High fashion is the watchword for women's footwear this autumn and winter. Literally. The heels of boots, half boots, ankle boots, and pumps are generally a few centimetres higher than in previous seasons.
But apart from higher heels, personal style rules supreme. The models on shoe shop shelves fit every occasion and taste, from overknees to ballerinas, from clean looks to folklore style, and from felt to patent leather.
"A one-and-only fashion trend hasn't existed for a long time now," noted Helga Cevey, who works for the Offenbach-based German Shoe Institute. You can forget terms like "in" or "out" because mixing various styles is now in vogue, Cevey said. "So everyone can create a personal outfit."
Autumn and winter is when boots grab the limelight, of course. They are simply indispensable, especially overknees, and in combination with ultra-tight drainpipe trousers or under skirts for a casual, bohemian look.
"Rustic, hiking-inspired details such as buckles, eyelets, and lacing, as well as removable cuffs and pelt or fur trim, play a complementary role" in the new boot collection, said Andreas Rose, who works as a personal shopper in Frankfurt.
Jelena Juric, with the Frankfurt-based rag trade magazine TextilWirtschaft, noted that half boots and ankle boots were stealing the show from classic boots this season. As Rose sees it, pumps with plateau heels and half boots with wedge soles also go extremely well with wide-cut, high-waist "Marlene-style" trousers, which are making a comeback.
Heels are a must in any case, even under ballerinas; no shoe should be too flat. There is a wide variety of heel shapes, remarked Cevey: "blocky, straight, curved 'banana' heels - the main thing is that it matches the shape of the last" (the form used in shoemaking).
Round, oval or square - toes come in many shapes too. Women who are daring even go for peep-toe boots, the winter variety of peep-toe shoes, which leave the wearer's toes exposed.
"A tip of red peeking out of a black boot can have quite an effect," Cevey said.
Rose is a peep-toe fan too. "With opaque, coloured stockings, peep toes are a real eye-catcher," he said. "And they're a perfect match for the 1950s look."
The colours are on the dark side, whether for classy pumps or delicate lace-up booties. Apart from black and brown, the so-called "winter darks" predominate, Juric said. Plum, blackberry, moss green, petrol blue, and dark blue subtly offset winter's dreary grey. The heels, though, can be colourful eye-catchers.
A mixture of materials is part of the charm of fancier footwear models. "Felt is combined with patent leather, brush with nylon, and waxed linen a la Barbour with soft nappa" is the word from the GDS international shoe trade show in Duesseldorf.
The contrast between shiny and matte is crucial. "But it has to be tone on tone to look really classy," Cevey explained.
Part of the classy look is a sparing use of accessories. Although you can sometimes find buckles on pumps, frays with the bohemian style, and zippers and rivets for the glam look, decorative details are generally subtler, GDS organisers noted.
Appearance has not been the be-all and end-all for some time anyway. "Women today want footwear that is not only attractive but above all fits well," Cevey remarked. The days are gone when women spent evenings mincing about in chic pumps that pinched.
"Due to the many wellness models, we've got used to shoes feeling good," Cevy said. "Women don't deliberately torment themselves anymore."
Men, too, are gradually coming to realise how important attractive shoes are for their whole outfit. Although the choice of colours still tends to be either dignified black or dark brown, store shelves are slowly making way for grey, metallics, and olive green models.
The latter are usually slender and elongated, a style that is classically elegant. The materials are what lend a certain chic. Crashed leather, velours and nubuk combined with felt or patent leather are giving men's shoes this winter a more interesting appearance.