For those of you too young to remember when shoes were not gimmicky, odd-looking, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink affairs with platforms, wedges, frills, multi-colours and ugly heels, here's a surprise. Once upon a time not very long ago, high-heeled fashion shoes were simply beautiful. They had sleek lines, no gimmicks and were generally a joy to behold. You slipped then on, they elevated the body by a few inches, lengthened the legs pushed out the hips at a certain sexy angle and that was it - good for a sexy sashay, and if needs be, to sprint a bit too.
The go-to man for beautiful shoes was Manolo Blahnik. Then along came the very lovely Mr. Louboutin, Mr. Kirkwood, Prada, Miu Miu, YSL and co adding more and more inches to their platforms until the day someone, somewhere said ENOUGH! Marc Jacobs was one of them. For both his Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs shows, his shoe designs directly referenced Manolo Blahnik signature mules and stilettos, and they were gorgeous, and now much copied on the high street.
The master at work. (Photo:Michael Roberts)
Another was American Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley, who told the New York Times in a very prescient feature last October, "Fashion had to turn on its heel and return to beautiful shoes. They're a staple, something you have to have in your refrigerator like butter, or milk." My favourite line in the story was what the writer, Guy Trebay, saved until last. It was a quote from Sarah Jessica Parker, who should have shares in Manolo Blahnik, or at least a lifetimes supply, after she popularised Blahnik through her character Carrie's obsession with the shoes. "I walked in and looked around and saw all these shoes, and then I spotted the Manolos and it was like water in the desert," she said. "I was just so excited to see a simple black pump."
I'm with them. My latest shoe purchase is the "Opyum" by YSL. A beautiful shoe. Or as the Americans say a beautiful "pump".
The other day I was re-arranging my shoe cupboard so I could lend my little sister a pair for a wedding, and I came across an old pair of YSL platform ankle boots. You know the ones with a gold line around the platform? At one point in about 2006 or 7 every fashion editor I knew had a pair. At the time, they felt like serious platforms. I wiped the dust off them and slipped one on for old times sake. They felt like wearing nothing. To think they once they seemed so high.
For sure, there is now a backlash in place against gimmicky shoes. Perhaps for now they have scaled their highest heights and reached the weight limit for studs and other hardware. That isn't to say I don't love Nicholas Kirkwood's shoes for Meadham Kirchhoff. I LOVE, but I would look like a clown in them.
Nicholas Kirkwood for Meadham Kirchhoff SS12
Louis Vuitton SS12