You’re not supposed to admit it, that you actually like flat-heeled shoes, not today in the age of cartoonish, sky-high platforms and near impossible-to-walk-in boots. Admittedly, I spent much of the last two decades in sleek, three-to-four inch heels, I’ve found the shoe styles of the past five years ugly, intimidating and very not-for-me and along the way have rekindled my love of flats — ’80s style flats in particular.
It started with the closing of a large shoe store and wholesaler here in my city. I happened upon the warehouse just as the announcement of the owners’ retirement. I walked up and down the aisles, in each discovering more and more vintage styles. There were hot pink flats with a rounded toe, orange pairs with small, triangular cutouts. I found pointy flats and cute canvas espadrilles. There were multi-coloured Keds and lipstick red ankle boots. That was 10 years ago and I carefully stored my haul of ’80s shoes for years, but recently it’s been time to finally break them out and I may well never go back to even my favourite heels.
Flats, in the 1980s, were as fashionable as heels. In fact, the trend in low-heel, “sensible” pumps was far more dowdy than the selection of flats. Plain, boring pumps were for daytime, the working woman’s foe. Flats were fun, colourful, creative and flexible, as they could be dressed up or down. Today’s shoe universe is all about the heel which is a shame, especially after looking back on the variety of ’80s flats.
1. Naturalizer, Vogue, March 1988.
2. Bass, Seventeen, April 1980.
3. Nina, Elle, September 1986.
4. Saks Fifth Avenue, Glamour, March 1983.
5. Unisa, Mademoiselle, March 1984.
6. Unisa, Vogue, March 1988.
7. Unisa, Elle, September 1987.
8. Farrutx, Details, May 1989. Photograph by Joseph Hunwick.
9. Bally of Switzerland, Vogue, March 1989.