Are Ankle Boots Dead or Just Going Through Puberty?

Remember the glory days of ankle boots? It was 2014. John Travolta had just recently mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name at the Oscars. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin were still together. Donald Trump was a twinkle in literally no one’s eye. Knee-high boot fatigue was sweeping the nation. What a time to be alive.

I spent a good chunk of that year hunting for the perfect pair of ankle boots and finally found them on Moda Operandi — a Tabitha Simmons black, quilted-leather duo. I bought them on super sale right before Christmas and wore them nonstop for months. They added an elusive dose of Cara Delevingne-on-her-way-to-a-bodega (or some other off-duty establishment) to every ensemble. I could walk for miles without getting blisters. It was footwear bliss.

Fast forward to 2017 and I can barely look at them. I feel like a newly pregnant woman who used to eat eggs every morning and now suddenly HATES EGGS to the extent that she can’t even smell them. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but seriously, whenever I pick my formerly favorite black pair off my shoe rack and attempt to insert them into an outfit, it’s like trying to extract juice from half a grapefruit that’s already been squeezed to a pulp. Their magic is gone! Poof. Snuffed out. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in feeling this way — all you have to do is click through a street-style slideshow from the past season to notice an acute dearth of ankle boots in comparison to previous years.

After experiencing this aversion for the past few months, I was ready to declare ankle boots dead — in fact, that’s the story I originally pitched. But when I started scanning the Internet with the intention of unearthing a viable replacement, my findings produced an unexpected revelation. Ankle boots aren’t dead, they’re simply in the midst of an identity crisis. Silly me! I should have guessed. Style is rarely stagnant, after all — it comes in waves, it mutates, it re-articulates itself again and again — and that’s exactly what’s happening with ankle boots.

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Dr. Martens boots with Hermès scarves, Khaite skirt and bralet over J.Crew turtleneck, Mercedes Salazar earrings

Take the Scarf Trick (trademark pending), for example. Heralded by Maison Margiela’s Foulard Ankle Boots for Spring/Summer 2017 and subsequently coined by yours truly, the Scarf Trick (trademark pending) is a zeitgeist-y twist on the classic ankle boot. The good news is you don’t need to drop $1,195 on the Margiela version because you can easily DIY the Scarf Trick (trademark pending) yourself. Take an old pair of ankle boots (presumably on their deathbed) plus two silk scarves and wrap those suckers like it’s Chrismukkah Eve.

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Frye boots, Topshop pants, Tory Burch coatJ.Crew sweater

And then there’s the cowboy ankle boot. Don’t ask me how a little Western embroidery also manages to not only resuscitate the ankle-boot silhouette but also hurdle it back into the kingdom of cool because I don’t fully have the answer. It’s true, though. While “regular” ankle boots are suddenly passé, cowboy ankle boots are everywhere: Céline, Vetements, Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs, Valentino, Isabel Marant…yup, gang’s all here.

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MR by Man Repeller boots, Isabel Marant skirt, Missoni tube top over Aritzia shirt, POMS x Pared Eyewear sunglasses

I’m designating ~*~mid-shin~*~ boots as the third heart-palpitating ankle boot iteration worth your attention. I realize that’s cheating a little because they are technically not ankle boots (hence the mid-shin cuddle), but I think they are important to mention, given that the extra two or so inches in height was presumably a direct result of ankle-boot fatigue. Like a shot of espresso! Bottoms up.

Photos by Edith Young. Follow our model Maggie White on Instagram @maggiiewhiite.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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