“Women and shoes” is not exactly a complete thought, yet these three words contain multiverses. The stereotype that women are drawn to shoes like moths to a flame rings true—at least for this woman. It’s certainly part of the reason why Sarah Jessica Parker launched a successful shoe label after portraying Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, who famously had no savings in the bank, but a closet full of Manolos. Indeed, the most viral celebrity shoe closets always resemble a candy store, with all the colours you can think of, feathers, ribbons, and embroideries to boot. A fabulous shoe can make any outfit better. Women crave high heels! Bold colour! Jeweled details!
Lately though, I have felt a pull in a different direction. It started a few seasons ago at The Row, when Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen sent out their signature minimalist and tailored pieces, layered to the max as is their wont. Half the models wore chunky platform boots that could be seen as immediately desirable, the other half wore weird little mesh slippers that looked like not-socks. They felt almost like an afterthought, as in, “What’s the least aesthetically disturbing thing we can put on their feet so they don’t walk out barefoot?” When I first caught sight of them I think I laughed—not at them, but maybe just with them.
Of course the shoes weren’t an afterthought, and it turns out the Olsens were in fact pioneers of the non-shoe shoe trend. Each season, they can be counted on for a new take on the unobtrusive style. The mesh flat continued to make appearances in subsequent collections, sometimes in new colours and sometimes even with embellishments. For pre-fall, they turned to barely-there leather thong sandals paired with tabi socks. They’re constantly looking for ways to show the most foot without actually making the foot visible
Proenza Schouler has also been bitten by the non-shoe bug. The brand’s fall collection included black leather slippers, molded like a second skin, that show off the dips and valleys of every single toe. Paired with super opaque black tights, the slippers removed the punctuation that a shoe gives an outfit. Only when the models turned around could you see a contrasting white leather pull-tab that reminded you the feet were indeed being protected from the elements. The young designer Talia Byre also dipped her toe (I’m sorry) in the shoe trend, pairing little black slippers with knits and tailored separates alike. Though her inspiration this season was the dancers Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown, they did not scream “dance!” but did seem thoroughly modern. (Although the non-shoe is certainly a cousin of the ballet flat, it can be distinguished by its higher vamp and disregard for trying to create a graceful line surrounding the foot.)
Even Tory Burch, who is not known for doing anything minimalist, showed black square-toed ankle-height leather slippers (they’re not quite a boot), except hers were punctuated by a swath of bold color, and the best ones had a bright red dot right at the toe.