Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Platform For Sandals

Alexander Wang Platform
As the weather heats up, so does my craving for sandals. Like most women, I rejoice in the packing away of the ugly winter clunkers and slipping into thong flip flops and sleek open-toe stilettos that bring so much pleasure to both their owners and their admirers. This spring was no different, or so I had thought. Whether flipping through magazines, window shopping or browsing online, this year’s footwear options make any pair of chunky, salt-stained, winter boots seem sexy. The platform shoe and its contemporaries, the flatform and the wedge, have once again reared their ugly heads (or feet?) as a mainstream trend.

Just to give you a little history on the evolution of this footwear. Platform shoes were allegedly used in Ancient Greek theatre to help the actors appear taller. They were also a hot commodity among high brow sixteenth century Venetian prostitutes (I believe it was important to leave in the “high-brow” part, as these shoes need all the credibility they can get). Platforms have reappeared on and off again throughout history mainly in show business or among upper crusts who did not want to get their feet dirty. A particularly strong reappearance of the platform, for fashion rather than form, was in the 1970s when they were better known as their pseudonym: disco boots. Thanks to Elton John and a few other flamboyant performers, the platform crossed gender boundaries. There were also less flashy versions available for the more “rugged” types.

The flatform, is the ugly child of the platform and the flat. Like platforms, these shoes have thick soles made of plastic, wood, rubber or cork, usually four inches in height. The intention is to enjoy the altitude of a stiletto, but the stability of a flat shoe. The other spin off is the wedge sandal, the Elephant Man of footwear. Designers have taken what could have been a perfectly delicate sandal and filled in the space that was to be between the stiletto and ball of the foot creating one massive wedge-shaped sole. Ultimately making the sandal as horribly deformed as possible.

Prada Creepers
Even more entertaining than the cringe worthy shoes, are the marketing tactics used to sell them. Many rave about these hybrids as the marriage-made-in-heaven of height and fashionability to stability and comfort. While there maybe the odd flatform, the Prada creeper perhaps, that makes a good case for comfort; overall, it's only a valid point if you find walking on four-inch wooden planks stable and comforting. One article pushed highlighting the “shock absorption” and “cushioning” attributes of the wedge, claiming it perfect for “all summer activities.” (Thank God I won’t injure myself anymore during those “extreme” patio nights.)

The more I thought of it, however, the more I concluded how most summer activities are inappropriate for heels - camping, swimming, beach volleyball - are just not typical dress shoe sports. This made the utilitarian argument defunct. As for wanting the sexy calf and the lengthening of the leg without teetering on a four-inch stiletto, I say that nothing worth doing comes without a little bit of sacrifice and maybe a little bit of pain. If you want that look: black stiletto, just do it.

Of course the hideous shoe trend is nothing new. There has been the Birkenstock, the Croc, the clog and the Earth Shoe. Their ugliness, however, was forgivable. First, it was possible to avoid these trends all together. They had their own niche market and they were segregated in their own stores, or at least in their own section. Second, they came by it honestly. In opting for any of this said footwear, it was understood that aesthetics were not your priority. They made a statement and they were, undeniably, comfortable.

Nine West Model
This trend will haunt you, regardless of where you go. Whether your budget for shoes is $20, you could be the proud owner of a Sundance Strappy Wedge from Payless; or at $1,000, the Valentino wedges come close to the four digit mark. Now, every time I visit the Nine West site in hope that something respectable has arrived, I end up distracted by the bikini-clad model sunbathing in her weighty wedges. I become terribly worried about her getting too close to the edge of the pool: what if her wedges are made of an element heavier than cork? She could sink to her watery grave.

My biggest problem with these shoes, particularly the wedge sandal, is that they defeat the purpose of spring/summer footwear. Cute, delicate and cheery summer wear has been super-sized, leaving us with the burden of a North Face lace up. In my opinion, this is a perversion against the weightless and carefree philosophy behind summer itself. Summer is the time to take things less seriously while shedding extra weight. If the four-inch sandals are too much at the end of the garden party, just slip them off. It's summer.

Laura Warner is a librarian, researcher and aspiring writer living in Toronto. She is currently based in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre’s Music Library.

1 comment:

  1. The Prada Creepers are just horrible! Hope they don't become a trend!