Sneakers that add height – last seen when Victoria Beckham was known as Posh Spice – are back, not with five-inch platforms this time, but with wedge heels disguised under runners. Designer Isabel Marant and lines such as See by Chloé and Marc by Marc Jacobs have taken the comfort and style of classic sneaks and fused them with teetering wedges.
The trend borrows from hip-hop street style and has been adopted by celebrities such as Beyoncé, Heidi Klum, Ciara and Alicia Keys, who have all been spotted stepping out in the pumped-up kicks. (Beyoncé also sported a pair of Marant high-tops in her Love on Top video.) Soon after, bloggers joined in, voicing support for these offbeat pseudo-runners.
Although critics of the sneakers complain that they are ugly and that the wedge heel doesn't allow for much sneaking, their unattractiveness has actually heightened their appeal among a certain crowd, such as devotees of the influential fashion blog The Man Repeller. They are the antithesis of the risk-averse fashion observers who, after getting a glimpse of the Parisian or Milanese runways, shudder, "Who would actually wear that?" These women embrace those styles – seen as repulsive to many men – and appreciate them for their perceived fashion-forwardness.
This isn't the first time that ugly shoes have found popularity among the fashion crowd. Jeffrey Campbell's Lita shoes, widely considered passé now, were seen by many as grotesque but were embraced by the blogging community a couple of years ago and went on to become a fashion-girl staple. The best example in men's shoes might be Prada's creepers from last spring: brogues with vivid colours and a two-inch platform that were considered unsightly but were adopted by style arbiters such as Tommy Ton and the dudes at the Pitti Uomo men's-fashion trade show.
As for wedge sneakers, even retailers are divided over them: Nicholas Mellamphy, the creative director for The Room at The Bay, isn't a fan, but Christine Carlton, divisional vice-president of accessories, footwear and jewellery at Holt Renfrew, disagrees, noting they're "a great fashion statement – and also offer height to those who want the boost." The extra height may be the most appealing thing about the shoes. Louboutin lovers likely won't see much appeal in a pair of sneakers with a few extra inches, but women who value comfort (and, more importantly, being able to walk) might regard these wedges as a fun alternative to flats. Naturally, this isn't the kind of footwear to wear in the boardroom or to a gala, but they are appropriate as weekend wear, falling closer to flip-flops than stilettos on the comfort scale. Carlton recommends pairing them with slim, colourful pants, jeans and a slouchy tee.
Ultimately, the wedge sneaker probably won't replace your favourite pumps – maybe not even your favourite pair of Chuck Taylors – but this blink-and-you'll-miss-it trend (anyone remember high-heeled Timberlands?) is at least worth trying on. After all, Beyoncé has more staying power than the Spice Girls ever did.
Special to the Globe and Mail