This is a public information announcement: autumn is around the corner and these are the dangerous fashion days.
The shops are filling up with buttery camel coats, soft neck-caressing sweaters, figure-flattering tailoring and, should you wander off the street into a shop now and breathe in the smell of new wool and leather, you’re at real risk of buying the first decent thing you see, or, what I call GATE shopping: ‘Getting Autumn Too Early’.
It pays to get ahead, in theory, but as many times as I’ve bought the early black trousers (useful, might sell out) or the can’t-go-wrong rollneck sweater, I’ve found a better alternative a few weeks later when the autumn/winter collections have officially dropped and you can see all your options.
These are the days to take stock, get your eye in and focus on finding the right foundation of any winter wardrobe — the right boots.
Footwear is always a very big part of your look, and the boots for autumn are going to be your hard-working game-changers.
We’re talking about a boot somewhere on the spectrum from a biker (remember those?) via cowboy boots to a Western-style ankle boot.
What they all have in common is a low, walkable heel and a utilitarian (rather than dressed up) attitude, but they don’t have to be chunky or bristling with buckles and tooling. And we’re past the industrial tractor sole moment. Praise be.
That’s what’s clever about this season’s boot mood: you can buy into the extremes, or leave them to your twenty-something daughter and opt for something similar but pared down.
Very quick reminder as to where a boot can get you now: it will extend the life of your favourite daytime midi dresses. Worn with trousers it’ll give your look the necessary autumn (ahem) reboot.
Poking out of the bottom of a nearly long hemline, it can make prettier clothes more daytime-and-on-into- evening wearable. Get the right boots (or resurrect a pair you already own) and you’ve got your foundation sorted.
The sweet spot is the Western-style boot, somewhere between a Spanish riding boot and a toned-down cowboy boot.
It comes in different styles and lengths — all neater and more elegant than a biker boot or full-on cowboy boot.
Hardware and cowboy detailing look good on the bare-legged young, not so much on their mums.
Boden has a cropped chocolate brown suede pair (£170, boden.co.uk) with all the necessary details: a low stacked cuban heel, topstitch detail, a narrow almond toe and pull-on tabs (the black leather style is also £170).
They’re more overtly Western and cut higher up the leg than the suede ankle boots we’ve all been wearing for decades, which gives them 2023 heft, but they’re also plain enough to blend in with your wardrobe. (Note: the black suede are knocked down to £68 because this is not a black suede moment and black looks ropey quickly whereas browns look naturally weathered).
Mango does a good tobacco, suede Western ankle boot (£79.99, shop.mango.com).
For a more polished Prada look and a higher (10cm) heel, Mango’s sharp black leather western ankle boot (£89.99) will hit the spot under tailored trousers for work.
Zara also does several styles in polished black, including one with a sharper toe and stitched on ‘pieces’ (£79.99, zara.com) which is fancier but sleek and not over the top.
Ankle boots continue to be the most useful, light and practical option. That won’t change, but I also have my eye on a mid-calf beige suede boot with regular low heel, rounded toe, pull tabs and white stitching (£250, arket.com).
It’s not cheap but the quality and the no-frills style make it a classic you can wear year round. I wouldn’t wear a long cowboy boot under a skirt, but I would wear this.
To try a proper cowboy boot, head to Zara which has a classy pair in embroidered light tan suede (£109, zara.com) and for a good quality biker boot the place to go is Arket (£119, arket.com).
If you’re lucky, you have the same size feet as your daughter (or stepdaughter in my case) so should it not work out: there’s something from her brothers for her birthday.
Everyone will be wearing some version of these.