Fashion: Putting the boot in - everywhere

Knee-high, spike-heeled or wafer-soled, a sharp pair of boots is a wise buy. This one will run and run, but before you splash out, follow Rebecca Lowthorpe's advice and match your look to your leg shape
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The Independent Culture
THIS IS the year of the boot. And so is next year, and probably the one after that, which is ab-fabola news because boots don't come cheap. Worse: they can seriously haemorrhage your cash flow. Take the style squad's favourite booties - Gina's hand-embroidered flatties at the forget-the- rent price of pounds 750, or Manolo Blahnik's gorgeous grey ponyskin kitten heels, which cost no less than the latest BT phone/ fax gizmo, pounds 650.

With price-tags like these, it is something of a pleasure to announce that the boot is here to stay, and will not be trotting off to the fashion graveyard in six months' time, to be laid to rest between the headstones marked "Pashmina" and "Fendi Baguette". The fact that they're sticking around means that boots can now be seen as a blue-chip buy - as safe an investment as a classic winter coat. That is, as long as you follow these few simple, but golden rules.

1 If you are thinking of splashing out, don't - until you've shopped around - and that means until your feet are red-raw. After all, it's a big decision, and only the most avid fashion follower (victim?) would opt for the crippling, high, purple python-skin boots by Free Lance that are pictured here). Go for a mid to low heel - they're chic and modern, and it helps that they won't snap if you get caught between paving stones, or give your calves a lethal workout.

2 "Very long boots, to or above the knee, don't suit short people," says Tamara Yeardye, a keen boot fan and the managing director of the star footwear designer Jimmy Choo's ready-to-wear label. "Mid-calf boots are much more flattering for anyone who doesn't possess long legs," she adds. Her top tip is to wear a black, mid-calf boot with opaques; hey presto, longer legs can be yours. If you can't resist high boots, or indeed thigh boots, keep your hemlines low, or risk long, yearning glances from unfavourable quarters.

3 Colour. Don't go there. Black is most flattering, along with anything else dark or neutral - grey, beige, burnished brown. You'll be swayed by all the pattern and texture that jumps out from the stores' display units with "Take Me!" written all over them, but remember you'll have only fleeting fun with these crazes: zebra prints, snakeskin and (sorry, Manolo) ponyskin, which, is of course, nothing to do with ponies at all, but the glossiest of calf skins. Their very ubiquity - from Jones the Bootmaker to Jimmy Choo - has already signalled the death-knell for these fancy hides.

4 What do you wear them with? "Anything other than neutral or black tights is, quite frankly, abhorrent," declares Jamie Prieto, who is something of an expert witness in these matters, having worked as the shop manager for Manolo Blahnik (the footwear god) for 15 years. "Lacy tights smack of those awful American magazines of the mid-Eighties. They don't do anyone any favours unless you're Giselle [the supermodel with the frighteningly perfect bod]. And what's the point of drawing attention to your legs if they're not great legs?" asks Prieto flatly. Opaques and neutrals it is, then.

5 Remember this. Fashion may be as fickle as Marks & Spencer stocks, but boots are no flash-in-the-pan. Women have, after all, been wearing them ever since legs were created. Mark my words, six months from now, if anyone tells you your boots are passe, ask them whether they'd say the same of umbrellas or knickers.


Main picture: black T-shirt, pounds 9.99, by Damart, Regent Street, London W1, enquiries 01274-568 252; devore velvet skirt, pounds 450, by Clements Ribeiro, from Liberty, Regent Street, London W1, A La Mode, 36 Hans Cresent, London SW1, enquiries 0171-409 7719; tights, pounds 3.99, by Jonathan Aston, from department stores nationwide, enquiries 0116-286 2388; khaki leather boots, pounds 450, by Jimmy Choo, from Scorah Pattullo, 193 Westbourne Grove, London W11, enquiries 0171-792 0100.

Below, left to right: hand-embroidered boots, pounds 750, by Gina, 189 Sloane Street, London SW1, enquiries 0171-235 2932; popsocks, pounds 1.99, by Jonathan Aston, as before.

Purple snakeskin boots, pounds 228, by Free Lance, 352 Kings Road, London SW3, enquiries 0171-351 4038; chocolate fishnet tights, pounds 3.99, by Jonathan Aston, as before

Grey ponyskin boots, pounds 650, by Manolo Blahnik, 49-51 Old Church Street, London SW3, enquiries 0171-352 8622; black net tights, pounds 5, by Hue, from Selfridges, Oxford Street, London W1, enquiries 0171-629 1234.

Red-and-black animal stripe boots, pounds 229, by Senso, 23 Brompton Arcade, London SW3, 6 South Molton Street, London W1, 18 Hampstead High Street, London NW3, enquiries 0171-584 3484; black hold-up stockings with red seam and heel, pounds 3.99, by Jonathan Aston, as before.

Black leather mid-calf stiletto-heel boots, pounds 99.99, by Office, 55 South Molton Street, London W1, enquiries 0181-838 4447 ; chocolate-brown tights, pounds 6, by Aristoc, from department stores nationwide, enquiries 01773-525 520.

Red tassle-front boots, pounds 160, by Karen Millen, 22-23 James Street, London WC2, enquiries 01622-664 032; green rib tights, pounds 20, by Wolford, 3 South Molton Street, London W1, enquiries 0171-935 9202.