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LARGEST HERD OF FALL FOOTWEAR HEARKENS TO CALL OF THE WILD

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Among the many species of footwear available this fall, the largest herd by far is the group that echoes the "call of the wild" theme.

The well-shod hoof will be outfitted in a leopard loafer, a cheetah chukka boot, a dalmation mule, or a mock alligator pump.Another camp offers more in the way of food for the sole. Spicing the traditional fall palette are shoes in paprika, pumpkin, curry, cinnamon and eggplant. These intense colors reflect the Middle Eastern influence that has swept the fashion scene.

And not only are there more species of shoes out there, there's more shoe for the money. Styles are more covered up, and high-throated heels called "clutch pumps" are supplanting the traditional pump.

Lace-up oxfords and buckled "Pilgrim" shoes provide complete coverage. Jodhpurs and cigarette-slim pant legs break over ankle-high boots. Heels for daytime are low and solid-looking, few higher than 2 or 2-1/2 inches. Shapes are well-defined geometrics: squared-off, Louis or comma.

In the silhouette department, comfortable flats and down-to-earth heels have the highest appeal. But for pants and long skirts, wafer-thins are fresh updates. In suede, they are versatile enough for both office and evening.

Now and then there's the nomadic shoe that belongs to no tribe. The kilim flat is such an animal.

Each pair is made from a kilim rug 10 to 60 years old, and no two pairs are alike. Often, the marking and coloration even of mates differs slightly. And at $185 a pair, no less.

But the material of choice is still most often suede.

According to Laura Ferrara of the Italian Trade Commission, suede represents as much as 80 percent of Italian shoes this fall. Suede makes a comfortable shoe and lends itself to blending with other textures, such as metallic braids, gold buttons and coins, embroidered heraldic appliques, soutache trims and velvet bows.

If your fall shoe wardrobe were limited to three pairs, here's a recommendation:

- Something from the animal kingdom. For the trendy there's the touch of cat - leopard, cheetah or snow leopard. For the customer who's not ready to go that wild, there's lots of mock crocodile and make-believe alligator.

- Something black and gold. They are good for daytime and nighttime. (Such as a black suede flat with gold buttons or a black velvet pump with gold braid around the throat.)

- Something man-tailored in brown or black. A lace-up oxford is probably the No. 1 fashion statement. It's a very strong look with the young crowd as well as the mature businesswoman, and is worn with pant suits, textured hose, very long skirts, big blazers - almost Annie Hallish.