There’s this thing I do the second I get in the door: as soon as I’ve removed my shoes, be they oiled leather boots or burnished tan calfskin wingtips, I pull out the large Moneysworth 100% horsehair shoe brush I keep by the door especially for these routine instances and I vigorously, smartly, swiftly give my shoes a no-nonsense brushing.

Now, this, to the connoisseur, is a matter of simple maintenance. A properly patina-ed dress shoe or boot will shine back to life as dust and pedestrian hazards are effortlessly swept off the upper; the general muck, calcium or unmentionable whatever will part with a well-oiled shit-kicker with miraculous ease under a brisk hand. Every proper clotheshorse will tell you this simple bit of care will add years to quality shoes, whether they be dainty or heavy duty.

But everyone else—and there’s a lot of everyone-elses—will first wonder if I’m endearingly fastidious, or just compulsively weird. Never, though, will they doubt I’m being peculiar. And with those for whom the sight of the brush in my hand has become an expected one, I am more than a little familiar with the recurring eye-roll or sigh, not to mention the not-too-occasional snigger or scoff.

I don’t mind, of course. This isn’t ninth grade; I have no desire to pretend I don’t know better. But I wonder how they don’t realize I’m just efficiently ruggedizing for the vortex. If maybe they don’t realize their own spirit animals could use a little winter shellac. This wind-chilled port city of ours is a case study in emotional and physical decay a full five months a year, and surely you’ve noticed the signs yourself. It runs deeper than potholes—marks every foot, colours every bit of skin.

You may, for instance, have a friend, as I do, who schedules morning baths of Vitamin D light in his kitchen. He’s got a lamp for that; they have a spiritual bond, he and it.

You may, say, have spent all of December wrapped in blankets bingeing on Frasier. I know I did, with all of House of Cards, and Arrow’s heavy-handedness, too, for good measure. Lots of peanut butter cookies, for shame, and lots of late-night squats to repent (my ass got to hurting from all the sitting).

Needless to say, we all fall into and try to strike out of all that—me included, thankfully. Now, I’m braving the slush and black ice and anti-freeze-laced salt the city sprinkles over everything. And you know what makes it easier on the soul? Footwear that doesn’t look like it belongs in second grade, and leather that doesn’t look like gluttonous deposits are trying to eat their way through to the toes.

And so, shoe care is the balm to the well-prepared wintering soul, keeping winter’s teeth out where possible. A step-by-step meditation, you might say, with clear results.

Take a cold solemn night, for one, where I can literally see the heavy cold ghosting off the school across the way. Then, there’s nothing like a good shoe-shining session to keep the lid on the old mind. Imagine a little Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee for warmth, a little Trophy Wife, guilt-free, in the background. Picture those formerly calcium-eaten boots then sheening like big Blistex-ed lips, or a fine pebble grain cap-toe resplendently reflecting your silhouette. Take it in. Keep it with you.

My back always hurts a tad by the time I’m done shining, but I’m always greatly relieved knowing my feet’ll be ready for the upswing, the storm, the mess. I look over at a healthy-looking pair or two and I know they’ll get me wherever. I know ecstasy could indeed swell from the ground up, even on the cold front. And the elements can go screw themselves.

And the brush is a big help.

So apparently, these days, the typical “mom” look of 2002 is back again. You know the type, people – just think sitcoms like Will and Grace or the lower budget, bad laugh-track types with the lead female role acting overly cute and awkward with exaggerated hand gestures and flippy hairstyles with streaks and butterfly clips (remember those?).

Fall 2013 has been so confusing in terms of what’s been hot and what’s been not. It seems to me that local magazines will say whatever they want to say about what’s currently “in” and “out”, but I found that the best discoveries I’ve made were by observing people around the city. And the conclusion? Raid your mom’s closet, ladies.

Mom jeans (a.k.a. bootcut) rolled up at the ankles, plain cotton t shirts, tanks, whatever – (basics), Kimonos, dust-sweepers, and loose, long, button-less cardigans. I remember wearing a similar outfit last winter to a family function and my sister wrinkling her nose and turning up an eyebrow at me sneering, “that’s a little too 2002, don’t you think?”

Not going to say “I told you so,” but I was right about Kimonos, wasn’t I?

Something I was NEVER expecting, however, was the heeled ankle boot craze. A couple of weeks ago, I felt so confused and stubborn about the fate of shoe fashion, that I actually went out and bought a pair of leather wedge ankle boots that would have been fine in 2010 – but when I took them home, they looked like they belonged on Minnie Mouse’s feet. Seriously. All I needed to complete the look was a garish pair of white gloves and a ridiculous red polka-dotted dress.

I had a difficult time accepting the heeled look, even though the preferred heel is nothing extreme, I just kept thinking back to this specific pair of ankle boots my mom has in her closet and wears religiously around the Fall. I was never crazy about those shoes, but now when I think of them, they seem kind of cool. I actually want to borrow them next time I visit home. This thought scares me a little.

IMAG0008-1I’ve come to realize, though, that it’s all about pairing. After I came to my senses (and was more than halfway done with my antibiotics, curing both my fever and temporary delusion) I returned the ugly, out of date shoes and used the refunded cash to update my look a little. It took some research and hunting, but I ended finding these reasonably priced gems at Spring. In my opinion, the sister store to Aldo and Little Burgundy offered an impressive selection of the new style at the most realistic prices. My choice was the ideal ankle boot that I had made peace with in my mind.

After accompanying other friends to find their ideal ankle boot, I had constructed these guidelines to consider:

1. Imagine the ideal outfits you would want to wear your ankle boots with. Picture accessories, hairstyles, and general attitude as well. What kind of vibe or silhouette are you aiming to create?

2. Black, brown, greyish green, burgundy. What’s your flavour? (I personally chose black because I figured it would go with most of my eclectic choices, and I believe that black shoes always make my legs look longer when paired with tights and mini skirts.)

3. Lace up or side zipper?

4. Texture is very important! Not only because we live in a city with harsh climate, but because you’re going to be stuck with these shoes. Due to the economic crisis (again.) we should all consider a level of frugality when adding a new trend to our wardrobes. Can you make peace with the fact that studs and spikes may be tacky by next fall and you won’t ever want to see them again? In my opinion, go for something classic and timeless, like leather or suede.

2013-10-06_14-22-22-15. Watch out for that thick, elastic-looking material. It makes your shoes look cheap.

6. Make sure they’re comfortable! If they ain’t comfy, they ain’t worth it – but remember, they will break in beautifully after a week of wearing them. New boots tend to pinch!

That being said, I love my new ankle boots. After giving the trend the real college try, I’ve come to accept the mom look that goes along with it. It just… works. It’s also really comfy, low maintenance, modest, and conceals those extra added pounds that don’t want to be advertised. Perfect for the upcoming holidays!! 
Happy shopping!