clothes · style matters

Go-To Boots

Not “go-go” boots, but “go-to” boots, as in “This pair of black pleather pull-up Franco Sarto stack-heel boots are my go-to footwear for work and fun alike.” And they are, they really are.

Beyond a well-made, well-fitting, flattering suit, every academic gal needs a miracle piece of footwear–a boot, a shoe, or maybe a sandal, depending on the climate you work in–that goes with everything. It has to work with a skirt, with a dress, with dress pants, and with jeans. Hell, nowadays it even has to work with leggings. It has to be hip enough to wear in the off-hours, comfortable enough to stand up in for a 90 minute class or two (or three), sturdy enough to have equal purchase on waxed institutional flooring and unshoveled winter bus stops alike, and dressy enough to plausibly wear to a job interview, whether your own or someone else’s. It should have enough of a heel to add a little height and keep your hems out of the mud but not so high as to tip you, ass-over-teakettle, as they say, into said mud. A real winner in this department will also manage to be waterproof and salt-stain proof.

I have worn these boots nearly every day between September and April since 2006:

(Imagine that my right leg is wearing a skirt and my left is wearing pants. 
The purse is gratuitous, but I just got it on sale for $35 and it adds zip to every occasion.)

Why place such a heavy burden on one poor set of soles? Why not hip suede sneakers with your jeans? A nice t-strap pump with the skirt, a dressy ankle boot with the suit, and Sorels for the bus stop? There are two main reasons why I at least lean so heavily on my one favorite pair of boots.

First: when I was a poor graduate student, and when I was a postdoc, and like many of my friends tenuously / temporarily / contingently employed, there wasn’t money to fill the shoe closet to brimming, and what money there was, frankly, could be better spent. Come to think of it, there was no shoe closet in that bachelor apartment, either. So: cost. I imagine that some among you might face similar constraints. And really, no matter my income level, I would rather have one really nice thing, than three things that will just fall apart before the end of term (I’m looking at you, Zellers sandals that broke my heart!)

Second: now that I’m a faculty member, I travel a lot, to conferences and unconferences and workshops and such. I try to concoct the maximum sartorial variety from the minimum number of pieces of clothing, to minimize, obviously, the size and weight of luggage I am inevitably going to drag from terminal to terminal in Minneapolis or Denver or Amsterdam or Calgary, and then up fif-ty-se-ven-se-pa-rate stairs to a stifling garret room at a bed and breakfast in Brighton (for example) or across a bumpy acre of parking lot at midnight at UVic (for another example). I want to travel light, but I don’t want to look like someone who’s traveling light. I want to be stylin’ and comfortable without carting around my bodyweight in luggage. I know many of you travel a lot more than me, so I’m confident I’m not the only one facing this issue, either.

So tell me: do you have a go-to boot, or shoe? A miracle scarf or pashmina or rain jacket? A pantsuit for all occasions? My boots have already been re-heeled once, and I know they’re not going to last forever. I’m looking for inspiration on this front, if you have any to send this way.

3 thoughts on “Go-To Boots

  1. i have a pair of boots rather similar to yours. found 'em in Vienna in 2002. have worn them every through 7 winters of sessional teaching for 4 different universities since.

    eventually my toes started poking through the leather and i had to get them capped. but i can't seem to replace them.

    this fall, i'm approaching the academy from a different perspective b/c i'm IN classes, not teaching them. so i bought Blundstones. 🙂


  2. Hi Bon — I guess there is a different aesthetic between the front of the room and the rest of it! When I was a grad student, I had a pair of zip-up black ankle-height Fluevog square toed boots. I wore them completely out, then bought a second pair, and wore them completely out, too. My third pair just doesn't seem to meet my needs anymore. Maybe if I do another degree I'll start wearing them again 😉


  3. Your post is making me weep at the impending passing of my own Franco Sarto pull-up boots that I have worn continuously from September to May. Mine are pointier in the front and have a skinny curved heel but they were comfortable enough to wear all day sightseeing and worked with skirts, dresses, pants. Now however, they are done: one of the heels squeaks unpleasantly when I walk; the pleather (yes, pleather) is becoming unstitched at the back; the pointy toes are showing wear. I bought replacement boots from Nine West last year but they are nowhere near as comfortable. Sigh.


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