Want to reach new heights in fashion? Wear platforms

By Liv Barry
Elm Staff Writer

If you’ve been on TikTok or Instagram anytime in the past two years, chances are you’ve seen someone sporting a pair of platform shoes.

We are currently in the platform shoe renaissance. Since the pandemic, dozens of different styles of platform shoes have cropped up across runways, in the ensembles of influencers, and now on our own feet.

This is not the first time platform shoes have been in vogue, however. The existence of platform shoes dates back to the 1100s, during China’s Heian Period.

 Throughout the Heian Period, a style of platform shoes called “getas,” which were essentially sandals on stilts, were worn to avoid stepping in mud.

According to Mic Magazine, getas were originally worn for practicality, but upper-class prostitutes known as “oirands” began to customize their shoes, making the stilts as high as they could to make their legs appear longer.

Practical platforms were also seen throughout the Ottoman Empire and Medieval Europe. In the Ottoman Empire, people wore platform shoes called “kabkabs” to protect their feet from ground that was too hot to walk on.

Medieval Europeans donned platform shoes called “patterns” to protect them from a stickier situation – feces in the street.

Platforms were reinvented for fashion in the 1930s by Moshe Kimel, a Berlin-born Jewish designer who emigrated to America in 1939. While living in Germany, Kimel designed a pair of platform shoes for German-American actress Marlene Deitrich.

Kimel’s design was so popular on Deitrich that after he settled in America, he opened a shoe factory that specialized in platform designs.

Luxury designer Salvatore Ferragmo followed in Kimel’s footsteps, designing a pair of rainbow platform sandals for actress Judy Garland to wear in homage to her performance in “The Wizard of Oz.”

After platforms saw success in the late 1930s and 1940s, they fell out of style in the 1950s, a decade that valued more conservative, less outlandish fashion.

Fashion’s cyclical nature ensured the comeback of platforms, however. In the 1960s and 1970s, glam rock icons like David Bowie and Elton John brought platform back.

The platform boots of glam rockers represented a shift in the fashion status quo; fashion was becoming more androgynous, and platform boots bridged the gap between what was considered feminine and masculine.

Glam rockers were not the only group rocking platform shoes. Disco stars and punk rockers also were platform boots throughout the 1970s, and traces of their influence are seen in different styles of platform shoes today.

Following the 20-year trend cycle, platforms came back into fashion in the 1990s after designer Vivienne Westwood featured nine-inch platform heels in her fall 1993 collection.

While the shoes themselves generated buzz, the platform heels skyrocketed to fame after model Naomi Campbell famously fell in the shoes while walking Westwood’s runway.

After Campbell’s tumble, ‘90s stars like the Spice Girls, Christina Aguilera, and Drew Barrymore all frequently wore platform shoes.

Since the ‘90s, platform shoes haven’t fallen out of fashion, but have rather shifted style and height to fit the fashion of each decade.

In 2017, “Interview” talked to Paola Antonelli, the Museum of Modern Art curator of architecture and design, about the museum’s display of platform shoes.

“It’s much like the Little Black Dress, which has retained its color but changed its silhouette over the decades. The platform shoe is similarly chameleonic,” Antonelli said.

With the quickening trend cycle, the past few years have been dominated by different styles of platform shoes.

In the late 2010s, Balenciaga sparked the revival of both Crocs and platform shoes when the brand dropped its four-inch high Balenciaga x Crocs collaboration.

The punk movement heavily informed the 2020 resurgence of platform combat boots, with Demonia boots and platform Doc Martens seen on hundreds of influencers.

Traces of the 1970s glam rock movement are seen in Pleaser boots, the thigh-high patent leather platforms that took the fashion side of TikTok by storm in 2021.

In 2022, “flatform” shoes, or flat-soled platform shoes, like platform loafers and platform Converse sneakers, are taking over the fashion world.

Platform shoes are closet staples, and for those who take great care of their shoes, can last for years without ever looking too trendy.

While there’s always the fear of breaking an ankle, platform shoes still remain practical to consumers looking for truly timeless footwear down.

Photo Jakob Watt

Featured Photo Caption: No matter what your personal style is, you can partake in the long-standing fashion statement that is platforms. From flip-flops to boots, there are a number of different variations of platform shoes.

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