Black boots and blonde: For Sarah (and other fair haired Fabbers)

On my recent WIW thread, Sarah asked: 

"Do you ever feel limited/frustrated by those black quilted booties? I've admired them from afar, but I do hesitate to purchase black footwear, because I feel limited in what I can wear with it because of the bookending issue. (I just answered Thistle's thread, which made me think of asking your this question). You are similarly blonde on top, which makes me wonder whether you've struggled with the bookending issue with those booties."

Confession time. 

Before YLF, I pretty much ONLY wore black footwear. Well, except for the rare pair of red shoes or sandals. 

I know. It's shocking, right? 

But I was brought up to believe that I needed to be "practical." And in my cold, slushy, snowy, wintery climate, black is most practical most of the year. Actually, grey would be lots better, but is not always available. 

Needless to say, in those pre-YLF days, I wasn't always fashionable. I had no idea how to make black look intentional. 

Now that I have learned the power of bookending from YLF, I am always on the lookout for lighter taupe or grey boots. Actually, for my hair, tan or a chestnut could also work well (though it works less well with my mostly cool-toned wardrobe). Leopard print will also bookend for me. 

But it's awfully difficult to find weather proof boots in those tones. 

Meanwhile, my coats are still mostly on the dark side. Charcoal, grey with black, navy with black, and cranberry red. 

And I also wear a lot of denim and/or darker pants in winter. 

Plus, in colder weather I usually wear a hair-covering hat. And that hat is usually darker than my hair. 

And I typically carry a dark bag in winter, too -- much as I would like to "lighten up" here, it's not all that easy to do, as I have discovered. 

So in fact, the black boots are simple to wear. They extend the leg line if I am wearing dark pants or tights, and they work well with my coats. At minimum, they harmonize with my bag. And sometimes I am also wearing a darker sweater or jacket, should my coat be open. 

These particular boots are definitely outdoor footwear only for me. I don't wear them inside at all -- not like a bootie. These are my rainy day or mild winter weather boots. Good for urban walking. 

Does that help, Sarah? 

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Joy replied 6 years ago

    Well explained, Suz, and helpful to all of us with light hair. How I wish there were more light boots and booties out there, especially that fit small calves and ankles. I need a black winter hat!

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Suz, I am shocked.. only black shoes LOL.  Well I do hear you:)  Pre YLF I only had black footwear (surprise) and I would occasionally buy an awesome pair of coloured shoes and then not wear them because I didn't know how.

    As you know I have veered back to mostly black footwear which I believe works for me as a blonde because of some of the things you highlight.

    • There is generally something else in my outfit that is black, so I don't have to rely on my hair for bookending.

    • In summer (I realise you are talking winter) my fair skin breaks and open toe footwear lightens up the black footwear.
    • My coats are also black and wearing a black coat, usually a dark outfit, and a lighter coloured shoe doesn't work on me to my eye. Dark shoes, dark coat creates a better balance IMHO.
    • Like you when it's really cold I wear a black beanie, sometimes a navy which bookends with my tall black boots.

    I think in extreme weather like some of you experience, black is the wisest option and sometimes bookending those black boots can be as straightforward as adding a scarf or necklace with some black:)

    Great post!  You know I want those quilted boots but don't have the weather to justify them :)

  • Firecracker replied 6 years ago

    Suz, your explanation makes a lot of sense. I find myself wearing quite a bit of black lately. It's the season, apparently, for me. I even bought a new pair of black booties, when I really hand in mind that I'd like to have a sleek or dressy pair in the taupe or gray range. I'm wearing the new black ones a lot. They do go with a lot of my clothes, and despite my more taupe-ish hair, I find it easy to bookend with them, for reasons you state here.

  • replied 6 years ago

    Same all the way around for me.  And, I always see black as elegant and sophisticated too - just years of brainwashing I guess :) .To my eye,  there is nothing like a black boot for polish and cool,  regardless of hair colour.  

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    So true Lisa!  There is something about a beautiful black boot.

  • Susie replied 6 years ago

    I have a picture in my closet with the words "never enough black shoes" and it's only partly in jest for me. For many years black has been the predominant color in footwear (and a number of clothing items) in my wardrobe. My hair has been darker in the past but never really dark and I never thought about matching my shoes to my hair color. I've seen the idea of bookending here, of course, but it's not something that I've felt a need to do.

    And it is always easy to find great shoes in black which isn't true of other colors!

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    I do hope Sarah sees all that you have added here. Another point that Lisa's reply made me think of -- these particular boots have interesting detailing that takes them beyond basic and gives them a bit of interest. Speaking personally, I also adore a very plain black boot. But if anyone is worried about looking as if she didn't make an intentional choice, the detailing on these Aquatalias should kill that concern. 

    Deborah, you make a really good point about a scarf being another possible bookender. Gloves or mitts could do the same. 

