Alright, I concede: fall is finally here. Forget the euphoria of late summer in last week’s column. Or, wait… maybe not?
Gents, you may wish to stop reading here. But ladies, say it with me: it’s boot season! It’s time to put away those sandals and cover our feet — plus our ankles, calves and maybe even knees — in practical, sturdy, no-pedicure-necessary boots. Not insulated winter boots, or rain boots (though Hunters and their Wellington ilk come close), but the gloriousness of fall footwear.
In days gone by, wardrobes of the future were defined by their utilitarianism. Citizens of the future were to be dressed in technical fabrics, efficient uniforms for the rigours of riding around in our personal spaceships. That particular technology may not have come to pass (yet; fingers crossed!) but the uniform part is true.
Look around and witness an increasingly broad swath of the female persuasion donning a consistent ensemble of slim pants or leggings tucked into “tall” boots with little to no heel. It’s a look that is not only comfortable but also minivan-appropriate, and, with minor variations, gets us through the rigours of work, workout, night out and getting the kids out and about… all in one day.
Like most beloved women’s styles — think trench coats, jeans, and cozy cardigans — our beloved boots are borrowed from the boys. But they’ve come a long way, baby, since our Victorian foremothers donned pointed, lace-up styles in the late 19th century to play badminton and ride bicycles. These aren’t even Nancy Sinatra’s white patent go-go model or the high-stepping stiletto style that dominated last decade.
Rather, what we’re wearing now — and have been for at least the past five years, an eternity in the fashion world — bears more resemblance to equestrian riding boots, or even soldiers’ footwear. They come pre-aged, adorned only with stitching or a few straps and buckles. The style allows us to go most anywhere and do most anything with ease. We’re shod in something utilitarian, a word not typically associated with the height of women’s fashion.
But there is something about that smooth stretch of leather (or vegan approximation thereof) that appeals to so many of us. It’s an easy way to get in on a trend: most women don’t have self esteem issues concerning their calves, so the look is universally flattering, unlike, say crop tops or tube skirts. Retailers have responded to the demand for both wide- and narrow-shaft boots, so there is literally room for everyone, even the unwitting: if you’re not fashion-minded, you’re probably wearing the style anyway.
I pulled out my fall boots last week. They wear like the most beloved of friends, with supple leather that’s conformed to my calves. For once I had the foresight to take them to a cobbler for a spring cleaning, so they look as good as new. I may have even splurged on a new pair, utterly flat and possibly orthopedic in origin, to wear when walking Charlotte to school, at least until the snow flies.
Maybe that is where our true love affair with fall boots lies. After the elation of a Canadian summer, fall — despite its beauty, despite its crisp air — is a letdown; winter is coming. Our beloved boots are as transitional as the season itself. They allow us to do all those things that supposedly make autumn bearable: pick apples, go for walks amidst beautiful foliage, and attend tailgate parties.
But is it really that complicated? Maybe not: perhaps we’re just happy to look good while feeling good. Comfortable and chic, cozy and cool, especially when paired with a sweater (three cheers for sweater season, while we’re at it!). What else could a modern woman want… other than that spaceship?
After a sublimely ridiculous bike ride in Sunday’s sturm und drang, this meal was a welcome relief.
Sausage, White Bean & Kale Soup
(from Food & Drink, Holiday 2013)
2 tbsp. olive oil
250 g Italian sausage, removed from casings
½ cup chopped onion
2 cups packed chopped kale
1 cup diced apple
½ tsp. ground fennel
¼ tsp. ground sage
¼ tsp. red chili flakes
4 cups chicken stock
One 540mL can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Crumble in sausage and cook, breaking up meat with the back of a wooden spoon, until browned on all sides. Remove sausage to a plate.
Add onions to pot and reduce heat to medium. Sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add kale, apple, ground fennel, ground sage and chili flakes. Cook 2 minutes longer, or until spices are aromatic and apples are just tender.
Pour in stock and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until flavours have developed. Serves four.