Mixing style, function because weather might be frightful but fashion doesn't have to be

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

For too long, women have surrendered stylishness to snow.

As soon as the fluffy white stuff hits the ground, the cute ballerina flats and high heels sported during the warmer months are thrown to the back of the closet to await summer’s return, while winter boots — thick-soled, rubber, waterproof — take center stage.

Boots are a necessity when it comes to trudging through the snow. While they tend be bulkier and chunkier than other footwear, they don’t have to be unattractive. Just because you’re knee-deep in snow doesn’t mean you can’t make a fashion statement, experts say.

“It’s about mixing fashion with function,” said Steven Greenstein, vice president of sales for Spring Step Shoes. Gone are the days when women carried their shoes in a bag to change into once they reached their destination, he said. “[Women] are looking for something they can wear right from their commute into their work day.”

Spring Step Shoes, along with many other brands including Sperry Topsider, Sorel, Ecco, and Bogs, has created several collections of boots for women that are chic but also have features that will stand up to harsh conditions such as freezing rain, wind, and snow while combating winter’s chill.

“We have some boots that can withstand temperatures of minus 40 degrees,” said Joel Whalen, co-owner of Yaeger’s Shoes on Sylvania and Monroe. “It’s functional because it’s waterproof and it’s warm. With different colors and patterns, now they’re cute. You tuck your jeans, leggings, or tights into them and you go.”

When it comes to sales, boots are “monster big.” As shoe sales slumped, boot sales soared and much earlier than usual, experts say.

L.L. Bean sold about 100,000 pairs a year of its hand-made duck boots in past years, but in 2014, the company sold more than 450,000 pairs. The company hired an additional 100 bootmakers to help fill 100,000 orders on a waiting list.

“This past fall, there was almost a complete departure from buying shoes. [Women] went right from sandals to boots,” Mr. Greenstein said.

“Everyday shoes, like Mary Janes, close-toed shoes — a transitional shoe between summer and winter — saw a slowdown because the boots picked up so much earlier,” he said.

Styles vary by brand, with many including functional features such as waterproof outsoles and faux-fur linings. Varying lengths, quilted and knitted shafts, buckles, and other hardware add style and personality.

“It looks a lot dressier than a traditional snow boot. The old-fashioned, chunky, zip-front snow boot is on the way out,” Mr. Whalen said.

“Women of all ages want something that looks good and is comfortable and functional.”

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: rmullen@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.

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