It seems like L.L. Bean has cornered the market on winter footwear. Its perennially popular duck shoe, known as the Bean boot, has sold out for several years running, and has become a must-have for fashion folks. In September, the Portland Press Herald reported the company is increasing its production of boots by 20% this year to 600,000 pairs, “in hopes of topping last year’s record sales of 500,000 pairs.”
While the so-called normcore trend that first buoyed the boot’s appeal has ebbed, Bean introduced new colorways for 2016. That’s helping the company keep its core boot fresh while not straying too far from the comfortable shape that made the boot a mainstay for hunters and fishermen for years before the fashion crowd found it.
That puts the Bean boot right on trend again, since 2016 is all about comfort — albeit with a bit of a twist. Cozy footwear is always on trend for holiday gifting, of course, but this year’s newest December shoe stories will focus on walkable height and standout fabrics as winter shoes and boots find ways to bridge the gap between high fashion and high function.
In its 2016 Holiday Survey, global consultancy Deloitte predicted that clothing will top gift purchases this year, comprising 50% of all gifts. That means that nailing the right footwear trend is big business for retailers looking to grab their share of what the National Retail Federation trade association predicts will be an $655.8 billion holiday shopping market this November and December, up 3.6% from 2015. Brands looking for a toehold in the U.S. footwear market, which Euromonitor International estimates is worth more than $76 billion, are eagerly eyeing the success of the Bean boot (and UGG before that), and hoping for a similar boost this year.
Retail Dive asked five fashion forecasters to let us know what footwear, apparel and accessories they think will bring out consumers — and their wallets — in the coming weeks.
1. Comfort is king
Lois Sakany, editor at Snobette.com: The duck boots makes a ton of sense for city dwellers because it's cute, light and perfect through navigating through slushy puddles. While comfy duck boots and sneakers are still king, there is a nascent trend building among fashionistas for a higher heel. Pierre Hardy in a collaboration with Sacai has created a perfect bridge shoe, a high-heel fashion boot with duck boot details, a shoe that speaks to women’s desire to have items that can be both fashionable and functional.
2. Ensconced in velvet
Heather Picquot, director of culture at Fashion Snoops: One of the biggest fashion stories this holiday 2016 season is simplicity and comfort. People are looking for high quality essentials, wardrobe basics [such as] cashmere sweaters from Everlane and loafers and mules from Michael Kors, Gucci, and Jeffrey Campbell. Velvet and plush fabric is also major, from camisoles at Free People to Madewell velvet heels, Chelsea booties, and faux fur slippers and slides from Puma.
3. Haute in here
Angela Velasquez, senior retail analyst and editorial director at Rivet and Vamp: I think you’ll see more haute hikers and outdoor-inspired boots with a chunky heel instead of duck boots, but this is a better year for the fashion boot to reclaim some of its market share. The two-inch block heel, mod-inspired, over the ankle boot is a canvas for all of the must-have fall ’16 trends, from velvet and embroidery to candy-colored metallic and dusty pastels. It’s a trend that you don’t even realize is a trend because it can look so different depending on the upper material. You’ll also see this boot shape mashed up with other silhouettes, like a boot with old-school kiltie and Gucci-inspired hardware, a.k.a., loafer boots. Others have a defined square toe and flare heels for a more retro feel.
4. The classics never go out of style
Katie Smith, senior retail analyst at Edited: The Fenty x Puma sneakers are red hot, but demand far outstrips supply. Many will be left disappointed in the holiday build-up. Instead, the classic Vans high-tops, more readily available and currently trending, will score.
5. Yeezy does it
Adheer Bahulkar, partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney: Singer/songwriter Frank Ocean attended President Obama’s final state dinner wearing a white dress shirt, black suit and trousers and black and white checkered Vans sneakers! The trend — wearing formal suits with sneakers — which until now has been constrained to fashion-forward circles, suddenly went primetime. This year, expect to see elegantly paired sneakers (and some grossly inappropriate, I’m sure) showing up at formal holiday parties and black-tie events. Checkered Vans are a surefire hot item. So are Common Projects Achilles, Adidas Stan Smiths and Nike Huarache.
The biggest sneaker fashion story of the year, however, could go to the continued Kanye West/Adidas Originals collaboration for the highly anticipated Yeezy Boost 350 Black/White. When sneakerheads and GQ men both vie for the same thing, watch out.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page for more stories.