It makes me laugh now to think how many arguments I had with my mother about the wearing of winter boots when I was a kid. No! They were UGLY, they were not COOL. No! None of the COOL kids wore winter boots! No! We tried to compromise — there were endless shopping trips where we searched for the elusive perfect boots that would satisfy both my mother’s need for practicality and my need for COOL. The resulting boots never really satisfied either of us, which is often the nature of compromises.
Seriously, I doubt that the coolest boots in the world would’ve helped me. I was fat & dorky and while I had my friends, ugly boots were not really going to downgrade my status all that much. But that is my adult’s perspective. From my perspective as a child/young teen, I didn’t want to give anyone additional reasons to mock or shun me.
Wearing unfashionable boots also meant you were doing what your parents told you to do. What was less cool than that? The kids who didn’t wear boots either had parents who didn’t care, or they were saying “No” to them and winning the battle. I wanted to wear my Nikes or hellishly-high-heeled wedges in the snow and suffer cold and wet feet (and possibly broken bones) in order to create an aura of teenage independence and strong will. It didn’t work very often.
Things have changed since then. Now I’m 43, and I’m a public transportation commuter. I often have to tromp through puddles of slop and piles of snow, or negotiate slippery sidewalks. I have to stand in the cold while waiting for buses and trains. So guess what? I love my winter boots. I NEED them.
But it’s different these days, for two reasons: 1) I can buy whatever boots I want. There is no one who needs to be compromised with. And 2) Boots are COOL now! Everyone is wearing them. Hunter, Sorel, Ugg, Columbia, Keen, and every knock off of every brand. This is true in Chicago at least — but maybe we’re just making the necessities of winter survival into fashion statements. I don’t feel like a pariah with my pant legs tucked into my black suede Columbia boots. I see a woman wearing red Sorels and I think “Dang, those are cute!” And I shudder to see someone wearing Chucks in the middle of a snowstorm. Yes, it appears that I am now a grown-up.
I actually put “black Hunter boots” on my Christmas list. I’d been wanting a pair for awhile, but at $125 they’re a little steep for my budget. And they NEVER go on sale. (I guess having a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth means you never have to mark down your merchandise.)
My junior high self would’ve been horrified at this. I can hear her now: “You are actually ASKING for black rubber galoshes as a CHRISTMAS PRESENT?” Well, yes. Yes I am. And I got them. I’m sure my mother was secretly thrilled to buy me the sturdy, utilitarian boots she always wanted to! Finally, my daughter sees reason!
Of course it doesn’t hurt that Hunter boots are very trendy right now. But I don’t think it’s the kind of trend that will die after a few seasons. It will still snow, and rain, and I’ll still have to walk to the store. They’ll still be useful, and they’ll probably last me for the rest of my life (however long that may be). I don’t know if it’s because I live in a big city instead of a small town, or because I work in a business that’s full of people who march to their own style drum, or if things truly have changed — but it seems to me that what’s “in fashion” is a much broader category now than it used to be. Things still come and go, but the lines between what is “in” and what is “out” are pretty fuzzy. Maybe it also seems that way to me because I’m not in high school anymore. Maybe it’s still very cut-and-dried for them: You DO wear this, you DON’T wear that, at your social peril. I don’t have kids, so I haven’t had to approach this issue from the parental side.
I still care what I look like, and what impression I make on people with my clothing choices (to a certain degree). But I also want to be comfortable and avoid falling on my ass as much as I can. I never expected to meet winter boots in the middle.