Gender-free, size-included shoes finally hit the mainstream

As a woman with a European height of 44 feet (the equivalent of an American woman 11), Parisian designer Ieva Juskaite has long experienced the struggle to find stylish feminine shoes in sizes beyond the conventional. “The problem was not that there aren’t brands that offer great shoes for plus sizes. My problem was not a luxury, ”Juskaite explained. Most of what is currently available is either highly gendered or geared towards fetish clothing.

During the pandemic, Juskaite, who came of age in Lithuania after the fall of the Iron Curtain, decided to change that, creating styles that she couldn’t find on her own. She launched her Jiij line, an amalgamation of the Lithuanian word for “her” and her own name, during Paris Fashion Week in September. The first collection is an edited offering of key styles overlooked in plus sizes: a Mary-Jane, a square toe block heel in silver and matte black, boots with a 1970s Space Age twist, and a nifty moccasin, all made. in durable materials apple leather that comes in EU 36 to 45. James Turrell, Pierre Cardin, and Y2K colors and memorabilia serve as benchmarks. The brand’s first ads, which show the shapely legs of an older man tucked into Jiij’s signature silver Eros heel, make a clear statement: these shoes are for everyone and anyone who has never had them. access before.

As it turns out, Juskaite isn’t the only one craving for a greater conceptual variety of footwear, which lags behind ready-to-wear, jewelry, and other accessories when it comes to conversations. on the inclusiveness of size and the binary of genres. In addition to a few traditional luxury brands, a handful of young designers are pushing for fairness in their designs.

“We’re still learning more about the demand for extended sizes for specific trends,” says Thom Scherdel, menswear buyer for London-based department store Browns. That said, he suggests that size availability on base styles has slowly increased in recent years, highlighting Margiela’s classic Tabi heeled boots and JW Anderson’s unisex chain mules as solid options. “However, it’s the directional pieces in seasonal collections that tend to have more limitations, due to the higher-priced fabrications and design elements,” he notes.

Retailers still see more inclusive sizing as a financial gamble, especially when it comes to expensive runway pieces to produce. Still, a recent hit in the market suggests demand may be greater than what the industry once assumed: a men’s Rick Owens six-inch platform heel, which Browns picked up without expecting high demand, “Has now become a real option for us and our customers. , says Scherdel. “Something as simple as offering a wider range of sizes, which may not even sell at first, is a way to expand our customer base and ensure that we are listening, that we are responding. and that we engage with our community based on their individual needs. Essentially, it’s about serving our customers without restrictions or judgment, because fashion is and always should be for everyone.

Suzanne Rae offers block heel loafers, Mary Janes and sandals in sizes up to 44 EU.

Courtesy of Suzanne Rae

Brooklyn designer Suzanne Rae Pelaez, of artist’s favorite line Suzanne Rae, expanded her shoe size two years ago, offering black kitten heels, emerald green satin pumps, and plaid moccasins in sizes. 43 and 44. birth, ”Pelaez recalls. “None of our wholesalers really buy 43 and 44. People think it’s good, but they’re really afraid to take risks and buy something that they’re not sure they’re going to sell. They didn’t have that conversation with their audience. Instead, Peleaz primarily sells these sizes directly to the consumer, with a growing community of women, men, and non-binary people returning for expanded options.

Portuguese designer Gui Rosa, a graduate of the prestigious Masters program at Central Saint Martins and known for his exuberant crochet menswear, has long been in search of the perfect heel. “The dream is that I could just walk into Prada and buy a pair of heels,” muses the London-based designer, who wears silver platform thigh-high boots he found on eBay with a silver look from the head to toe. . But, he says, “I want red carpet designers! What better way for public relations than this? “

In June, Rosa made a pair of John Waters-style cowboy boots – half hypermasculine, half delicate knit – for Gucci Vault, a pop-up online storefront. He has worked with a family of local Portuguese manufacturers who have specialized in the production of luxury shoes for men, including for Prada, for over 100 years. “They were like, ‘We’re going to do 45’ and I was like, ‘Well I need 37, 38 …’ And they’d be like, ‘Well, no, we’re just not going to do it. “Rosa recalls.” In the end, they did it. But it was a long process. It was more about changing the mindset, showing them how to do something they never imagined. previously.

Gui Rosa had to convince a historic shoemaker to make his Gucci Vault cowboy boots in sizes that would fit most men and women.

Courtesy of Gui Rosa

Good American’s Cinderella heels have been available in extended sizes since 2020.

Courtesy of Good American

Good American, Khloe Kardashian’s company with her friend and partner Emma Grede, has been making sexed heels, snakeskin slides, floppy boots and sandals with gold accents in sizes 4-14 since 2020. “This is it. a category that is largely overlooked by the fashion industry. and inclusive sizing movement, ”comments Grede, noting that the data is plunging into sizing and demographic shifts that lead them to develop extended sizing. The reality is, just as the gender binary is increasingly challenged, so are women’s shoe sizes getting bigger and bigger, with the average US size now 9 from 7 to 8.5. , and 30% of women wearing above a 10.5, according to Good American’s own market research. “A good pair of boots, heels or sandals is a staple for every wardrobe, but so few brands offer inclusive sizes for more on-trend and sexy styles,” Kardashian adds. “Shoes have always been a category we knew we wanted to tackle, so I was so excited when we launched our first fully inclusive shoe collection. “

A look at the history of the shoe style most strongly coded as feminine, the high heel, puts into perspective our current moment of breaking boundaries. Some might be surprised to learn that for thousands of years high heels, most likely originally invented in Persia in the 10th century as technical tools for riding and carrying heavy weapons on horseback, were reserved for men. When Europeans adopted the heel at the turn of the 17th century, the heel was quickly adopted by women, many of whom at the time were interested in masculinizing their attire.

“Heels have become and out of fashion since they were dropped in the 1730s,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack, art historian and senior curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. “But every time the heel has been relaunched in men’s fashion, especially in the 1970s, it’s not a loan from the women’s wardrobe, it’s a reclamation of the male heel from the past.” She references Kiss’s Gene Simmons in her block and baroque heels as an example. (Others include David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Elton John.) “What makes what’s going on right now so interesting is that there is now an interest in taking the feminine in high heels and move it away from a binary expression like.. “

Jimmy Choo’s capsule collection with Billy Porter includes stilettos, boots and loafers, up to a European size 45.

Courtesy of Jimmy Choo

Perhaps the best example of our current change is Jimmy Choo’s capsule collection with Billy Porter, which features extended sizes in cherry red heeled boots, Zebra striped pumps and other playful and glamorous styles co-designed. by brand creative director Sandra Choi and the multitalented actor, singer, director, composer and playwright. “At the end of the day, men’s and women’s shoes are made very differently, and we want to be able to offer more than just a size larger – we also want to be able to look at the shape and architecture of the shoe. shoe, ”says Choi, of the colorful range. “Billy was a great educator in this area, and we learned a lot about what we need to do in the future. “

“I find every time the heel reappears in fashion really very interesting,” says Semmelback. “A lot of times when women’s heels in quotes have been worn by men, it’s in a way that pokes fun at women. When I first started seeing men wearing non-ironically coded women’s shoes, I found a lot of hope in those moments. Maybe things are really about to change, one thigh high soft satin boot at a time.

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