    I did want to add something, though. You are very fair haired but you still have dark eyebrows. Ditto Lisa. I think this helps to add contrast and makes it a bit easier for you to wear black as successfully as you do. 

    Sarah is very fair and what strikes one most in her (to use Imogen's terms recently on her blog) is "colour" -- because she has a pink skin tone and blonde hair. So I am not sure that black will work as easily on her as it does on you or even on me. (I think I'm sort of mid-way -- low to medium contrast and also relatively low colour). 

    Anyway -- it is worth pondering. 

    Sarah, what colour are your coats/ hats/ bags/ scarves? What colour of boots do you reach for most often in winter? 

    I have to say, I own a grey pair of dressy boots that I thought I would wear a lot more often than I do. Turns out, they are a lot less versatile than I expected. The boots I reach for the most are without question my charcoal snow boots (for real snow), or these black Aquatalias (for wet, cold, nasty weather that doesn't involve a major snowstorm.) 

  • UmmLila replied 6 years ago

    I'm in major agreement here. I love black shoes and boots. I think I need Susie's picture for my closet.

    I had never heard of the concept of bookending before coming to YLF earlier this year and it has been something of an eye opener. It's much easier to make work in the less covered up seasons, though.

    I tried and returned white Pajar snow boots last month; they just looked too big and moon boot-like for me. Now grey or silver winter boots I could probably get behind. Probably leopard ones, too.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Now that I think about it some more, I almost think that bookending with hair is more important to me in milder temps than it is in winter. Partly because in winter I am layered up with other items that I can use to establish cohesion. In warm temps. maybe I only have one layer and if none of the colours in that echo my own personal colouring, I am looking to my footwear to do that work.

    Also, a low contrast light taupe can act as a nude on my bare skin, extending my leg line if I am wearing a skirt (or even BF jeans or ankle pants). 

    In winter, the picture is different. 

    I DO struggle if I am wearing white or cream coloured jeans to find the right footwear.

    And I also struggle with so many darks in winter, period. Not because I don't like them in theory, but because I get tired of them on me, personally -- too much dark "wears" me. If I'm not mistaken, Sarah may feel similarly. 

    Plus, I get tired of seeing an endless river of black all around me. Again, it is not that I can't enjoy an all-black ensemble worn intentionally, as Deborah wears it -- it's just that so few of the women (or men) that I see wearing black are wearing it in that way. 

  • Elizabeth P replied 6 years ago

    Well, I love my black boots. And I never thought of it being an issue, even with my (now) light hair. I tend to bookend the black boots somewhere else on me for balance, rather than bookending the hair. I am also a high contrast person, so the hair gives me a lift if I'm wearing all black, that I didn't get when my hair was darker. Where I struggle is when I'm wearing a white or light top with a black skirt tights and boots. It feels heavy. I don't feel this so much with black pants for some reason.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    This is an issue for me, too, Elizabeth, and might be what Sarah's talking about. Wearing an all dark outfit is okay with black boots, but how to wear an only partly black outfit with some light on top, without looking completely unbalanced? 

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Suz, I would say I am the same.  I can make coloured or lighter footwear work much more easily in warm weather.  When I try to wear my white jeans in winter I really struggle with the footwear.  Black would be the obvious fall back for me but I find it can look just too heavy against the white jeans. But then I am still getting accustomed to white jeans and I wonder if that's what throws me more than the black footwear.

    Believe it or not, I also tire of the "sea of black" because so much of it is uninteresting and uninspired.  It makes me sad when people taking wearing black for granted and don't put the effort in :)

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Yes, and honestly, Deborah, I think it must be more extreme here simply because of our long cold winters. In winter it is all black puffers all the time with black boots, black hats, black gloves, black bags, black pants, black tights, black skirts....Runcarla has recently posted on her shock at the "look" of Toronto in winter. It's astonishing, really. You would think that nobody sold any other colour of outerwear. Or trousers/ tights. Which is just about true, come to think of it. There are so many black items in the stores at all price points. So few in colour. 


  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Suz I was in one of our stores at lunch purchasing a gift for my mum and I was 'assaulted' by colour.  Of course being summer you would expect colour, but the patterns and colours while beautiful were a little too in my face lol.  The SA and I had a giggle.    Climate must play a role, though if you come to Melbourne in winter it's the same.  Maybe not black puffers but black black black.

    There is "light" at the end of the tunnel!!

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Ha! Debs, you and I need to trade each other mid-season (your summer, my winter) just to banish our seasonal funk!!  ;) 

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Agreed. I have always fancied living in Canada.  Word is Canadians and Australian are a lot a like

  • Suja replied 6 years ago

    Great topic! I have a similar issue in that I have black hair but enjoy white footwear. I always wonder if I look off because it doesn't bookend my hair. I don't always wear dark bottoms with white shoes either. Hopefully, it can pass for JFE.

