Red-y or not, here they come.
One of the hottest fall trends this year is bold red. While a head-to-toe red look might not be for you, we definitely think taking a chance on red from the ankles down is a smart style choice. Red boots of all styles aren't just trendy, they're a welcome change from the usual neutrals that tend to dominate footwear. But red boots can be a bit of a styling conundrum, so InStyle tapped fashion designers and experts to explain the differences between these season's trendiest shades of red and what shades play the nicest with other colors.
Shades of Red
While rich ruby red and vibrant scarlet were spotted on this season's runways, don't feel like you have to go with a fire engine shade when picking out red boots of your own. In fact, Myriam Maguire, co-founder of Maguire Shoes, recommends quite the opposite when it comes to boots in particular. "Deeper and darker shades of reds tend to be more versatile and can effortlessly complement a wide array of outfits," she tells InStyle.
Maguire isn't dismissing this year's preference for reds on the brighter side. "Personally, I find these hues perfect for smaller shoes," she says, meaning styles like ankle and Chelsea boots. Penelope Chivers, the designer behind her own eponymous brand, concurs. She tells InStyle, "A red boot works best as a Chelsea unless it’s a dark red. That works well to the knee."
Once you've landed on a shade of red that speaks to you, the next step towards putting together a red boots outfit is determining if your shade is cool-toned or warm-toned. But how do you know which color yours are?
Warm-Toned vs. Cool-Toned Red
Despite being the color of fire, passion, and Sriracha, red can veer cool as well as hot. "Cool-toned reds are often described as being more ‘blue’ or ‘purple,’ while warm-toned reds are described as more ‘orange’ or ‘brown.'" Says Kate Minner, CMO of Grendene Global Brands.
The difference between the two is caused by undertones, colors mixed in with the dominant or perceived color to create nuanced and specific shades. "Cool-toned reds will have blue undertones included in the mix, while warmer tones require orange and yellow undertones," Macguire explains.
Although undertones aren't immediately visible to the untrained eye, they do play an important role in dictating outfit color-complementing or clashing. A good rule of thumb is to stick to cool or warm colors in a single 'fit.
Now that you're seeing red in all its various shades and tones, you'll appreciate the 13 red boots outfits ahead even more.
Dive Into Denim
According to our experts, denim and red go together like peanut butter and jelly. "Red works well with denim as a pop of color," shares Chivers, who favors shorter red boots. If wearing more than one denim piece, don't worry too much about matching washes. Since red boots are so eye-catching, no one will notice if your bottoms and top aren't identical.
Add a Pop of Color
Before heading out the door in a monochromatic look, consider swapping coordinating boots with a pair of red ankle boots. The rest of the outfit will still have that sleek, tonal vibe, while the pop of red adds a layer of surprise.
Wear Cool Red with Navy Blue
If you're wearing a pair of boots in a red with cooler undertones, Maguire recommends matching your boots with separates in shades of blue. If blue and red fall outside your color palette comfort zone, Maguire suggests trying grey instead.
Bring in Burgundy
According to Minner, "Some of the trending shades of red boots this year are coral, scarlet, fire engine red, and burgundy." Among these, Minner's favorite shade is the moody and versatile burgundy. "It gives off a more sophisticated look that's perfect for fall and winter," she adds. When putting together a burgundy boots outfit, lean into the elevated feel of the color by pairing it with luxe separates like long coats and wrap dresses.
Stay Subtle with Bordeaux
For an even more subtle shade of red, our experts recommend Bordeaux, a brownish hue that Chivers describes as "not a shouty red," and also "chic and classic" for winter. Because it's so low-key, it works especially well as a higher boot and also pairs well with warm-toned brown outerwear.
Try a Bold Print
"For a more daring look, I pair red boots with a bold print," says Minner. Don't feel limited to finding an exact match; in fact, Minner points out that the very reason red boots outfits so often slay is thanks to contrast. "Red boots are an alluring choice due to their boldness, symbolizing confidence and energy," she says.
Keep It Classic with Chelsea Boots
"Since I find red to be a classic color, you can’t go wrong with a classic style such as the Chelsea boot," says Macguire. The designer loves red so much that her brand will be re-releasing its classic Cortina Chelsea boot in red this fall. And because ankle boots take up a relatively small percentage of a look, they can be worn with bold prints and coordinated red statement separates without feeling like too much.
Wear Warm Red with Brown
For warm-toned red boots, Macguire suggests an outfit built on shades of brown. As seen in the outfit above, brown reads as cohesive even when worn in mixed prints. In other words, throw caution to the wind and experiment with contrasting pieces.
Go Edgy with Combat Boots
While all three of our experts love a read Chelsea boot moment, Minner has another below-the-knee red boot style that works well in this fiery color. "Combat boots can also be a good choice, especially for a more edgy look," she says.
Amplify a Subtle Print
If you've got a pair of pants or sweater that has a touch of red in its print or pattern, try adding a pair of red boots to bring out the detailing. If you want to create this subdued aesthetic but don't have any red printed separates on hand, you can also wear a red top under a sheer layer for an equally subtle effect.
Spice Up Neutrals
Have your heart set on knee-high or over-the-knee red boots? Structure more subtle tones around your shoes. "I like to pair red boots with a neutral-colored outfit," says Minner, who adds that this approach will "let the boots be the statement piece."
Opt for Over-the-Knee
As our experts mentioned, deeper reds work gloriously as over-the-knee boots. One great approach to styling thigh-skimming red boots is to think of them as a pair of statement pants rather than footwear. The same fashion rules apply: Keep the rest of your 'fit neutral and let the vibrant color speak for itself.
Work in Warm Tones
A fresh way to spice up warm-toned red boots is to wear them with a range of other warm colors for a gradient or ombré effect. This styling technique works best with two to three additional colors. To keep things from feeling fussy, color-match your accessories and outerwear.
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