I believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. Do they live an active life ? Is she a girly girl ? A tomboy ? A geek ? A nerd ? Fashion victim ( Valentino rockstuds in 2013, Birks in 2014 ) ? How much effort does she put into her appearance…. So she thinks she can walk in those ? I do judge. I am a student of Machine Learning, where we believe what we see can be deconstructed by the past experiences. You can teach a computer to recognize say an apple by teaching it about color, texture and references of what apples look like using a database. Deep Learning techniques try to mimic the human brain in learning. I dont think we can help it, we need to form an impression when we see something. And well worn shoes have stories to tell. My favourite kind of shoes are the ballet flats. They are very biker friendly. Are made for walking and dancing. Work appropriate. That covers all the bases for me. Every brand and designer makes them. But not all flats are created equal. After a recent incident in which my skin got shaved off by a pair of pointed flats, i decided to launch a battle against pointed flats and feature some shoes that actually like women. That want women to wear good looking shoes and still be active. So here we go.
The pointy ones.
I have a personal vendetta on them and would like to see them gone. They have been popular for quite some time, since they were first worn by European aristocrats. It symbolized power, luxury, leisure class while the round toed boots symbolized working class. Men wore them too. All the Louis and Henrys of the aristocracy are touting them in the painted portraits. Eventually, post French revolution, men renounced their heeled pointy toed shoes for more practical shoes. Cowboys prefered them so that they can slide their toes into the stirrups. Today, its the forte of fashionable women and dandy men ( not an insult ). And they are very very anatomically wrong. Jenni Kayne’s d’orsay flats are everywhere last season. A case of vanity winning over health. They squish your toes together, are very uncomfortable and restrict blood circulation. Remember the foot binding practices in China to achieve a certain look on the feet ? Just like that. I was stupid enough to think i can wear them. They looked great on. Harsha couldn’t bear to see my discomfort after 20 minutes of walking and i couldn’t bear the pain on his face from the empathy. Please learn from my mistakes. I hope the next time you see pointed toe shapes, you think of band-aids and Chinese foot binding.
The round toe
On contrast, round toed shoes are very comfortable, can be worn and forgotten about. The working class shoes. They love women and feet in general. This is the most durable pair i ever found and am in the process of ruining them by walking in them on the mountain side. Cole Haan collaborated with Nike to make this pair.The collaboration had Sharapova as its spokesperson. Practically indestructible sole. The upper, not so much. Minimalist blogger Coco wears them and they are her only pair of shoes for years. Too bad they don’t make these anymore. Repettos, Lanvin, Frye, Chloe, etc make this shape and are quite the mainstream. Ferragamo flats are supposed to be the most durable and worth the money from what i have read so far. I dont think i like this shape that much and the bow on top is an overkill. I dont think i will buy another pair of round toe flats in the future once i retire these ones.
While round toes look too casual, we still have a few other options – like the rounded square. I think the shoe makers require more skill to produce shapes that are not pointed or round toed. Making rest of the shapes hard to find. This is my favourite shape and the most elegant one in my opinion. Presenting the Pradas that i wear for formal occasions. They are the perfect marriage between the comfort offered by round toe and the shapeliness offered by the more painful shapes. A few makers put this shape in the market every season.
Oval shaped/Almond toe.
I can not write this post without bringing in Porselli into the battle. These are the original Italian ballet flats that made them chic enough to wear as street wear. Audrey and Garance have done their share to show their appreciation for them, making them popular in their generation. These are often pitted against their French rival Repettos. I like the shape of Porsellis better. And Porsellii being the older traditional company, do not do toe cleavage which earns points in my book. Thank you Pierotucci for letting me borrow this pair for the photograph.
A real ballet square toe.
These are rare indeed. And not popular at all. I think the women in the 80s over did it with their mannish office wear and they were stowed away in the bad shoe shape hall of fame. I know a few students of ballet, who come to my yoga studio. They love dancing shoes so much that they got a sole put on the bottom of their shoes and use it for street wear. They look very elegant and bohemian at the same time. Since i am no ballerina with an extra pair at my disposal, i have been waiting for someone to make a pair for walking, in this shape. Jil Sander finally made a pair last season and they sold out in no time. Maybe more makers will embrace this shape in the future. To me, these shoes remind me of all the beautiful Japanese architectural details i have been admiring this month. Boxy and earthy at the same time. Made with natural materials. I dont understand why this designer chose to make a box shape in the softest saggy leather, but i still do admire the shape. Thank you La Garconne for letting me use this pair for the post.
Some interesting facts about ballet flats:
1. They are inspired of course by the shoes worn by ballerinas.
2.The first Ballet shoes worn by the dancers of the Royal Academy of Dance were heeled. And they were pointed. These shoes were quite difficult to wear and prohibited any jumps and a lot of technical movements. They later abandoned the heel for more movement.
3. Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina who was one of the most famous dancers of her time had particularly high, arched insteps, which left her vulnerable to injury when dancing en pointe. She also had slender, tapered feet, which resulted in excessive pressure on her big toes. To compensate for this, she inserted toughened leather soles into her shoes for extra support and flattened and hardened the toe area to form a box.
4. French shoe designer Rose Repetto created a pair of pointe shoes for her son Roland in 1947. Ballet companies loved the shoe. Brigitte Bardot requested that Rose make her a pair. And the rest is history.
5. Audrey Hepburn is credited for getting them into fashion by wearing them in her movie, Funny Face. And they never went out of style.
6. Tory Burch became a billionaire this year. She reportedly sold over 5 million flats so far. ( I don’t get them, they are tacky with insanely high – logo to leather ratio. I can not see the shoe behind the hideous logo. )
7. Marc Jacobs makes mouse ballet flats every year, which women seem to love. to be continued ….