I live in the Northeast and, with snowstorms and frigid weather in the forecast, I wondered if you could recommend stylish boots that can stand up to the elements but not look out of place in a nice restaurant or gathering? — Stacy, Needham, Mass.
My usual suggestion of first resort when it comes to cold weather dressing ideas is simple: Look thee to the Sundance Film Festival.
After all, nowhere else are there so many concentrated examples of people (or, to be fair, people’s stylists) who have had to consider dressing stylishly for both the snow and public opinion, yet in a relatable way. Unlike award show red carpets, Sundance involves celebrities dressing for the day and a casual setting. And there are so many different solutions for various ages, personalities and aesthetics to choose from!
Sadly, however, Sundance, like many other January events, has gone virtual. That’s the bad news. The good news is snow-boot style is largely perennial. So while it’s not exactly possible to shop the look, you can shop the inspiration by taking a scan through prior years.
Indeed, there’s not much difference between the footwear that was popular in 2012 and the footwear that was popular in 2020, which also means that investing in a good pair of boots, which is simply a smart choice from a protective-gear perspective, is also a good choice from a style perspective. Ideally, this is a one-and-done shoe situation.
Historically, the dominant brand at Sundance, hands down, has been Sorel. It even offers a wedge-heeled winter boot as part of its Joan of Arctic collection. But whatever brand you choose, the idea is to combine the necessary tech specifications (waterproof, insulated, with a no-skid sole, according to the experts at Lowa) with enough flair to make your boots not just a necessity, but an accessory.
Then you can go one of two ways.
First, embrace the sheer snowiness of the snow boot, and opt for a big puffer style that is unapologetic about its performance values. This may seem a weird choice when you go indoors, but it has an ironic appeal that is also a useful conversation starter.
See, for example, the North Face ThermoBall ankle boot, which looks as if you just stuck your foot into your pillow, or the Columbia Paninaro. Or the classic Moon Boot, which, given our current space obsession, seems entirely apropos. (Also, the company just did a collaboration with Chloé, which speaks to the boot’s rising trendiness.)
Or, second, opt for one with a thinner profile, more akin to a leather boot. Eddie Bauer offers waterproof fleece-lined knee-high boots that barely look like snow boots at all. Dr. Martens has a winter grip-soled Chelsea boot. And the Rogue 10 from Kamik has a fleece-meets-festival vibe. Trends aren’t just for Coachella, after all.
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