|ARIAT Stock Paddock Boots. Women: $74.95-$190, Men: $200 (MANHATTAN SADDLERY, 117 E. 24th St., 212.673.1400).|
|By Anita Sarko
Shoes are the gift (usually to one's self) that keeps on giving. Seriously. If you buy enough and live long enough, you will finally reach a point where you've covered every possible configuration that can ever be fashionable. Toes, heels, heights and styles can only fluctuate so much. Pumps, sandals, boots, peep-toes, moccasins, loafers, gladiators, etc., etc. We've seen them all before. And, if it's not in fashion now, it will be. Shoes are a very good wardrobe investment. Therefore, I say, “Zip it!” to naysayers and, “You're welcome!” to fellow junkies.
That's not to say that you have to be walking on your tippy-toes and growing bunions the size of Babe (as in the Blue Ox/the pig/Mr., Ruth…take your pick) 24/7. Nor does this mean that you can't find lots of bang for your buck. I've discovered that the ballet flats at the ubiquitous ALDO are not only as comfortable as slippers, but are indestructible.
I have trolled the city's unforgiving pavements and streets (shut up) in them, even ridden my bike in them, and they still look new. Because they're so flexible, they're great for wearing to events, then slipping into your bag when you've changed into your man/womantraps upon arrival.
Another favorite casual look are the iconic VANS. After years of hating the look of great lumps of rubber on my feet (and mine are SMALL) and, because I have a very high arch, ending up with blisters on the tops of my feet while my large toes burrowed their way to freedom up front (a big special shout-out to ADIDAS), I gave the 1960s surfer dude-inspired Vans a try and I have been one happy chicken since. Of course, you can find them everywhere, but I discovered one place where you'll find some unique styles. This is because Vans carry two lines: Syndicates for skateboard shops and Vault for boutiques.
|Hats, $20-$400; Braces ("Special ordered fabrics and buckles"), $9; Socks, Fred Perry, $20; Ties, $30-$45. Available at 99X, 84 E. 10th St., 212.460.8599.|
|Only three dealers in New York have accrued the number of years to sell Vault and one of them is 99 X (84 E. 10th St. 212.460.8599/ 8612). Stephen Bert, the owner, bought the place from Gina Franklin who, along with her one-time partner, Ed Bahlman, operated 99 (pronounced “nine nine”) back when it was an iconic import record store and record label housed in a little shop on McDougal St. Gina, an Englishwoman, ran the clothing section. When she decided to raise horses down South, devoted customer Bart snatched up the store. The right to sell Vault transferred with the shop. (And you thought ol' Manolo was snobbish!)
Because 99 was always a one-stop shop for Brit Rock 'n' Roll style, you'll still find an enormous assortment of Creepers (what Rockabilly types favor) and Punk-beloved Doc Marten's (Never wear these through airport security because of their steel toes!), along with specialty football scarves, hats (fedoras/porkpies/stingy brims/ flat caps), braces (suspenders), Paul Smith, unbelievable Fred Perry items (“our bread and butter”) and suits (starting at $700) so fitted and Mod, they would make Thom Browne nervous. And Paul Smith makes Vans ($85-$95), while Vans makes jeans ($60). What a beautiful world. Special orders are happily obliged.
|Clockwise from above: Football Scarves, $25; DOC MARTEN'S, $105-$180; CREEPERS ("This is a partial shoe museum"), ordered from England, $100-$140. All available at 99X, 84 E. 10th St., 212.460.8599.|
|When sneakers won't do, get your tootsies over to SHOEBOX (Various locations). “We cater to a very broad customer.” Explains VP Sean Kirschenbaum. “Mother, grandmother, daughter...”
He explains that “networking” is behind the eclectic and beautifully edited selections. “Someone on the floor knows more than any buyer.” He says.
|Top Shelf: SAM EDELMAN Fringed Sandals, Moccasins and Boots, from $99. Bottom Shelf: MARC JACOBS Strapped Polished Leather Boot, $595; MARC JACOBS Flat Heeled Penny Loafers, $295 and Stacked Heel Penny Loafers, $385. Available at SHOEBOX New York. Various Locations.|
|“I want my staff to approach everyone. I tell them to NEVER judge a customer.” He even attributes their sense to latch onto the Ugg phenomenon as a result of the communication between his staff and customers.
