If we exclaim that knee high boots are back, you might question whether they ever actually went anywhere. After all, how many women’s winter wardrobes don’t house at least a pair? And it’s not as if the major shoe houses stopped making them, right?

But when something becomes a classic that endures year after year, that doesn’t mean it can’t also experience a revival. What we’re talking about is the humble knee-high boot not just as something you pull on when you want a fail-safe classic look but as something fashion-forward, as something that swept the runways. As a fall 2012 fashion trend.

So we admit that the knee-high boot may not have gone anywhere as a classic, but it sure has been laying low as a fashion item. Replaced, in 2009, by the liberation of the high-high boot into the mainstream and the polar opposite success of the ankle boot. For several years the knee-high boot was deemed too boring to be worn with bare legs and skirts, when the ankle or thigh-high options were so much more fresh and exciting.

But fashion is cyclical and we start to miss those things that have been lying at the back of the wardrobe neglected. We want to dust them off and give them new life. To do that, designers in fall 2012 looked to interesting ways to give detail and flair to the knee high boot.

Knee high boots: the runway rule

While rule is strong word, and rules are always made to be broken, there was a general pattern on the runway of how knee-high boots were being presented for fall 2012. If the weather allows it: with stockings, tights, or pants, wear ankle boots. With bare legs, wear knee-high boots. Bar for some exceptions (like Gucci and Givenchy, whose outfits of pants tucked knee-high boots were opulently Gothic), the key way to wear the style this year and into next year isn’t the traditional jodhpur equestrian look. Instead it’s about bare knees or bare upper thighs; a tough yet sensual marriage of masculine and feminine.

The mid-knee cut

The key style of knee high boot in fall 2012 is the cavalry boot. It’s not quite a thigh-high but it doesn’t stop below the knee, either.

Look for styles that are cut higher in the front, either with a separate panel rising up to cover part of the knee, or with a gentle curve from back to front.

cavalry boots fall 2012
Mid-knee boots from Alexander Wang F/W ’12 and Bally F/W ’12


A few designers changed up the mood of the knee high boot by adding volume around the bottom, between the toe and the ankle. The end result looks something akin to horse-riding half chaps, or gaiters. Traditionally a separate accessory, Givenchy had their gaiters stitched into the boot as part of its construction.

gaiter style boots
Gaiter-style boots at Aquilano Rimondi and Givenchy , F/W ’12


Giving the equestrian boot a sexier twist for fall, designers like Gucci and Tommy Hilfiger went for fitted, curved shapes with traditional zip and button closures – and the addition of a high heel. Forget the overly fetishist, 6 inch interpretations, though; these were pared back to a manageable and elegant level.

high heeled equestrian boots
High heeled equestrian boots at Gucci and Tommy Hilfiger, F/W ’12


The addition of a military strictness was tightly laced into a number of pairs of fall 2012 boots. Forgo the chunky platforms, and instead opt for a sturdy high heel and high quality leather.

lace up boots
Lace up boots at Andrew Gn and Bally F/W ’12


With not a dull runway moment for the knee high boot, it also appeared in cut-away versions. Herve Leger’s gladiator style boots showed plenty of calf, while Anthony Vaccerello’s did the opposite.

cutaway boots
Cutaway boots at Anthony Vaccarello and Herve Leger


Fur, ponyhair, reptile leather… if in doubt as to how to pick a pair of knee high boots that stands out and makes a statement, look to highly textured pairs. McQueen’s buckled, metal-tipped and furry versions added volume to the right part of the legs and worked well with knees kept bare.

fur knee high boots
Fur boots at Givenchy and Alexander McQueen, F/W ’12

More knee high boot pictures

For more inspiration of how to make a statement with knee high boots come fall / winter, click on the gallery above and see how they were worn on the runways.

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