W?hen I recently posted a piece on the L.A. Weekly’s Style Council blog proclaiming my (still) shameless love for the much-berated Ugg boot, I wasn’t prepared for the response I would get. My sanity was actually questioned by LA.com’s revered fashion blog Clothes Hoarse, while friends considered an intervention. But Uggs are not a trendy new brand. They’ve been around since the ’70s, created by an Australian surfer dude who then marketed them to Cali wave-riders. Unfortunately, once the Malibu Barbie celeb set got their feet inside the fluffy sheepskin goodness a couple of years ago, it was all over. What was an outdoorsy staple became an out-status fad. Knockoffs abounded and footwear faux pas status was inevitable. Lately, haters are even organizing Ugg burning parties. In a nutshell, Uggs are the new disco.
So I decided to set out on a quest to find some alternatives, boots that offer both comfort and flattering calf coverage. Here are some suggestions and store recommendations for boots that — at least this week — are definitely made for walkin’, not mockin’.
The closest thing you’re probably gonna find to the snuggle appeal of the Ugg, these knit kickers are really leg warmers and shoes in one. The Flashdance resurgence (cut-up tees and sweatshirts) may have already come and gone, but curiously, the leg-warmer look never did get the big comeback. These sweater-sockish mukluks just might do the trick, though. The slouchy-boot look is everywhere, and these take the idea to the extreme. You’ll be as warm and comfortable while shopping (or after surfing) as you would be in Uggs, but you’ll be more socially acceptable. Uggs feel like slippers but these puppies are just a rubber sole away from being socks and there’s something fabulously defiant about that. The best-quality ones, by a brand called Liv, come with a nylon laundry bag so when your boots get dirty, you can just pop ’em in the bag and then in the wash. They also run big, so go one size down from your normal shoe size. There is one problem — these are destined to be the new Ugg, so get them now, and wear ’em first, then pray Britney Spears doesn’t get her feet in them. Liv’s crochet boot, light brown, $125, at Kitson, 115 S. Robertson Blvd.;?(310) 859-2652. Or Delia’s brand for half as much, www.delias.com.
They say if you wore it the first time around, you probably shouldn’t again, and thanks to a misguided period of fashion I’ll call the metal-meets-cow-punk era (remember bolo ties?), the whole cowboy boot thing could have gotten a little tainted. Somehow, though, they’ve retained their staying power because the thing about cowboy boots is, even though they’re usually pointy, they’re surprisingly comfortable, and they offer a certain amount of weather resistance too. Updated styles have a more rounded toe, but either way this boot’s a classic that just keeps coming back. Which is why the best Western footwear is the vintage stuff (plus they’re already broken in!). Kowboyz, the little honky-tonk hut across the street from Swingers, has been hawking ’em for years and will continue to do so even after wild clotheshorses stop galloping in. (One tip, make sure you bring socks. Though they have a bucket of them you can borrow for try-ons, I don’t think they’ve been washed, ever.) Cowboy boots, $60-$400, at Kowboyz, 8050 Beverly Blvd.; (323) 653-4444.
Straight or Slouchy?
Whether you’re feeling straight-laced and proper or laid-back and go-with-the-flow, there’s a boot to match your mood out there. Just take a stroll down Melrose Avenue and you’ll see plenty of scrunched-down looks. The slouch has even been incorporated into other styles, thereby creating a new hybrid, like “the slouchy cowboy boot” seen at Urban Outfitters (www.urbanoutfitters.com). Or the “sneaker-slouch boot” from Skechers (see photo): Imagine a knit boot like Livs having a love child with a pair of Chuck Taylors. Guess it’s not surprising that the biggest selection of comfortable boots can be found at a sneaker store. Skechers has a boot bonanza right now, including everything from space-agey strapped styles from designer Michelle K to combat-boot-looking stompers. “Diversions,” natural or black, $69, at Skechers, 7500 Melrose Ave.; (323) 653-6302. For other locations: www.skechers.com.
For a more polished look, the riding boot is a sleek choice with frocks or with jeans tucked into them. I found these super-comfy rubber-soled ones from Miss Sixty. They offer durability and style without making ya look like an equestrian. And the rivets are a nice touch. A little bit country, a little bit rock & roll. “Buffalo,” dark brown, $285, at Miss Sixty, 8080 Melrose Ave.; (323) 655-7220. For other locations: ?www.misssixty.com.
Fryes With That?
Remember good ol’ Frye boots? They’re back too and as comfortable and durable as ever. If you still have yours, break ’em out and dust ’em off. It’s time. If you missed out on them during their last reincarnation in the ’90s, now’s your chance to buy into a classic. They’re too bulky to wear with jeans but they lend an innocence to micro miniskirts, dresses or short shorts (and help in an ass-kicking should you need to throw down). Perfect when you want to look cute but tough. Frye, “Campus,” saddle, $260, at Madison, 8115 Melrose Ave.; (323) 651-3662.
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When it comes to day boots to wear with dresses and skirts, earthy trumps techno, and Indian moccasin-y styles in brown and beige provide the perfect boho feel. Plus they don’t evoke Pocahontas or Heavy Metal Parking Lot. These are totally vegetarian too, fabric scrunched together, with faux shearling inside and a rubber-wedge heel. “Illuminations Fond,” winter white, $75, at Skechers, 7500 Melrose Ave.; (323) 653-6302. For other locations: www.skechers.com.
Damn, I thought I could sneak this past you. I can’t help it! I still love them. At night, most women are willing to suffer for sex appeal. So why do we have to suffer during the day too? No matter how unattractive or uncool they may be, Uggs were a gift from the foot gods for long-suffering fashionistas who’ve been ravaging their feet for the sake of having “Hot Legs” when they go out. After a hard evening of dancing and prancing, I think of my Uggs as recovery aids. Why tippytoe? I crave ’em like a greasy breakfast. If you’re like me, determined to help keep the Ugg alive, rest assured the company is doing its part to fight the backlash with a new line of colors and styles (see ’em at www.uggaustralia.com).