender loving care. A safer option is a matte or polished leather, where scuffs and scrapes can be well hidden or polished out. Distressed leather works particularly well for an ankle boot too, giving a vintage look, which pairs brilliantly with denim for a cool, relaxed vibe.
TIP! A point about fit and structure:
Make sure that whatever type of boot you go for, the structure of the shoe fits the shape of your leg/calf/ankle/foot etc. There is nothing worse than an oversized or ill-fitting boot. Think “Puss in Boots” – not attractive. It’s OK for the top of the boot to be a tad oversized, but the boot should taper slightly towards the ankle, or you may risk appearing drowned by the shoe.
Ugg boots. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Ugg is still hanging around. Traditionally, real Aussie Uggs were mostly worn indoors as slippers, given the extreme comfort and warmth provided by the sheepskin material. I have no idea when or how they morphed into a fashion shoe, but with some heavy marketing, the idea somehow took off globally, and there are now tons of competiting brands offering “fashionable” versions of the once humble slippers. I have a pair of real Aussie Uggs that I grabbed at the airport once before returning to the Japanese winter. I wore them on the plane and didn’t take them off until I got home. Sure, they are ridiculously comfy and toasty warm, but they are also aptly named – Uggs! I still have my pair and mostly wear them walking around the block with the kids, or occasionally to the supermarket. However I don’t see them as an accessory that adds anything remotely beneficial to an outfit.
So what about Moccasin style boots? Last winter I bought a pair of grey ankle boot Minnetonkas on sale, that I kind of love. They strap up snuggly around the foot and ankle and are extremely soft and comfortable! I like them paired with skinny denim/skinny pants or leggings. They look best over a form-fitting/tapered pant rather than tucked under a pant leg. I tend to keep the rest of my outfit pretty simple with these, accessorizing with a hobo style, slouchy bag, and natural looking hair and makeup.
A few of you asked me to recommend some brands and stores for boots. Honestly, it’s been a while since I bought a pair winter boots that I love, other than the Hunters I mentioned above. I used to admire the Japanese brand “Saya” who make buttery soft leather boots that are super comfy and very good quality (they tend to go on-sale especially at New Years so keep your eyes peeled when browsing the sales). Admittedly, I find it quite challenging to find well-made, great fitting boots in Japan, so I tend to stock up at my favourite stores when in Melbourne, picking up some bargains at their end of season sales which I can take straight into winter over here.
As far as comfort, there are die-hard Camper fans out there that swear by the comfort and durability. Also Ecco boots are supposed to be supportive and comfortable. I personally have not come across any styles that I like in these lines, but if it’s mainly comfort you are after, I hear they are worth a look. Zara offers a decent range of winter boots each year. Can’t really say that they last forever, but you will certainly get a few seasons’ wear out of them. I recently scanned their on-line New Year sale and spotted a few very cute pairs…worth a squiz.
On-line Shoe Shopping
Risky business to the say the least. Unfortunately my on-line shoe shopping experiences to date have been pretty poor. Unless you know your exact size and fit in the particular brand you are shopping for, I think it’s a huge gamble buying shoes on line. Despite my negative on-line purchase experiences, I recently gave in to temptation (see: SALE BLINDNESS) and ordered a pair of beautiful knee-length black designer boots at 70% off the retail price. The size guide told me that an Italian size 38 in this brand was equivalent to a Japanese 25cm size shoe. To my disappointment, the shoes were more like 24cm, and more like an Italian 37. At first the store offered me a credit note, but after some polite pushing on my part (explaining that the size guide was way off), they finally agreed to a refund. I finally learnt my lesson – NEVER buy shoes (or clothing for that matter) from an on-line store that does not offer refunds. Not worth the risk. Always check the store’s policy regarding refunds and exchanges, before committing to buy. Better yet, buy in-store where you can try on the shoes.
SALES can be deliciously tempting, but again, APPROACH WITH CAUTION! Make sure the shoes fit you well, are comfortable (comfortable at the time of trying them on in the store. Yes leather tends to mould to your foot shape over time, but if they pinch or rub in the store, they are not going to see much daylight, are they?), and are made from a durable material that will withstand seasons of pavement thumping. After all, of all the items in our closet, shoes probably suffer the most wear and tear, right? Also, check that that the sole of the shoe is made from a material that suits the environment you will mostly be wearing them in – if you live in icy conditions, avoid flat leather soles and go for a ridged, rubber sole. Leather soles wear through easily in any condition. If you find that yours are starting to thin, take them to a shoe repairer who can attach a rubber sole to the base, lengthening the life of your shoes. I sometimes take new shoes directly to the shoe specialist to have them double soled before wearing them.
So how many pairs on average should you have in stock? I have not been brave enough to count all my pairs, but the pairs I wear regularly (apart from the Hunter selection I mentioned above) include the following, most of which are pictured below:
Oh. And my Uggs… J
Yes, I could probably downsize the collection if I wanted to. But I don’t. I do actually wear all of the above, mostly in Autumn/early spring when the weather permits. And I love shoes. I have always loved shoes. I used to spend hours playing in my grandmother’s shoe closet (it’s in the blood, I blame her for my shoe addiction…and clothing addiction…and accessory addiction…). So don’t feel bad if your shoe tally seems a tad extreme! Be proud of your collection! Toss pairs that have turned moldy and feral, but keep the ones that still have life and sole left in them. Pardon the pun!
Hunter quilted snow boots, my newest purchase. Brave the snow this season with these toasty beauties! Fully insulated with a sleek design, these will surely keep you in fine winter form! The black are almost sold out across Japan. They also come in a lovely bitter chocolate tone.
Country Road leather knee-high flat caramel toned boots. Buttery soft, these are my go-to boots for mixing with denim & knitwear. Wider at the top, they look best with skinny pants/leggings and a slouchy, oversized or chunky knit.
These polished black babies purchased at a Melbourne shoe boutique are great with dresses or skinny pants. A bit roughed up after years of good wear, they still do well to chic-up an outfit!
I bought these years ago in Tokyo. The riding boot style hugs the calf, providing a slim leg line and structured appeal. Love them with skinny denim and an oversized coat.
I’ve come to love these Minnetonka ankle booties. The grey pairs well with most outfits, and they are just so soft and comfy! A rather chic alternative to Uggs perhaps…
Love love love these booties! Picked them up at an end-of-season sale in Melbourne a couple of years ago. They hug the foot snuggly (I have narrow feet and find it hard to find boots to match my foot shape) and pair very well with skinny denim, leggings or tights.
Hunter lover. The green see me through Spring/Summer, and the chocolate do well in Autumn/Winter as they are slightly insulated and a tad more snug in the calf.