Strappy sandals, sneakers and combat boots. The most popular women's shoes that college students are packing for school this fall are remarkably consistent across the country.
"In California, you can wear sandals almost year round," says Robin Xu, who is heading from Chicago back to her junior year at Pomona College in Claremont.
Xu's suitcase also will hold several pairs of boots: ankle boots with a little heel, Western-inspired boots, desert boots and combat boots. "They're brown and leather and lace up the front,” says Xu of the last type. “Those are more for winter when the weather is getting colder.”
Xu says her collection is fairly typical, but the Midwesterner notes, "On my campus, I'm probably one of the less casually dressed people. A lot of people just wear flip-flops. I also see a lot of Converse.”
"My college kind of advertises itself as 'You can wear flip-flops in January,' " says another Pomona student, Nicole McDuffie, a junior studying biology and computer science.
At Pomona, even party-wear is casual, notes Xu.
When women’s shoes get dressy
Things are a little dressier at Southern Illinois University , in Carbondale, where Rosa Pacheco is a junior in social work and member of a sorority. "We all go out together at night and do the heel thing," she says.
"I'm only 4-foot-11," she says, so she wears "a pump stiletto, not more than 5 inches" in black, and looks for "something that will pretty much last me forever."
"I got a new pair of Converse," says Kelly Lowrey, who is headed for her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, "but that's mostly because I wore out my last pairs." Along with her high-tops, she says, "I'm also bringing a pair of high-heeled Mary Janes and a sturdy pair of boots.
"I wear the Converse most of the time, and the high heels are left to when I need or want to make a good impression," she adds. Her boots are combat-style leather mid-shin lace ups.
For the most part, the college women stick to practical, neutral colors: black, brown, beige, with maybe gold or silver metallic straps on dressier sandals. "I tend not to go very flashy," says Xu.
"Black goes with everything," says McDuffie.
They are largely wearing shoes of manmade materials, although their reasons vary. For some, it's because they are less expensive.
“Because I run on a student budget, my going-out shoes need to be inexpensive,” says Jeselle Jayme Obina, a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. “The chaos that is college partying can ruin any department-store shoe in a matter of seconds. I usually stick to whatever is trendy over something that withstands fashion cycles, because those shoes will have a short life span."
Cheryl Groesch, a sophomore at the University of Illinois, agrees. “You can always spot freshmen girls on the weekends because they’re wearing really expensive shoes to parties,” Groesch says. “Then their shoes get ruined for whatever reason, and they wear something a bit more practical like the rest of us. No need to trash a $200 pair of shoes.”