Manolo the Columnist

By Manolo the Shoeblogger

Manolo says, here is the Manolo’s latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo,

I am 13 and I have a boot crisis. I want to wear boots to middle school, but I don’t have much money to spend, just $60 or $70. I like tall boots, preferably in a brown or hazel-ish color and with flat heels.


Manolo says, the Manolo commends his young friend on her fashion sense and her desire to look stylish while she suffers the multifold emotional travails of middle school.

However, as always, the Manolo must note that it is exceedingly difficult to find decent boots for less than $150 of the American dollars.

Yes, there are many so-called boots available in the lowest price ranges, but these are dreadful things you would not wish upon your worst “frenemy” , seeing as they are most often fabricated from the toxic plastics recycled from the lead-filled toys recalled to China.

But, the Manolo understands what it is like to be poor, so poor that you must make your own boots out of buffalo hides you have softened by chewing, Comanche-style.

And so the Manolo would recommend the Gambit, the attractive tall suede boot from Penny Loves Kenny. Yes, it is $40 more than your budget, but trust the Manolo, you cannot find better for less.

Gambit by Kenny Loves Penny   The Manolo does not hate!   Click if you must!


17 Responses to “Manolo the Columnist”

  1. Lori Says:

    A few months ago, I found a pair of Italian-made riding boots for $70–at a consignment store. They were like new. However, I’d been looking for a deal on boots for two years.

  2. Kathryn Says:

    For once, I think that the Manolo may be less than correct (I won’t say wrong). As a middle-schooler, Sophie’s feet are probably still growing, and it doesn’t make much sense to spend a ton of money on a pair of boots she’ll probably only be able to wear one season. Furthermore, her budget is probably very tight. I remember from my middle school days that an extra $40 would have seemed an impossibility.

    I would advise her to look at Steve Madden’s Tianna, a flat suede boot that comes in brown. While the list price generally runs around $95, they’re on sale at Famous Footwear for $69.99, and she can price match at Zappos to get them for even less. They’re not a bad boot to wear for a little while–I bought them in grey this fall, and have been getting tons of use out of them. And if she likes the Gambit, she should also look around online for sales and try to price match those.

  3. Ninjarina Says:

    I echo Kathryn’s sentiment with the exception that no one should ever buy Steve Maddens b/c they’re impossibly heavy. I would recommend Aldo shoes – I passed by the store at my local mall and they’re having a 50% off sale. While Aldo suede boots do run around $150, Kathryn did bring up the idea of price matching – zappos,, and all do it. It wouldn’t hurt to hit up Amazon or Overstock either.

    I must also say that Sophie should protect your investment by getting a nice can of waterproofing spray. As the owner of many pairs of suede Puma Speedcats, I can attest that it will keep your suede shoes clean, if not completely dry. Perhaps if Sophie can keep her shoes in good condition, she can have something to trade during swap meets.

  4. Tk Says:

    Ah, yes, if your feet have not settled on their adult size yet, don’t go spending money you don’t have.

    Macy’s is another place to go, armed with their regular coupons. Like the reasonable attractive Steve Madden “rite” boot, $97, but with coupon, could be under $80 and likely to go on further sale.

    Or perhaps you like the Aerosole’s Tint Cess ( – $99 currently, but watch for sales. Enter FS6CX7 at check out for free shipping.

    Or the less to my personal taste but very affordable for real suede $59 Flamcoyant. The black is reasonable looking. (Ditto the free shipping code)

  5. Coneybean Says:

    I would also recommend checking out naturalizer shoes- they have similar prices to Aldo, but better sales, and in my family, at least, we’ve had better luck with the quality. I’m not sure how common they are in the states, but they do have a website. They also carry various widths.

  6. Kathryn Says:

    Actually, the Steve Madden Tianna boots are incredibly light. They’ve become my everyday walking-around shoes, and with the addition of an insole for support, they’re among my most comfortable.

  7. Kirsten Says:

    Dr. Scholl’s Discover is a nice flat boot in three neutral suede colors. Overstock has them for $49.99! Dear Sophie would have at least $10 left over to spend at the mall!

  8. Kirsten Says:

    Dr. Scholl’s Discover is a nice flat boot in three neutral suede colors. Overstock has them for $49.99! Dear Sophie would have at least $10 left over to spend at the mall!

  9. common sense Says:

    Telling a junior high school student to spend out of her budget to get a pair of boots is irresponsible (along the lines of recommending Due Farina as a good place to get shoes – a place that, incidentally, I’ve found dishonest and slow to follow through on promised “discounts”). What about instead giving her tips on when and where to look for shoes on sale? At that age, nothing or very little of what she buys should be considered an “investment,” and instead she should focus on having fun, defining her style and NOT developing poor monetary habit.

