Are Ankle Boots Dead or Just Going Through Puberty?

A very important investigation


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.

Ankle Boots Man Repeller-6172

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.

Ankle Boots Man Repeller--6

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.

Ankle Boots Man Repeller-0

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.

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  • Nat Ch

    I will love ankle boots in every awkward stage they go through. I think of them as a super classic… they stylize the legs so subtly and so effortlessly ♥ ❤ ❥

  • Kerrith McDowell

    I’m a big fan of ankle boots. They are so flattering on everyone. The mid shin boot only works if you have crazy skinny legs. They make people with the average size calf look so bulky.

  • Haley Nahman

    Outfit #2!!!! Harling can you dress me please

    • Harling Ross

      My dream since day 1.

  • beccamu

    any way i can work a scarf into my lewk is a win in my bewk. (also rhyming) i will lovingly refer to it as the “scankle boot”

    • Harling Ross

      omg yes to scankle boot

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    What’s with all of these useless ~internal~ links on this article and others? It really distracts from otherwise ~great~ content. Like, ~damn~, chill with the SEO or whatever strategy is being employed here. Y’all too ~good~ to be using those ~tricks~.

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  • Hey Harling! That stripe sweater is sold out on J Crew. Can you suggest a few good and affordable similar ones?

  • robert

    Ankle boots are like Trump politics. If you ask US people whether they like em/it they will say “NOO way”. But they are still here. Both.
    America wake up!

  • yk

    What a ridiculous headline.

  • MariaMartin2885



  • Alexandra Mitchell

    I much prefer seeing the styled looks on the contributors who actually write the articles. I don’t need to see it on a model for it to be inspiring. In fact, it’s more inspiring to see it on the women who dreamed up the looks.

  • Kate

    i need those dr martens! the color is gorg

  • Sarah Gbaguidi

    Lol I laughed at the end of the first paragraph, what a time to be alive! Indeed…

  • Sarah Gbaguidi

    Lol I laughed at the end of the first paragraph, what a time to be alive! Indeed. I’ve always loved ankle boots!!!

  • What about high cut soft leather sock boots with a square toe that makes you feel like Stevie Nicks? Those are all I wear right now. Idk maybe I’m just super out of the fashion loop.
    Whiskey Tango Flat White | Life and style in weird short essays

  • Summer

    You can pry my leopard print ankle boots off my cold, dead, unfashionable feet. Although I do love a good mini cowboy boot…

  • Nicole

    If not ankle boots then what? Pls help.

  • Dot Miller

    I love all my ankle boots. Not limited to one pair!

  • The scarf trick is pure genius, but the second outfit looks like a grandma walks into a Goodwill and just throws on whatever clothes that fit her…. Am I the only one here?

    Smile and style on!