Saturday, November 24, 2012

Style Basics, Part One: Shoes

When it comes to shoes, there seems to be millions of styles, shapes, colors, and textures. In reality, shoes can be split up into two main categories: flats and heels. Each of these categories has plenty of sub-categories, which I am going to explain to you. If you can understand the differences between different kinds of shoes, you'll be an expert when the time comes to go shoe-shopping. For each type, I have included its name, a description of the shoe type, what it looks best with, and a photograph of a shoe taken by yours truly. The words in parentheses by the title of the shoe indicate other names that the shoes may go by in different countries, states, or even just how people refer to them. Soon, you'll be a mean-green-shoe-knowin'-machine!


Ankle Boots

Ankle boots, or "booties", as some people refer to them as, are exactly what they sound like: they're boots that go only a few inches above your ankle. They look best under jeans or pants--they don't cause problems when it comes to not finding skinny boots to wear under your jeans. Another way that ankle boots can be worn is with a knee-length, flowy dress (or skirt). I don't recommend pairing ankle boots with short skirts--it will make your legs look out of proportion to the rest of your body (not in a flattering way).

Ballet Flats/Open Ballet Flats

Ballet flats are flat shoes with backs, and fully cover the toes, but leave the top/center open. Open ballet flats are exactly the same as ballet flats, except for the fact that they are open-toe (the front is opened). Ballet flats are probably the most versatile shoe a woman can own in her closet--they can be worn with everything from dresses and skirts, to jeans and work pants. The colors and varieties of ballet flats are endless--some designers, like TopShop, choose to decorate theirs with studs. Others, like Marc Jacobs, decide to put cute little animal faces on them. You really can't go wrong with a pair of ballet flats, as long as they go with the rest of your outfit.

Boat Shoes (Topsiders, Deck Shoes)
Boat shoes are flat shoes with rubber soles and stitching around the front of the top. They get their name because  sailors used to wear them on the slippery decks of boats, and the bottoms would prevent them from sliding around. Adored by both men and women, boat shoes are a preppy addition to any closet. They are best paired with skinny pants and a button up shirt and/or blazer, because their shape can either be highlighted really well, or terribly. Although they used to only come in limited color choices (black, navy, or brown), companies like Sperry Topsider have added fun patterns like cheetah print, sequins, and plaid, to make boat shoes more attractive. 

Brogues (Derby Shoes, Oxfords, Saddle Shoes, Wingtips)
Brogues are low cut, flat shoes made with many layers of leather (rarely other materials) that have cutouts amongst the different layers. They are stitched together, and usually have a tie closure. Some brogues today try to modernize the classic style, and have neon-colored bottoms, and neutral leather tops (pretty cool, and very trendy). Saddle shoes, a variation of brogues are two toned, usually black and white, with tan soles. Brogues can be paired with flowing skirts (no longer than under the knee--it'll look to hippy with a maxi-skirt/dress), or they can be paired with denim shorts and collared shirts. 


Clogs are shoes with a very low heel (usually only an inch or an inch and a half), and you slide your foot into them. They don't have backs, but do have material covering the toes. Clogs go nicely with jeans and sweaters--they tend to be autumn shoes. Clogs are the perfect transition shoes between the seasons.

Combat Boots

Combat boots are flat shoes, that usually have a beaten, rougher look, and are made out of leather. They are high boots (they usually go two or three inches above the ankle) and lace up. Combat boots are usually brown or black, and look best with skinny jeans tucked in, and edgy shirts (finally time to get some wear out of that old Nirvana t-shirt from a million years ago). 

Cowboy boots are generally under-the knee boots, sometimes with a heel, but are most of the time flat. They tend to have pointed, upward facing toes, and have patterns punched into the toe or side of the boots. Because they are made of leather, once they are broken into, they look like you've been living in the Wild West for quite some time. Cowboy boots are best paired with jeans tucked in (and don't forget your straw hat!). Yee-haw!

Espadrilles, which is ironically the French words for "sneakers", are anything but. They are flat, canvas or fabric shoes, that sometimes tie at the ankle. The soles are usually made of synthetic fibers or rope. Espadrilles are mainly worn in the summer, but if you live in someplace that is warm all year round, wearing them in December might be acceptable. They are best paired with brightly colored bermuda shorts, denim shorts, or anything with nautical stripes (like these pants). 

Flip Flops (Thongs, Zories)

Flip flops are flat, open shoes, with a piece of fabric or rubber separating the big toe from the others. Flip flops are worn during the summertime and can be paired with anything and everything. Some are solid and plain, while others are embellished. Flip flops are generally made out of rubber or plastic, and are very flexible.

