A derivative of the platform, the flatform has had a short but illustrious fashion history. Anything but a one-trick pony, the best way to wear flatform shoes changes depending on when and who is wearing them. From the moment that Marlene Dietrich first slipped into a Moshe Kimel platform in the 1930s the shoe has occupied a special place in the history of women’s footwear.
Fast track to now and the art of wearing flatform shoes has changed substantially since Emma Bunton strode onstage in dangerously high platform trainers, reinvigorating the look in the mid-90s. After the Spice Girls introduced them to the world of avant-garde on-stage fashion, flatforms eventually filtered down into more demure styles. Current-day, the gamut continues to run wide and classicists and dramatists alike aren't quite ready to let go of this bold, shouty shoe. For everyone playing a home, we look at the evolution of the trend and some key ways of wearing these summer staple shoes.
Beginning of the platform
In the early 1930s, Moshe Kimel, a German Jew, fled Berlin and opened up a shoe factory in Los Angeles. There he found a captive audience — the titans of the silver screen were eager to get their hands on the latest modernist fashion from Europe. Upon glimpsing Marlene Dietrich in a pair of the sizeable shoes, platforms quickly became summer staple shoes, sparking a range of imitations. The shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo took Kimel’s design and created the Rainbow, the iconic cork-soled shoe, which continues to inform platform shoe designs today. Ferragamo’s shoe had the foot resting on ribbons of rainbow-coloured cork, as if floating on a bed of colour. Inspired by Judy Garland, Ferragamo went so far as to name the shoe after the actress’ iconic song Somewhere over the Rainbow from the Wizard of Oz. Modern flatform designs are a contemporary riff on this classic heritage.
The platform of the 1930s was indelibly associated with summer. The ribbon of golden sand that stretched from Venice Beach to Malibu was trod up and down by flatform-wearing socialites all through this golden era of beachwear. Jimmy Choo’s line of contemporary updates on the classic platform takes the breezy beach-like quality of Ferragamo’s design, but replaces its ribbons of rainbow colour with an espadrille sole. This isn’t the only shoe to marry a classic design with a platform. Jil Sander’s line of flatforms reach into the past, drawing on smart Oxford and lace-up designs, resulting in classic but contemporary styles that would be rather at home on the feet of Zooey Deschanel. Consult preppy-meets-pretty dresses by Stella McCartney to complete this brief.
The first fashion icons to blend the heritage of platform shoes with more contemporary shoe designs, the Spice Girls are often cited as the first celebs to ‘break’ the flatform design. It was not uncommon for the girl-band to perform entire sets in gravity-defying heels, easily twice as high as their 1930s predecessors. The Spice Girls thrusted the flatform into every avenue of footwear, each wearing a version that slotted squarely into their respective on-stage moniker. Embodying cool Britannia style, Gerri Halliwell sported knee-high flatform boots, whilst Baby Spice opted for moon shoes: cutesy trainers on mile-high flatforms.
The key to wearing flatform shoes the Spice Girls' way is to channel the sheer vertical energy they backed so heavily. While the four-inch tall platforms of the late-90s may not be completely relevant for the average modern woman, houses like Fendi still tempt the style-conscious with their own kind of dramatic platform. Pairing them with a short denim Rag & Bone skirt not only highlights the vertical energy of the flatform, it's also a fitting nod to the shoe's 90s heritage.
Flatforms of the future
The Spice Girls proved the best way to wear flatform shoes was to pick outfits that led from the shoe (although the flatform has, in many ways, moved in other directions, with more demure style icons like Kate Bosworth personifying subtler looks). As the 90s turned into the 00s, the flatform became a staple of earthy, hipster chic, with icons Elle Fanning popularising the look.
Limelight regulars like Miley Cyrus still perform in outrageous, avant-garde platforms, proving it's possible to nod to the trend's radical on-stage heritage. For a recent show, Cyrus tucked her toes into platforms similar to those by MSGM, draping herself in a Japanese-inspired Misha Nonoo white blouse for added pop-star effect — one of her many flatform shoes outfit ideas.
For a relatively new arrival on the shoe scene, the flatform has come full circle: from pop-star experimentation to hipsterism and back again, proving there's no real answer to the best way to wear platform shoes. As with all great trends, it's whatever your whims land upon.