As a customer, I will attest that the staff here is FABULOUS: Helpful, opinionated, yet never pushy. They certainly had last year's bootie trend covered before anyone else.
|L. to r.: GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI Gladiator Booties, $795; TREESJE Skull Embosses Purse, $340; GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI Studded Leather Heels, $695; GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI Tortoise Patent Leather Heels, $595; TYLIE MALIBU Purple Suede Purse, $565; GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI Satin Mules, $550. Available at SHOEBOX New York. Various Locations.|
|The shops are stuffed with great selections from everyone from Stuart Weitzman to unknowns. You'll find Giuseppe Zanotti, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney and Kors.
This year's big trends include the return of Frye (remember those horrid must-have yellow-brown boots EVERYONE tucked their jeans into in the 70s?), suede fringed everything (more hippy boho fare!), penny loafers and flat riding boots.
|Those same trends were found at another super shoe shrine, PLAZA TOO (various locations). And the same level of service is embraced here. They're all extremely friendly, but don't stalk or harass (Shout out to Alicia!). “We really just give a woman an edited collection of must-haves.” Explains John Mendes, the fashion director and co-owner with his brother Tom.
“The world has opened up with the internet and cell phones. You have to be interesting, different and have a point of view.” Currently, there's a return to “heritage”, with styles and brands that were uncool once again VERY cool. Low boots, Fyres, penny loafers and fringe are everywhere. There are also beauties from such lovers of the classics as Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Paul Smith and Kors mixed in with lesser known labels.
Of course, for some of these styles, you could just go to the source…
|Weather-resistant Boots from AQUATALIA, $235-$498. Real beauties for the times you DON'T want to look like you're about to muck out a stall! Available at PLAZA TOO. Various Locations.|
|Top to bottom: FRYE Collection. "Harness" Boots, $215 and "Engineer" Boot, $198; "Gail" Heels, $188 and "Hannah" Wedges, $178; PAUL SMITH "Scout" Suede Trainers/Sneakers, $195 ("So cute!" Screamed a customer). All available at PLAZA TOO. Various Locations.||Top to bottom: PEDRO GARCIA Quilted Boots with Suede Platform and Heel, $595 ... PAUL SMITH "Black Violet" Bag $1340 ... PAUL SMITH "Kings 2" Calf Boots with Back Zipper and Buckles $663; TASHKENT BY CHEYENNE "Jack" Boot, $735 ... TASHKENT BY CHEYENNE "Colette" Suede Back-tied Booties, $655 ... FURLA Bags, "Dana" Metal Large Suede Hobo, $465 ... "Renny" Shopper Suede Bags, $445. All available at PLAZA TOO. Various Locations.|
|Trot over to MANHATTAN SADDLERY (117 E. 24th St. 212.673.1400) and feast your eyes and feet on REAL riding boots. From ankles to above the knee, laced, zippered, snapped, leather or rubber, this is low-heeled boot HEAVEN. And if your exercise-developed calves have caused you to cringe every time you try on tall boots, just special order a pair here made-to-measure.
If your measurements are in stock, a beautiful high leather pair with a full-length back zipper will run $440-$600.
|Clockwise from top left: E. VOGEL Custom Boots. From $900. 18 Weeks Delivery; JOULES Wellies from England. Children: $55-$75 (for printed) ... Adults, $65-75; DER DAU Custom Paddock Boots. $700-1200. 4-6 Weeks Delivery; ARIAT Stock Boots $280-$400. All available at MANHATTAN SADDLERY, 117 E. 24th St., 212.673.1400.|
|Compare THOSE prices to the designer COPIES. The pair I bought here years ago still look like new and are so comfy.
Makes you want to jump for joy. (Whoa Nelly!)