How Platform Shoes Became Popular and Stay in Style

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Do you struggle with wearing a heel? Are you looking for a few extra inches of height without compromising on comfort? Platforms are your BFF.

As the world starts to reopen post-pandemic, we’re all a little wry of giving up on the comfortable shoes that we’ve lived in over the last year.

We think it’s the perfect time to embrace platform shoes as our post-pandemic shoes. We’re taking a look at the platform shoe, how they became popular, and the different types that you can try.

Why Platform Shoes Became Popular

Christina Aguilera, Maisie Williams, Amber Rose, and Britney Spears wearing platform shoesChristina Aguilera, Maisie Williams, Amber Rose, and Britney Spears wearing platform shoes (Credit: Avalon / Michael Wright / JP / JFXimages / WENN)

Believe it or not, platform heels are one of the oldest styles of shoes in existence. Their origin dates back to the ancient Greek theatre, with even Aphrodite pointed to as a possible source of inspiration.

These theatre shoes were called ‘Cothumus’ and used to allow those at the back of the theatre to see the actors. Early platforms also appeared during Ancient Rome, where they were called ‘Kothorni’.

Early platform shoes were believed to be connected to the nobility, allowing them to look taller than those around them. Other reasons include keeping their shoes above the muck in the streets. The nobility in Venice wore the ‘Chopine’ shoe from 1400-1700 before they were outlawed.

Their modern popularization is credited to Italian shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo. His rainbow sole hit the market in the 1930s, and it’s been part of pop culture ever since.

These platform sandals were made for Judy Garland in tribute to her performance of ‘Over the Rainbow’ in the Wizard of Oz. Ferragamo experimented with wood and cork as leather was difficult to get a hold of during WWII.

Created in 1938 for Judy Garland, Salvatore Ferragamo's Rainbow platform sandals feature shaped slabs of cork covered in colorful suedeCreated in 1938 for Judy Garland, Salvatore Ferragamo’s Rainbow platform sandals feature shaped slabs of cork covered in colorful suede

Platforms have become synonymous with the 1970s when they were all over the catwalks and dance floors. Everyone from Elton John to Kiss was wearing platform boots during the ’70s. Once the disco era slowed down, so did the platform trend.

These shoes aren’t without controversy. In the 1970s, a journalist published a piece on the effects of wearing platform shoes on the body.

This video predates the era where we talked about ankle issues and arch problems connected to wearing specific shoes. The 1970s saw platform shoes appear with different silhouettes, including espadrilles and oxfords.

It is worth noting that while platforms are comfortable, they’re not the easiest shoes to walk in. Naomi Campbell famously stumbled in a pair of 21cm blue mock rock platforms during the 1993 Vivienne Westwood show. Baby Spice also famously injured her ankle while wearing her then-iconic style of platforms.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Naomi Campbell (@naomi)

The ’90s is also when the platform sneaker first hit the market, becoming one of the must-have shoes of the era. Buffalo, the footwear brand, was responsible for creating the Spice Girls’ iconic platform sneakers.

The platform trend differed during the early 2000s between the US and UK. Elongated and pointed shoes were more popular in the US than in the UK. The YSL Tribute came back into style, becoming a modern sex symbol.

First released in 2009, YSL's Tribute sandal became the definition of a shoe with sex appealFirst released in 2009, YSL’s Tribute sandal became the definition of a shoe with sex appeal

The late 2010s saw clear platform shoes and mules sandals become increasingly popular as the ’70s trends made a resurgence across the fashion industry.

Our love-hate relationship with platforms was documented in the V&A’s 2015 exhibition entitled ‘Shoes: Pleasure & Pain’. Platforms are synonymous with the idea of power, confidence, and sensuality.

The silhouette is striking while being fairly impractical. If you spot someone walking down the street in a platform shoe, you instantly note their confidence.

Platforms are not an everyday shoe, but that’s part of their allure. As styles evolve, the platform has changed with it. It’s no longer exclusively attached to the classic stiletto but instead appears on everything from oxford shoes to tennis shoes.

Are Platform Shoes Still in Style?

Like every shoe style, platforms have come in and out of style every 20-30 years. Mae West was rocking the style in the ’30s and ’40s, while the Spice Girls dominated the style in the ’90s.

In between, the ’60s saw smaller shoes before the ’70s appeared with the biggest platform we’ve seen to date.

The late ’90s and early 2000s saw platforms jump back to the front of the shoe trends thanks to the Spice Girls.

Platform sneakers are one of the trends made famous by Spice Girls in the 1990s (Credit: WENN)Platform sneakers are one of the trends made famous by Spice Girls in the 1990s (Credit: WENN)

You can think of the cycle of platform shoes going in and out of style as being just like wide-leg trousers. The two tend to come in and out of style at the same time.

The current revival of platform shoes is linked to Jeffrey Campbell’s ‘Lita’ boot, named after Lita Ford from The Runways.

It became linked to the latest fashion week street style, carrying on the platform aesthetic from the Yves Saint Laurent Tribute shoe.

Ashley Benson and Lindsay Lohan pictured in 2021 wearing the Jeffrey Campbell Lita bootsAshley Benson and Lindsay Lohan pictured in 2021 wearing the Jeffrey Campbell Lita boots (Credit: WENN)

Even though the brand has now transitioned to Saint Laurent, the Tribute shoes are still being offered as one of the brand’s best-sellers.

Other brands that are carrying the platform heel include Gucci, Miu Miu, and Prada. Marc Jacobs brought out the platform goth boot in his Autumn/Winter 2016 collection, giving it the festival treatment for Spring/Summer 2017.

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