April 6, 2010

Baring it All: Sensible Sandals for Spring

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Knock Knock. Who’s there? Spring! Spring who? Spring it’s time to wear sandals!!! OK, so not my best knock knock joke ever but it served the purpose I enlisted it for; introducing the topic for today’s column: sandals.

Dressing for spring is often a balancing act; it’s not quite warm enough to bare all but it is hot enough to want to get a little ventilation going. One of the best ways to moderate your body temperature is through your feet: I find myself getting really hot feet sometimes in the summers when I can’t wear sandals, and I do not care for it one bit. So what characteristics might you want to recruit in your sandals? I would say, as with everything, you are looking for comfort, flexibility, and durability. But you might say, “um … no. I’m looking for trendy.” So, let’s cover all the bases here.

A scan of 30000-plus sandals on Instyle.com, as well as poking around some trusted sources and the runway shows for Spring 2010, reveal that sandal trends right now parallel other clothing trends; in terms of meta-trends, we see an emphasis on the feminine, global or tribal looks and bright colors. There are a lot of sub-categories and obviously there are formal realizations of these trends, but how these big trends translate into footwear is interesting.

Femininity transfers to footwear in two ways — first in a parallel way, with many designs showcasing flowers, ruffles, lace and high-heels, and also in a complementary way: Many designers and stylists are “grounding” (i.e. balancing the sweetness á la adding a pinch of salt in baking) florals, flouncy and flirty with bulky, more hard and/or masculine footwear. This includes chunky heels, studded leather and darker colors.

To go along with global/tribal looks, there was another round of gladiator sandals, marked by their abundant straps and often their emphasis on the ankle detail (ankle detail in general being HUGE this season, with many boots pretending to be sandals and sandals parading as shoesies … all kinds of Shakespearean identity crises). For example, Balenciaga featured tall sandal-boots with woven accents and hints of color. Embellishment is also abundant in stores right now; jewels, embroidery, shells and fabric adorn all sorts of sandals and can help to enliven any outfit. But beware of too many flashy elements in one outfit.

Let’s talk about colors. In winter, the default neutral is black. But in spring/summer, neutrals move into the realm of beige, khaki, olive, white — and these days, metallics gold, silver and bronze. Black is still definitely an option, and often a good choice for fancier occasions: for night, or for wearing with black. But for day, it’s absolutely essential to have at least one excellent pair of neutral sandals.

This season there is also an overall emphasis on bright colors, specifically corals, turquoise, cobalt and rich yellows. A bright pair of shoes can add the perfect amount of color to a neutral outfit or to a black ensemble for the evening: It also presents an opportunity for coordinating other accessories or working with the colorful make-up trends for spring. You do have to be careful though, and avoid taking the trend too far. I saw a hilarious pair at Anthropologie that were almost excellent: they were a trendy orange/brick red pair with a fairly supportive-looking soul, on-trend ankle straps and cut-outs … and a huge orange raffia (straw) pom-pom on the top of each foot. They kind of looked like Bozo the Clown’s nose went feral and affixed itself to the sandals.

Let’s quickly cover a few sandal pet peeves of mine. First and foremost: Flip flops never have been, are not currently and never will be appropriate, fashionable or in anyway OK for remotely formal occasions. Period. In addition, platform wedges look stupid on most people. You are most people. And lastly, please look out for the health of your feet/knees/back and wear totally supportless sandals sparingly. You will thank me eventually.

Which brings me to the point that there are many good-for-you options that are brilliantly en vogue and durable at the same time. Yes, I am talking about Birkenstocks. I got my pair of “Bali” style in taupe suede to go on a summer program in Paris for five weeks, most of which were spent walking. They have their soft sole, and ankle strap, and cut-out frontpiece that looks kinda like cat whiskers. They are super cute, and they will last me forever. They have sixteen total styles for women, the most popular “Gizeh” style comes in 32 colors comes in many materials — suede, plain leather, patent leather and embellished. It’s backless with an in-between-the-toe part that is shaped like a Dalí-esque Y. Their newest style, “Sparta” is a “Gizeh” derivative, with two thinner foot straps and visible hardware.

They have a lot of options for guys, as do many sandal companies. I also recommend Teva and Chaco sandals for everyone, but they offer some interesting silhouettes and muted colors for guys that are a good way to add a little interest without too much flash. Always popular, Rainbow flip-flops earn my approval, if begrudgingly, because of their supportive soles and simple, versatile lines. Gladiator sandals clearly originated with … gladiators, who were mostly (all?) men. I haven’t seen men wearing gladiators although I’m certain it’s being done; I think this could be a really neat way to spruce up your look for spring/summer guys; I would definitely keep the rest of the outfit simple; slim khaki pants or jeans and a clean plain colored T-shirt.

Hope these tips keep your toes breezy and your life easy. See you on the Slope.

Original Author: Alex Harlig