  • sarah replied 6 years ago

    Oh my goodness, so much discussion while I've been making caramels with my son, working out, and sleeping! Thanks, Suz, for starting an entire thread on this, and thanks to the rest of you for weighing in.

    Here is the key phrase I was looking for, Suz
    These particular boots are definitely outdoor footwear only for me. I don't wear them inside at all -- not like a bootie.

    I nearly always wear my Kamuks in winter and swap them out for (you guessed it) bone, ivory, taupe, or cognac footwear when I get to work. Most of the time I'm on my bike, so the Kamuks are a must. I do have a pair of black booties and I feel like I've successfully figured out how to wear them by bookending with a dark sweater or jacket or scarf (Elizabeth, I find I never wear light on top and dark/black on the bottom without something else up top that is dark). But now that I know you only wear those quilted booties as outdoor wear, all is clear. I have darker outerwear (charcoal puffer, ink blue duffle, royal blue pea coat), and would feel perfectly OK wearing black booties outside, even if they weren't bookended under my coat. And maybe it would be good to have a pair of outdoor footwear that is dressier than my Kamuks for the weekends (my black knee-high blondo boots also serve that purpose).

    I'm chuckling, Suz, because before YLF, I, too, had almost exclusively black winter footwear. That seems like such a long time ago, now.

    Thanks again, for answering my question and then some!

  • Thistle replied 6 years ago

    Before YLF, I had 4 pair of shoes (no booties) and 2 were black and 2 were brown. :)

    The grey booties I tried didn't work. So, now I shall search for some that match my hair . . . Although I am starting to think finding electric blue would be easier.

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    This makes perfect sense, Suz. And you wear your black footwear with panache. (Kathleen from Portland (K.Period) has similar colouring to you, and is a black footwear diehard). 

    I rarely wear black footwear, and have very few pairs. I do like my ink booties quite a bit though - and at a quick glance - they look black. I am soooooo much happier in non-black footwear. Shades of white, animal print, metallic and cognac are my faves. 

  • Lisa replied 6 years ago

    Some great points about wearing black.  I find that black footwear is always the most abundant color option in the stores, so I always seem to end up with at least a couple of pairs of black footwear.  And I agree, black footwear works very well with dark bottoms.  Most of my skinny jeans are a dark wash and the black footwear ties into them nicely.  I was starting to wonder about owning black footwear since it doesn't bookend my hair, but thanks for the reminder that black footwear can bookend other parts of an outfit (like a bag) or just lengthen a leg line instead.

  • Style Fan replied 6 years ago

    The first time I heard of bookending was when I joined YLF this year.  I have black boots for winter because they are practical.  I also have black footwear because I like how it looks with jeans and black leggings.  I don't wear a lot of black but I do find footwear versatile and it is readily available.  I also have cognac/curry footwear and would add more but it is harder to find.  I have found that purple footwear is very versatile.  Looks good with jeans, black and brown clothes.  This is coming from someone who does not wear purple.

    I am on the hunt for footwear to match my hair.  Gold, nude, leopard print  --- all these would work.  Or I may go with olive green to match my eyes.

  • deb replied 6 years ago

    I wear all colors of footwear and rarely think about the bookending situation. So green hair for green shoes? Being silly here, but what about other colors of footwear?

  • shiny replied 6 years ago

    Fellow blonde here....

    Prior to YLF I only bought shoes in dark brown and black. The majority of my shoes (even in summer) were black. I really thought that is all you needed - that's what men do. Seemed to make sense and keep things easy!

    Then I came to YLF and there was a (long) time when I banned all black footwear - as a personal style challenge. (I retained just two pairs of tall black boots, I think, because tall boots are so difficult to find). It was quite refreshing and got me thinking in new directions. And having a lot more fun. 

    Black footwear has been slowly creeping back in to my closet in the last two years but mostly the last year since it's practical for business travel capsules. At the moment, I do not own a single pair of black pumps, and I miss them. I've been looking and can't find any that don't hurt my feet.

    I wear black booties pretty much day after day after day in the colder months. I don't know so much if it's for practical purposes - it's more because I do prefer the leg-elongating effect. 

    When I did allow black footwear back in to my closet, I followed the guideline (I think this was Angie's, from years ago) to put preference on black footwear that had some interesting detail. That is not always easy to stick to, as such options can be hard to find in a comfortable shoe -- and comfort is my A number 1 requirement. 

    "Sea of Black" - I am fine with lots of black and I do wear lots of black. I'd really miss black if I moved out of Boston to southern climes. But to make it less boring and more interesting, you do have to put a lot of effort into finding black clothing that has interest - mixes of textures, details, etc.  In that way black is not boring at all. It can be a fun style challenge.

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