The catwalks have decided – for work and for play, the block heel ankle boot is the perfect sartorial choice. With its roots back in Roger Vivier’s 1965 Pilgrim Pump collection for YSL, the block heel has often been used as a way to subvert the norm and challenge the status quo. And Kate Hudson and Gigi Hadid are both converts to the block-heeled boot, perhaps proving that block heels might be just the thing to liberate the ankle boot from its perennial status as a staple of the trans-seasonal wardrobe.
From black block heel ankle boots that blend with everything to leather ankle boots with a block heel embroidered with striking details, this is one trend piece that’s built to last.
An eclectic history
Vivier’s black Pilgrim Pumps were created at the request of Yves Saint Laurent, to be paired with the designer's Mondrian shift dress. They simultaneously referenced their pious muses while also subverting conservative norms with their blocky heel, and by the mid-60s they were a favourite of fashion icons such as Jackie Kennedy.
From this first appearance to the disco-style platform boots of the 70s, block heels have often been on the youthful and playful fringes of the fashion mainstream. And in the 90s, the Spice Girls high-kicked their way onto the pop scene in amped-up versions of the block heel ankle boot.
In a transformation not entirely dissimilar from Posh Spice's gradual reinvention as renowned fashion designer Victoria Beckham, black block heels ankle boots have appeared in ever more elegant incarnations over the years. Today, these boots are a wardrobe staple that can be dressed up or down according to the occasion.
Keep it classic in black
To add a bit of edge to your black block heel ankle boots, opt for wool and leather options from Hugo Boss. Made from mixed wintry materials, these boots in classic grey and black hues are given a contemporary lift with striking leather finishes in the heel. The subtle buckle detailing makes them ideal officewear, and lends a tough urbanite edge to traditional country prints such as tweeds and hound's-tooth checks. Look to Moncler and Chanel for classic pieces that pair perfectly with these boots.
A similar style of block heel ankle boot from Aquazzura featuring bright red accents and gold buckles was worn by Olivia Palermo in New York in 2014. Teamed with opaque tights, a print skirt, oversize white cable-knit jumper and a pea coat, Palermo's smart-casual look works just as well for the office as it does for the FROW .
Emma Stone frequently opts for an effortless off-duty ensemble, pairing her boots with jeans, overcoat and striped T-shirt. This beautifully simple outfit makes an ideal capsule wardrobe for weekends away exploring new cities.
Make a statement
Stand out from the crowd by opting for statement boots. Think David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, in androgynous and eye-catching leather ankle boots with a block heel.
The Peter Pilotto autumn/winter 2015 collection showcased statement shoes at their most striking. Models were sent down the catwalk wearing cut-out ankle boots in soft suede and velvet materials, finished with tropical colours and exotic floral-inspired embroidery. In its AW16 show, Saint Laurent offered unmissable statement boots in textured leopard print fabrics.
Embrace a futuristic aesthetic with designs featuring transparent iceberg-style block heels. This translucent take on the trend creates a delicate and playful finish that works just as well in the office as it does for weekend cocktails. The AW15 Fendi collection played on the wintry angle, featuring ice sculpture-inspired boots in furry materials. Meanwhile, Christian Dior spring/summer 2016 included iceberg heel boots tinged with jewel-like shades.
When it comes to the 9-to-5, a statement block heel ankle boot pairs well with understated ensembles in sober shades – eye-catching shoes are perfect for striking the balance between professional attire and a more innovative after-hours style.
Sock it up
Statement boots and plain black block heel ankle boots work equally well with laid-back ankle-skimming jeans or cuffed trousers – or, for a quirky take, paired with socks or tights. Natalie Portman's character Mathilde in Léon: The Professional combined socks and ankle boots to devastating effect, elevating her 13-year-old character from run-of-the-mill teen to mysterious trendsetter way ahead of her time.
Dries Van Noten sent models down its spring/summer 2016 catwalks wearing block heel ankle boots in colourful swirls of blue and green with printed purple socks, while in SS15 Dolce & Gabbana created the illusion of an embroidered boot using block heel sandals and ornate tights in gypsy-inspired colour palettes of red, orange and blue.
Whether it's as a knowing nod to its more subversive history, or as part of the growing trend that has seen colourful and black block heel ankle boots appear on numerous catwalks and street-style blogs, this wardrobe item is as versatile as it is stylish. These boots aren’t just made for walking – they’re made for dancing and officewear, too.