The Footwear Trends To Look Out For This Autumn / Winter

Jeremy Langmead on the contrasting footwear styles that will challenge your extremities this season

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Our feet must sometimes wonder what the hell is going on. One minute we're keeping them carefully encased in a heavy pair of heritage brogues, derbys or oxfords; the next we're setting them loose in a carefree pair of Flyknit sneakers or a sockless sandal.

The rules for shoes seem to have gone out of the window. Brands are positively relishing testing our toes to the extreme. I've recently returned from a hike in the mountains of Bhutan as the guest of a Philippine brand owned by some friends. They invited me and a few others on the trip, providing we trudge up the 3,000ft-high terrain to visit the clifftop monasteries, wearing nothing but their new range of canvas caminos on our feet. The other hikers, all dressed sensibly in hiking boots, looked on in disbelief as we skipped and slid on the rocks and mud in our new espadrilles. You've got to love the fashion industry. 

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However, it's unlikely our feet love the fashion industry — especially over the coming months. If it wasn't for the fact that they're smothered by socks, we'd be hearing toe-curling screams of terror rising from below as they spot what's heading their way. This season, the most fashionable men's shoes look as if they were designed by some committee of Elton John, David Bowie and Prince — with help from Katy Perry and Helena Bonham Carter. In short, they're eccentric. If you want to be kind, you'd say they have character.

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They tend to fall into two camps,
so to speak. One is Seventies playboy meets glam rock star; the other is construction worker meets Sister Wendy Beckett. Take your pick.

The first group is to complement the more elaborate trends I warned you about in last month's column — all those brocades, velvets and florals. There are gold snakeskin ankle boots by Yves Saint Laurent; embroidered, rabbit fur-lined, snaffle-topped slippers from Gucci; and multi-hued, strap-laden, fringe-fronted designs from Prada. Worn in context, they somehow make sense. Context being the Yves Saint Laurent boots need to be worn with skinny black jeans, the Gucci slippers teamed with polka dot silk trousers and the Prada shoes with slim button-cuff flannel trousers.

Saint Laurent

If the above sound a little too fancy, then perhaps you'll prefer the second group. These are heavy, serious shoes that'd look at home on a construction site or monastery floor, if it weren't for that little bit of embellishment. For instance, the tough-looking Dr Martens-style shoes from Valentino have the brand's signature spiked studs on the backs; the heavy leather rubber-soled examples by Lanvin have swatches of blue suede sewn onto the top; and Dries Van Noten's army boots have both laces and zips. Incidentally, heavy shoes always look better when worn with narrow trousers — the contrast enhances both items — and work equally well with smart wool strides as a pair of jeans.

Lanvin

Now, if you found those trends exhausting, don't think you can relax quite yet, because an equally eccentric committee helped create some of the other accessories for the coming months. The creature feature bags this autumn appear as if they were designed by the teams behind Life on Earth and Natural World. Animal lovers will be thrilled. Highlights include Gucci monogrammed totes embellished with enormous bees; raspberry leather attaché cases from Berluti embroidered with snakes; and, at Thom Browne, doggy bags in the shape of the designer's pet dachshund. 

There aren't many style columns where you get to cite Bowie's "Life on Mars?" and Attenborough's Life on Earth as influences on the season's menswear. Now you know why all those Game of Thrones boys look so mournful when they mutter, "Winter is coming". They knew what the fashion world was preparing for us.