  10. anon Says:

    Try vintage stores, indie boutiques, ebay, Filene’s Basement, Loehmann’s, Barneys Co-op…there are so many places to buy great shoes at low prices! I found a new pair of Italian boots by J Peterman the other day for $37. Trust me, the bargains are out there.

  11. Nariya Says:

    It’s true that the average 13-year-old girl can’t spend a hundred bucks on one pair of boots that she may outgrow in a year. However, in defense of the Manolo, I will say that it has never been the Manolo’s job or wont to suggest inexpensive shoes. He will never offer up anything that is of less than great quality in his opinion, and if that means more expensive shoes, then so be it.

    That being said, it’s great that the commenters add more suggestions to the column to help in the search for bargains. Personally, I’m glad the Manolo himself doesn’t concentrate on the price when he searches. Less practical? Yes. More fun? I think so!

  12. perrier-chick Says:

    Ah yes, I remember when I was a 13-year-old…such a fun time. Where I’m from 13-year-olds wear boots like these They fit the budget, and are flat, but unfortunately only come in black, green, and light tan. Happy holidays to all.

  13. Fred the Fourth Says:

    Many years ago, while in a store specializing in Halloween-type costumes, mostly second-hand, I found a pair of high-quality western riding boots, that fit me, for $5 (five). I wore them happily for years until they disintegrated.
    Don’t limit your shopping options.

  14. Vizia Says:

    I often shop at Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, and find some truly super-fantastic shoes and boots in these places. I don’t know if Sophie has access to such stores, but over the years I have made several amazing finds, particularly at Ross. In the last year I have picked up 3 pairs of wonderful Rockport low-heeled-and-extremely-comfortable boots there–one ankle boot in cognac ($19.99), one knee high in dark brown ($19.99), and one knee high suede and leather shearling-lined in russet ($29.99). (Not only am I a total shoe fanatic, I took up motorcycle riding last November, thus the over-kill on brown Rockport boots!). I also got a great pair of flat heeled black leather Nine West dress boots for $19.99.

    Over the years I’ve scored a pair of black suede Ralph Lauren ankle tie evening shoes, numerous Nine West sandals, Ann Marino evening shoes, lots of Franco Sarto, the poor girl’s friend (at an even greater discount!), Etienne Aigner, fabulous Hush-Puppy walking shoes, Elie Tahari pumps, Avia and New Balance tennies, etc. I rarely pay more the $20 for a pair, and never more than $40. You have to be willing to root around and make multiple trips, but for a shoe-aholic it’s heaven!

  15. Grace Says:

    I would second the suggestion to check sites like Amazon and Zappos for deals – depending on what size shoe she needs, she may be able to get a fabulous boot at a fabulous discount. Amazon just recently had some John Fluevog boots at 25% of the regular price, and I’m sure similar discounts arise for other brands. What I have seen with Amazon (not so much with Zappos) is that when they get down to the last of their stock, they discount the product deeply to get it out of the warehouse. It’s never too early to learn that you should buy the best quality shoe you can – using an arbitrary price range often costs you more in the long run.

    As for the price limit, when she outgrows the boots, if they are still in good shape, she may be able to eBay them and recoup some of the expense of the shoes, or take them to a consignment store.

  16. Natasha Says:

    I remember my first pair of knee high boots. It was before knee high boots were available everywhere. I was 15 and saved every penny from babysitting to be able to afford the $110 leather knee high boots from Aldo at my local mall. My mom was so impressed by my drive that she chipped in the last $30 I needed. Imagine my shock when the rest of my 9th grade class did not immediately recognize how super fantastic these boots were. I had the last laugh though- by graduation I would guess about 50% of the girls at my high school owned knee high boots.

  17. EZ Says:

    I take the middle road on the discussion – I have always agreed that the quality should trump the price and that is why when in college and struggling to pay the rent AND buy groceries that I, along with the poor but fashionable lads of London, wore Doc Martens. But, I also agree that a girl in middle school will probably not be wearing any boots for very long so an investment in pricey boots now would be fiscally irresponsible.

    I just received these: from Zappos last night – they are the xmas gift for my girlfriend and I was quite pleased to be able to do a price match using Amazon to get them at ~$80 less than the list price.

    Why do I mention this? Because this morning I received the email from (service is not up to Zappos high standard) telling me of the fabulous sale. Here is the link:

    Hoping that my girlfriend’s soon-to-be-xmas-present might be listed even cheaper, thus saving me more money for my own shoes, I clicked on over to and…


    The middle school girl can have her quality at a good price! There are substantial savings on many shoes and boots today so hurry on over to! (But, after a very bad experience with them, I would use their prices to price-match with Zappos wherever possible)

    Sadly my GF’s new boots are not among the deals listed. Ah well…

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