The work boot. The cowboy boot. The go-go boot. The sheepskin boot. The logger boot. The biker boot. The riding boot, the desert boot and the all-theway-to-the-moon boot. The rock star of footwear silhouettes is undoubtedly the boot, especially when you throw in the Beatle boot and the classic 1460 by Dr. Martens—the standard uniform of punk and heavy metal bands for decades.
Boots are sturdy, durable, sexy attention-getters and often the centerpiece of an outfit. Boots can also be a source of protection against the elements, be it rain, cold or rugged terrain. Their utilitarian attributes are in step with today’s consumer, who demands increasing versatility in both style and performance—a leading reason why rain boots have taken the country by storm the past few years. It follows that many Fall ’12 boots featured in this, our annual boot issue, incorporate utilitarian benefits in stylish silhouettes. In fact, the outdoor market upgrades its style quotient for the season (“Outdoor Preview,” p. 34), while fashion brands are beefing up their performance attributes (“Encore Performance,” p. 16). It’s all a win-win for consumers seeking the most bang for their buck amid a shaky economy.
Perhaps one of the boot category’s only slips of late has had to do with taking the silhouette to extremes. Specifically, designers went over the top or, more precisely, over the knee, which appears to be a peak of fashion many consumers have chosen not to scale. For one thing, over-the-knee boots are often pricier, and it’s not an easy look to pull off without the prerequisite lengthy gams. It appears that designers have since gotten the memo, offering plenty of shorter-shaft styles for next fall in accessible looks like moto and Native American. Be sure to view our fashion story, “Going Native” (p. 46), for an inspiring take on the latter trend. And for a comprehensive preview of the latest boot trends, take in our Trend Spotting section (begins on p. 24).
In other words, it’s a boot bonanza—only slightly dented by the fall’s mild temperatures. The abnormally warm stretch for nearly the entire eastern half of the country put a damper on weather-driven boot sales. And while Old Man Winter may rear his head later this season, most experts agree that it’ll be too late to recoup the season’s sales entirely. It’s one of the reasons why Steve Sedlbauer, president of Cougar Footwear and the subject of this month’s Q&A (p. 18), has repositioned the brand from a winterbased utilitarian model to a fashion-driven lifestyle one. Sedlbauer says consumers have flat-out changed: Gone are the days when mothers across North America would buy their children winter boots during the waning days of summer. Nowadays, unless it’s actually cold and snowy, it’s an expense that can be put off. Guys, on the other hand, haven’t changed a bit: “When the snow is up to their rears, then it’s time to go boot shopping,” Sedlbauer says.
There’s solace in such predictabilities, since human behavior, like the weather, is largely unpredictable. Anything that can be depended upon season after season is welcomed in the high stakes game of fashion retailing. Boot sales, thankfully, continue to stand tall in this regard.