Beyond a well-made, well-fitting, flattering suit, every academic gal needs a miracle piece of footwear--a boot, a shoe, or maybe a sandal, depending on the climate you work in--that goes with everything. It has to work with a skirt, with a dress, with dress pants, and with jeans. Hell, nowadays it even has to work with leggings. It has to be hip enough to wear in the off-hours, comfortable enough to stand up in for a 90 minute class or two (or three), sturdy enough to have equal purchase on waxed institutional flooring and unshoveled winter bus stops alike, and dressy enough to plausibly wear to a job interview, whether your own or someone else's. It should have enough of a heel to add a little height and keep your hems out of the mud but not so high as to tip you, ass-over-teakettle, as they say, into said mud. A real winner in this department will also manage to be waterproof and salt-stain proof.
I have worn these boots nearly every day between September and April since 2006:
(Imagine that my right leg is wearing a skirt and my left is wearing pants.
The purse is gratuitous, but I just got it on sale for $35 and it adds zip to every occasion.)
Why place such a heavy burden on one poor set of soles? Why not hip suede sneakers with your jeans? A nice t-strap pump with the skirt, a dressy ankle boot with the suit, and Sorels for the bus stop? There are two main reasons why I at least lean so heavily on my one favorite pair of boots.
First: when I was a poor graduate student, and when I was a postdoc, and like many of my friends tenuously / temporarily / contingently employed, there wasn't money to fill the shoe closet to brimming, and what money there was, frankly, could be better spent. Come to think of it, there was no shoe closet in that bachelor apartment, either. So: cost. I imagine that some among you might face similar constraints. And really, no matter my income level, I would rather have one really nice thing, than three things that will just fall apart before the end of term (I'm looking at you, Zellers sandals that broke my heart!)
Second: now that I'm a faculty member, I travel a lot, to conferences and unconferences and workshops and such. I try to concoct the maximum sartorial variety from the minimum number of pieces of clothing, to minimize, obviously, the size and weight of luggage I am inevitably going to drag from terminal to terminal in Minneapolis or Denver or Amsterdam or Calgary, and then up fif-ty-se-ven-se-pa-rate stairs to a stifling garret room at a bed and breakfast in Brighton (for example) or across a bumpy acre of parking lot at midnight at UVic (for another example). I want to travel light, but I don't want to look like someone who's traveling light. I want to be stylin' and comfortable without carting around my bodyweight in luggage. I know many of you travel a lot more than me, so I'm confident I'm not the only one facing this issue, either.
So tell me: do you have a go-to boot, or shoe? A miracle scarf or pashmina or rain jacket? A pantsuit for all occasions? My boots have already been re-heeled once, and I know they're not going to last forever. I'm looking for inspiration on this front, if you have any to send this way.