Winter footwear – once a purely practical concession to snow, sleet and freezing temperatures – has evolved into an all-season, everyday basic. Blame it on recent weather, which has been so weirdly warm that it obviated the need for cold weather gear, thus allowing boots’ style qualities to come to the fore. Or young Hollywood, which originally embraced the idea of wearing Uggs with shorts for supermarket runs no matter the temperature. Ugg boots and all their kin – Emu boots, Celtic Sheepskin boots, and the latest entry in the field, Just Sheepskin, not to mention Hunter wellies, hiking styles, riding boots and Eskimo-style furry boots – have become standard day wear.
“They’re stylish now, whereas they weren’t a few years ago,” says Helen Attwood, buying manager for Selfridges, where Hunter, Moon Boot and Jimmy Choo’s biker boots are bestsellers. Attwood puts the boom in winter styles in urban centres down to a number of factors. “People get really emotional when it comes to boots like Uggs because they’re so cosy and warm,” she says. “But we’ve got better at styling these shapes too.”
The Moon Boot was originally created by Italian entrepreneur Giancarlo Zanatta in response to the moon landings in 1969, and the ultra-wide, chunky-soled style enjoyed serious fashionability in the 1970s. More than 22m pairs have been sold to date. Relaunched by snow-wear company Tecnica – creator of the original design – in 2010, sales have doubled since last year.
“We are going through a second Moon Boot boom,” says marketing and sales director Tom Berry. “An entire new generation of consumers is discovering this global icon.” Clever marketing helps: Moon Boot recently collaborated with Milan fashion mecca 10 Corso Como on a design for the store’s 20th anniversary and a pop-up Moon Boot store was created at London’s Selfridges shoe gallery, where the marshmallow-like styles sat alongside brands from Jimmy Choo to Repetto.
Meanwhile, Converse has created a new range based on the brand’s past styles for hunting and fishing, with reinforced, thick soles, distressed leather finishes and the slogan “The Right to Take it Outside” (the ad campaign features a close-up on boots in snow). Hunter – a big boot success story, with a £56.4m turnover last year, up 120 per cent from 2009 – is also creating a snow range. As well as the cute, chubby Chantel snow boot, available in an eye-catching gloss, there are hybrids of ski and Wellington designs, such as the Original Snow.
“It was an obvious opportunity, given the unpredictable weather we are all experiencing,” says Claire Saunders, marketing director of Hunter. “The vast majority of our boots are sold as much for their functionality as for their aesthetics. Our Original Snow has all the style of our iconic boot with a neoprene lining and a technical Vibram Icetrek sole which retains an excellent grip.”
While Hunter and Moon Boots hit the lower end of the market, with price points all under £200, premium brands are also embracing the styles. Bally’s new over-the-knee suede Camily Curling Boot (£495) comes with a specialised rubber sole to prevent slipping. According to Bally’s creative directors, Graeme Fidler and Michael Herz, the Camily is designed, “to show that practical doesn’t have to mean devoid of style”.
Prada, Pringle, Bally and Chanel have all created faux fur boots, and Ugg has launched Collection, a range using fine quality Italian leather and retailing at up to £899. “Collection is for the customer who knows the Ugg product but wants more choice,” says Brendan Hearity, the UK Brand marketing manager. “Given the breadth of our consumer profile, it was a natural step.” Ugg’s 2010 turnover was nearly £549m, and sales are up 47 per cent for third quarter 2011.
Then there’s new brand Cobra Society, which commands a designer heel price (up to £1,000 on net-a-porter) but features low-heeled cowboy boot shapes with Moroccan rug detailing. “I would never charge that much for a pair of boots that you couldn’t wear day to night,” says designer, Alex Davis. “These marry practicality and a classic with fashion.”