Like most women out there, my life has been tainted by more than one aesthetic insecurity. When we face the facts, the reality is that the majority of these insecurities stem from our weight (because, you know, we're taught to fat shame). Whether because of our chafing thighs, our visible belly outlines or our bigger booties, we always seem to find a way to target those thicker (sometimes jigglier) regions — and they then become a source for constant anxiety and self-deprecation. I don't just mean plus-size women here, either. I mean all women.
Because the majority of my professional life consists of immersing myself into topics of body positivity and size inclusivity, I'm hearing a lot of these body image qualms on the daily. And I've always been quite surprised by how little calves come into the equation — when, for me, having thick calves (not to mention wide feet) has always created some tension between the shopping mall and me.
When you have calves that are either smaller or larger than your average calf (and I realize the concept of an "average" calf seems rather laughable), I think it's safe to say that shopping for shoes — especially boots — is a strange kind of nightmare. (Like worse than that one about the spiders coming out of your ears — Ron Weasley, I feel you.) But I often wonder whether the reason we don't discuss our calf problems as much as, say, our fear of a non-flat stomach, is because there don't seem to be many viable solutions out there (whereas when it comes to the tummy, weight-loss companies and fitness instructors don't hesitate to present us with often patronizing diet paraphernalia). We suffer in boots that are too big or too small, because the options are just so minimal. Don't get me wrong. I know wide fit boots exist, and they exist in more quantities than ever before. But even your "W" or "N" calf fits still aren't tailored. They're a generic size designed with one measurement of a wide calf and one measurement of a narrow calf in mind. So... this where DUO Boots come in.
I've never been a big fashion splurger, often opting for purchasing eight cheap but funky shoes for the price of one pair of Manolos. But I've got to say, truly custom-fit boots are the way forward if you have feet or calves that don't fit whatever "norm" the sole industry has decided is acceptable. DUO Boots is a UK-born brand that tailors boots (made of real Italian leather, no less) in 21 calf sizes, and shoes and ankle boots in three width fittings: narrow, standard and wide. Founded in 1974, DUO has had 40 years of perfecting the wintry shoe of choice — but it's their care and guidance when it comes to custom fitting that really makes them stand out from the rest of the shoe emporium.
Right on the DUO site, you can find a printable tape measure, ready-to-watch videos and tutorials that teach you to properly measure your calves and feet, and even a hosiery sizing guide (because #tightproblems). The entire process is made incredibly simple and user-friendly — you can even type in your calf measurement once you've discovered it to see the products available in that width. Being that my calves are a little over 18 inches — the larger end of the size range DUO offers — I feared that they'd only have a couple of options in that width. But I was so wonderfully wrong. They have 36!
For my first adventure into the world of custom-made fashion, I opted to try DUO's Somerset Boot — a chic, color-blocked pair of waterproof wonders. And all I can say is: Heaven exists, and it comes in the form of two-tone brown leather. Gone was the struggle of zipping past the mid-calf. Gone was the suffocation prevalent when your boots are two sizes too small everywhere above the foot. There was even a bonus, adjustable strap added to facilitate continued fit in the event of weight loss or gain. Slipping into these boots was simply divine. And all of a sudden, tailored fashion didn't seem like an indulgence, but a practicality. And a necessity.
So I get it. Spending anything over $300 on a pair of shoes seems like a waste of many potential nights out, or a month's heating bill. But, guys: It's so worth it. I always knew that my wide calves created something of a dilemma when it came to finding boots that fit. But I never realized the extent of my discomfort until going for something that was made for me. And I don't know, but in some strange, little way, having something made to fit your body just feels incredible. To put it simply, it's further proof that we don't have to conform to anyone else's standard of the "right size" or the "right kind of beauty." We can just be ourselves — look like ourselves — and still be comfortable.