Rain boots are making big splash these days

These colorful designs clearly aren't your parents' galoshes

October 22, 2004|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Remember those carefree days as a child when you had the world's permission to splash around in the rain? With your little raincoat and rubber galoshes, your attitude was: The bigger the puddle, the better.

Now, with the latest trend in fashionable footwear, you can recapture those elementary school, happy-go-lucky days. Or, even better, channel Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.

Rain boots are in. And this time, they're for grown-ups.

"They're really popular right now," said Brooke Landau, vice president of sales for Esprit Footwear and Accessories, which is selling a number of eye-catching rain boots for about $40 to $50 at retailers such as Nine West and department stores. "They're at the designer level and the department store level. They're at thrift stores for $19.99. That's a sign of success in fashion when you start to see it at every level and at every price point."

Specialty shops and online boutiques, such as Olive and Bette's and Garnet Hill, have been selling rain boots for adults - with much success - for more than a year, or even longer.

"Everybody's buying them," said Tony Zelaya, owner of the tiny, trendy shoe shop Zelaya Footwear in Bethesda. "Everyone from my Mom, who's 70, to 16-year-old girls."

But recently, the rain gear has surged on the hot-o-meter, showing up in major department and retail stores, such as Nordstrom, Macy's, Nine West, Banana Republic and J. Crew.

"They've become so big," said Sara Nash, a manager at the Montgomery Mall J. Crew in Bethesda. "Ever since we've had them, they've almost sold out."

Even high-end designers have cashed in on the craze. Emilio Pucci has a colorful spirally rain boot on the Bergdorf Goodman Web site; Nordstrom is selling a $198 pink Stuart Weitzman pair covered in Dalmatians. Burberry has printed its famous plaid on a pair. Marc Jacobs is showing a rain boot with a heel.

Pink with Dalmatians? Rainbow swirls? Plaid?

These certainly aren't the boring-black or grunge-green Wellies that the rain-soaked British wear. This latest trend in foot coverings is more fun than functional.

"They're so trendy. They come in so many different colors, and they're just so fashionable," said AndrM-i Walker. The University of Maryland, College Park junior owns three pairs of funky knee-high galoshes. "You can really put them on with anything, even if it's not raining. They're just so cute."

Walker, 19, of Owings Mills, wore a pair of black-and-white striped rain boots with a pink sole to a fashion show on campus last week. He said he also has a pair of the swirly Pucci's, and a yellow pair with orange polka dots.

"With a rain boot, you can be a little bit crazy with it," said Patty Handschiegel, publisher of StyleDiary.Net, a weekly online style resource. "They're light, and they're fun, and they're quirky."

In 13 Going on 30, actress Jennifer Garner sported a fun pair of Tamara Henrique rain boots. That may have helped introduce the trend to the masses, Handschiegel said. But footwear has been getting more lighthearted for quite a while.

Think about the incredible popularity of Ugg boots. Even in Los Angeles, where it's sunny and 80 degrees on a bad day, women were happily wearing the furry Eskimo-like shoes. And not because they wanted to keep their toes warm.

"After the Uggs boots from last year, now everyone is trying to think of what's next," said Kenny McAllister, who studies lifestyle trends at the New York-based marketing company AMPdi. "So keeping it in the [boot] family, the rain boot is what's gathering the most attention right now. A lot of young ladies are getting them, the hip and the fashion trendy. They're popping up everywhere now, and I think, into the season, they'll be even bigger."

If it seems odd that rain boots would be popular in the fall and winter, instead of the rainier spring, fashion experts are quick to remind us that the trend is about fashion, not necessarily protection from thunderstorms - although the boots work well for that, too.

"A lot of women buy them in the fall because they're so bright and cheery," said Dannielle Romano, editor-at-large for DailyCandy.com, an online guide to new styles and trends.

"They make them in these ridiculous colors and patterns that you can only wear in a rain boot. You're not going to wear a big sweater with bumblebees all over it," she said.

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