Rainboots (Galoshes, Gumboots, Wellies, Wellington Boots)

Burnt Orange HUNTER Rainboots

Rainboots are flat (rarely heeled) boots, made of durable rubber, with fabric insides. As their name explains, they're made to withstand the rain. Some brands, like Hunter Boots, put a fashionable twist on their solid-colored boots, and sell fun liners with fashionable prints on them. Rainboots can be worn with minskirts, jeans, or leggings. I don't recommend wearing long skirts and wide leg pants with rainboots, because 1. it could drag on the ground and get wet, and 2. it just looks plain ridiculous. 

High top sneakers are flat, lace up shoes that go an inch or two higher than your ankle. They were made famous by Converse (Chuck Taylors). They go nicely with jeans or leggings, and even some skirts and dresses to make them a bit more casual. Some sneakers, like these could make a floral, girly dress a little more... punky. Pastel high tops make white jeans stand out in a sporty-girly way. 


Loafers are flat, slip-on shoes, that are usually made of leather. They can be worn with work attire, or wide-leg pants. Loafers, not to be confused with smoking slippers, are more professional, and not usually worn for reasons other than work. They're not very desirable for a younger crowd, though. 

Mary Janes

Mary Janes are simple, usually solid-colored heels, with a single strap across the middle of the foot. They are closed-toe and generally have rounded toes. They are best paired with girly dresses and skirts. Designer Louboutin has added studs to the back of this classic shoe, adding a little edge to a simple design.


Moccasins originate from Native Americans, are flat shoes, and are made from animal skin, suede, or synthetic materials. Some have fringe or beads. They are best paired with jeans and flowy shirts. Bring back the 70's in style with a pair of moccasins like these


Mules, although very similar to clogs, have one small difference: they're open toe. With a chunky base and semi-thick strap across the middle, mules look nice with wide leg jeans and floral shirts. I don't recommend wearing mules (or clogs) with short skirts--it will make your legs look unnecessarily chunky.

Platform Heels

Platform heels are high heels with an extra block of material under the front of the shoe to add height without breaking your foot. They give off the effect of being taller than you actually are, and are popular because of that. Platforms come in every color and material imaginable, and can be worn with anything, especially dressy outfits. 


Pumps are high heels with thicker heels. They range in color and material, but the main difference between them and any other type of shoe is its heel is thicker. They can be worn with virtually everything.

Riding boots are generally flat, leather boots with pieces of leather tied around them, or with buckles placed on the outside of the shoe. They are meant to resemble actual riding boots, but with made to work with everyday clothing. They can be worn with jeans and floral shirts, blazers, or flowy skirts. They also look nice paired with leggings and sweaters.


Sandals are a very broad category of shoes. They all have a few things in common: they are open toe, flat, and are usually slip-on. Sandals are summer shoes, and look nice with everything from maxi-dresses to rompers.

Skate Shoes

Skate shoes, like Vans™, are just like regular sneakers, but have sturdy, textured, flat, rubber soles (for gripping on to a skateboard, etc.). They have made their way into the fashion world, and look nice with jeans, flirty skirts, and short rompers. Another way to wear them is with a floral dress with a denim shirt tied in the front. 

Sling Back

Sling back shoes are heels with a strap that goes around the ankle. They can be open-toe or closed-toe. They look good with anything, especially business outfits and pencil skirts. They also look nice with peplum dresses and form-fitting dresses. 


Stiletto, which means little stilt in Italian, pretty much describes what these shoes are. They're just like regular heels, but have a skinny, pointier, tall (over four inch) heel. Stilettos can be worn with anything, especially formal wear. They make you seem tall, so they're perfect for that formal gown you were totally planning on wearing next week.


Wedge shoes are heels, but instead of having a separate heel, the front and the back are all connected. They can be open or closed toe, and look best under wide leg jeans, to really elongate your legs. 

Flatforms (Creepers)

ASOS "Creepers" Flatforms

Flatforms are like normal shoes, but on a platform. Wearing them, it doesn't hurt your foot, because essentially there is no heel, just a gigantic platform which elevates your feet. They can look like Oxfords, or just simple shoes on platforms. 

Smoking Slippers

Jimmy Choo Smoking Slippers

Smoking slippers are slip-on, elegant shoes. They are kind of like ballet flats, but have fabric extending halfway over the foot, kind of like a flap. They have recently been a huge hit in the fashion world. They look great with preppy blazers, structured dresses, and black pants. 

Over the Knee Boots

Frye Over-the-Knee Boots

Over the knee boots are boots that go over the knee (well, that was redundant, but there's no other way to explain it). Some have heels, some don't. They are usually made out of leather, because leather is a sturdy material. Over the knee boots go nicely with leggings and sweaters/blazers. If you're short, over the knee boots may not be your friend. They can literally make your legs look half the size that they really are. Tall people, these are the boots for you.


I hope this list helps you navigate your way through the shoe department of your favorite stores (now that you're an expert!). If I missed any type of shoes, or you need help with how to pair a certain style with a specific outfit, feel free to comment, or contact me. 

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