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Everyone Needs a Pair of Secret Rain Boots

There is no month worse than March. I actively dread it year-round. This is not an exaggeration; I could be eating something warm and pumpkin-flavored in September and the very idea that March is less than six months away will make me unreasonably angry.

This is mostly because of March’s terrible weather, specifically its particular brand of humid frigidness that makes you sweat despite the fact that you’re also freezing. And then there’s the uncertainty factor: It’s about as likely to be snowing as it is to be 70 degrees and sunny, but a 70-degree day is utterly worthless when the trees are miserable, leafless skeletons.

The most likely of March weather outcomes, however, is that it will rain, hard — harder than it has since the late summer, but without that sort of pleasant, decomposing plant life smell that happens before fall. There’s nothing romantic about rain in March. It’s simply a mundane inevitability, like jury duty or falling out of love with someone.

It is for this reason that the most important item in my closet at this precise time of year, the only item that gives me any element of joy, are Secret Rain Boots. These, of course, are shoes that are not rain boots, and emphatically do not even resemble rain boots. They also aren’t rain boots designed to look like regular boots, which are great, but not what I am talking about. Instead, they are shoes that, as a happy coincidence, protect one’s feet from water, but only kind of.

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Secret Rain Boots are often made of material like patent leather or rubber, and almost always have a thick, chunky platform sole. Doc Martens, as a rule, are Secret Rain Boots. (They are also Secret Snow Boots, another important type of footwear.) The thing about Secret Rain Boots, though, is that you can’t place too much expectation on them, as they will ultimately fail at real rain boots’ job. If rain boots are 100 percent waterproof, Secret Rain Boots are at about 75 percent, but for those of us who live in cities where our only interaction with the rain occurs during the five-minute walk to the subway or the car, 75 percent is all we really need.

But the real beauty of Secret Rain Boots is that the forecast is irrelevant. If it rains, fine; if it doesn’t, well, they’re still the same cute pair of shoes you would wear on any other day.

Most importantly, you must never spend more than $100 on a pair of Secret Rain Boots, since they will last no longer than a year, maybe two. Buy from fast fashion brands only and your non-rain boot rain boots will be cheap and so painfully trendy that you won’t even want to wear them for more than a year anyway.

Might I suggest some good Secret Rain Boots, currently available for purchase: these New Look patent zip-up heels ($32), these Zara burgundy flatform loafers ($50), some Forever 21 oxford creepers ($30), Doc Martens’ patent 1460 boots ($125), and these ASOS chunky lace-up boots ($53). Bonus: These ones I just bought at River Island are on sale for $30.

Just beware of puddles. Rebecca Jennings, associate producer

The Significance of Last Night's Ladies in White

If you feel up to the task, pull up YouTube and watch the first minute or two of President Trump's address to a joint session of Congress last night. (Or watch the whole thing.) Notice anything in particular? Maybe, perhaps, the rows and rows of women dressed all in white?

Those are the Democratic female members of the House who banded together to white in honor the women's suffrage movement and, as Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas tweeted, "as a pledge to protect women's health, fair pay, paid leave & more!" (Melania Trump, by contrast, wore a black, glittering Michael Kors skirt suit.) You’ve undoubtedly seen the all-white look before in political contexts: Many Hillary Clinton supporters drew on the same reference point when they collectively dressed in white on Election Day, and Clinton herself wore a white pantsuit to accept the Democratic nomination this summer.

Elsewhere in political fashion news, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a former investment banker who worked with Trump in the early '90s, turned up to the President's address wearing custom slippers that likely cost at least $500. That’s a lot, though they still cost $3,100 less than Kellyanne Conway’s Gucci look at the Inauguration. —Eliza Brooke, senior reporter

Ulta Doesn’t Want to Be Sephora

When retailers want to get some attention and rebrand themselves, they’ll often open a splashy flagship store in New York City. Ulta, which built its business by opening stores mostly in suburban strip malls, took 26 years before it finally committed to putting a store in our country’s mecca of fashion and beauty. And that store, slated to open in the fall of this year, will be in a distinctly uncool stretch of the Upper East Side. (It does have stores in Staten Island, the Bronx, and Queens, but this will be its first Manhattan outpost.)

Ulta’s strategy over the last few years has been elevating without alienating. The chain’s business model is unique, selling both high-end (prestige) brands like Urban Decay and drugstore (mass) brands like L'Oréal, as well as a full line of haircare and hair tools. It also offers a full hair salon in every single store, Benefit brow services, and Dermalogica facials. Ulta really is trying to be everything to every beauty shopper in the most inclusive way possible. But up until recently the store really didn’t have its own identity, instead functioning more as a clearinghouse for all the brands it carried.

The team at Ulta, led by CEO Mary Dillon, who was hired in 2013, knew it had some work to do. A long history of offering coupons and deals led Dillon to think that the brand was on a “race to the bottom,” according to an interview in Fortune. The perception among shoppers was that the chain was a bit down-market and maybe not as inclusive of different types of women in its visuals as it could be. It’s now doing something right apparently, because in 2015 Ulta surpassed Sephora as the country’s biggest beauty retailer, snagging a whopping 27 percent of market share, according to Bloomberg.

Shelley Haus, Ulta’s vice president of brand marketing, says that when she started there a few years ago her first priority was to build awareness that Ulta, you know, exists. At the time, around 70 percent of people polled knew what Ulta was; it’s now 84 percent. “[People] would say, we don’t know what it is but we think it’s a beauty supply company,” Haus said, while giving me a tour of a newly remodeled store in downtown Chicago.

Ulta’s fortunes have clearly improved, and it’s taken on a cheery new face. Newly designed stores, which are bright and airy while also feeling like frenetic hives of activity at times, feature two new branded Ulta colors, “Orange Pop” and “Mad for Magenta.” A bubbly font seen throughout the store, on printed materials, and on the website is called “Fun Side Font,” a nod to Ulta’s internal mantra that it focuses on the “fun side of beauty.” Its unofficial tagline is “Fresh, fun, and real;” its official one is “All things beauty. All in one place.” Customers have been dubbed Beauty Enthusiasts.

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The Adidas Gazelle Sneakers Are Next in Line for the Throne

Adidas Gazelle, $77

2015 was the year of the Stan Smith; 2016 went to the Superstar; and for 2017, my money is on the Gazelle for the Adidas sneaker we fawn over next. The Gazelle ($77) floats in that beautiful middle ground between the hefty shell-toed Superstar and the minimal, no-frills Stan Smith: The suede gives it some textural interest and makes a beautiful base for Adidas’s signature three white stripes.

The Gazelle was first sold as a performance shoe in 1968 and worn by track stars, the West Germany national soccer team, and even Olympic handball players. But over the years, the sneakers were worn by Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, and Kate Moss. Adidas started pushing the shoes again last year and made Moss a part of that effort.

I don’t remember seeing those ads, but whatever Adidas did clearly melted into my subconscious, because I snagged a pair early this year. Like the Superstars and Stan Smiths, the Gazelles are really easy to wear but have the advantage of not being everywhere — yet. —Cam Wolf, menswear editor

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