Even before Mary Poppins had returned, designers decided that perky boots, the kind a magical nanny might deign to wear, would be back in style for spring 2019. Alongside the embellished and befeathered sandals that we’ll be seeing so many of come high summer, models trod the international catwalks in boots designed for lighter, brighter days. To that end, the new boots come in suede, in lightweight leathers, some in canvas. Most rise to the lower calf, some to the knee, but their heels rarely soar. Many are flat or mid-height and most definitely made for walking. There’s fun to be had in colour, decorative hardware and jewellery-like embellishments too. Victoria Beckham’s catwalk models wore flat metallic Dance boots (£950), while at Roksanda, sporty orange and white boots (£895) looked ideal for spring. Loewe’s orange and black bee-stripe in pony hair (£795) was a punchy take on the pirate boot, and Paul Smith’s pointed lace-ups, inspired by Debbie Harry in the 1980s, came in high-shine black calfskin and red and cream faux snakeskin (£695).
With changing weather patterns and a desire for clothes to work trans-seasonally, the boot is increasingly seen as an adaptable accessory of choice. Last summer and winter, adaptations of the mid-heeled cowboy boots served women well – Cassie Smart, buying manager of shoes and handbags at Matchesfashion.com, cites Chloé’s low-cut Rylee boot (from £640) and Ganni’s Western (from £370) as particularly good performers. “They are perfect to style with floaty romantic silhouettes in the summer and with denim in winter,” she adds. “And the trend for chunky boots with dresses and skirts continues throughout the year. Customers find it a versatile way to toughen up softer pieces and increase ways to wear them.”
Perhaps with this in mind, designers have been exploring new ideas and techniques for the category that lend added decorative details and a certain glamour. “For day, a boot can create a contemporary look where ladylike heels do not feel right,” says Smart. “And for evening, kitten heel and slouch boots exploring rich fabrics create a more modern look than a pump.”
Or as Ada Kokosar – the founder and creative director of Midnight 00, a luxury label with a baroque feminine aesthetic inspired by Cinderella – puts it: “Ankle boots have the power to transform a look into something cool and edgy.” This season her label includes an elegant quilted cotton and PVC ankle bootie (£780) called the Matellassé in white and baby blue.
If Kokosar is influenced by Cinderella, the boots at JW Anderson might have come straight from The Elves and The Shoemaker’s studio, such are their fairytale inventiveness. The paperbag tie-style bootie (£750) in black and white with a pointed toe, a gold jewellery detail across the front and an elegantly slouchy upper, has an enchanting folkish quality. Alternatively, postbox-red knee-high boots (£1,270) with jewellery and white stitching visible on a black sole are fit for a handsome marquis’s wardrobe – but would be equally charming under mid-length, fluid skirts.
It is those jewellery details that set boots apart this season. At Jil Sander, it is simply done with silver-coloured metal anklets around the tops of flat lace-up boots (£845), almost Victorian in style, in black, white, beige and dove-grey. At Louis Vuitton, the lace-up Janet style (£975), which comes in glazed and plain calfskin and in alligator, python or monogrammed canvas, is finished with a subtle matching anklet. Other Louis Vuitton signatures are the engraved hardware buckle and monogram-tipped laces. Key to the brand’s modern-witchy look is the new “shifted” 9.5cm heel that juts out slightly to the rear, with padded insoles for extra comfort. A flat version called the Jumble (from £1,150), with buckles across the front and a helpful diagonal zip, comes in calfskin, patent or monogram canvas, as well as four shades of alligator, including a brilliant “poisonous” green, and black python.
Christopher Kane’s pointy punkish boots in black, white and scarlet were a highlight in his catwalk collection. The white boots with stiff black-lace gusset (£645) were the perfect punctuation mark to a flouncy tiered tulle skirt and vivid red sweater. And at Alexander McQueen, where the creative team were inspired by a field trip to England’s West Country, almost every catwalk look was grounded by a pointy Victorian-style boot with shiny metal toecap. The range available in-store includes both high and low studded and cut-out boots (from £930) and a style (£1,190) in black leather with a handpainted-effect of a floral design and a silver stiletto heel.
Those for whom boots are anathema to summer feet could consider the toeless styles. Jil Sander’s knee-high sock boots (£645), cut out at the front, are a minimalist’s dream in dove grey and black, while Salvatore Ferragamo has created a hybrid of boot and sandal (price on request) in woven leather. More breathable, certainly – but a weekly pedicure might be necessary.
For Sandra Choi, creative director of Jimmy Choo, season is irrelevant. She likes the attitude of wearing a dress with bare legs and boots in summer, though of course, the construction of summer iterations is always lighter, Choi adds. “The Bowie 100 suede boot [£695] is a good example. It has a Plexi gusset supporting the foot, which allows for the illusion that the upper has been split from top to toe.” It comes in three heights, with fabrications including a finely glittered stone-coloured leather and a dégradé painted python. Similarly lightweight is the pointy-toed Stitch 100 style [£795], which has a soft, slouchy upper and a drawstring. Choi has been inspired by the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, who also served as a source of creativity for Manolo Blahnik this season. The Spanish-born, London-based designer has developed a lightweight bootie-shoe hybrid (£885) in black and white polkadot and red, black or white patent, cut out across the front. With its black and white sculptural heel, it is a standout choice for summer events. Likewise, a higher-cut style (£1,045) in lightweight blue and pink satin, embellished with stripes of frilled ribbon, looks like the most fun an Edwardian woman could have with a pair of boots. They also underline the idea that a boot is no longer seen as merely a practical piece of footwear.