Is The Square Toe The New Standard?

The sharp angles may be at odds with the organic forms of your toes, but it seems many women have no reservations with that


By Shu Xie

It’s hip to be square? Since last spring/summer season, apparently. A week ago, just after the New Year, I was at the Bottega Veneta store to see what more new square toes they could come up with when I overheard a shopper telling her rapt companion, who was holding the left side of a flat Lido sandals in Zerox-paper white, that “they are pure ladder”! “Pure what?” was the rejoinder. “Pure ladder” came the high-tone reply. That, I suppose, is what could be called impairing eagerness?

Bottega Veneta has scored big with their square-toed Lido heels. According to Lyst, it was the most searched shoe last Q3, when more than 27,000 online users searched for it each month. How many of these thousands actually bought the shoe, or are sufficiently seduced by it to want an alternative (likely cheaper) is not known. But it appears that this particular toe shape—specifically for the sole of the sandal—is fetching enough that, as we start seeing drops for spring (including leftovers from autumn), it is dominating store windows and shelves.

_20200108_164928.JPGBottega Veneta split-upper slide simply called Sandal

Square is not an easy shape to hold or frame, or underscore the toes that lay above it. If you look at a foot, both ends aren’t squared off. The square toe of a sandal often doesn’t remain hidden under the foot, which most traditionally shaped soles tend to be and stay as much as possible out of clear view. But as exposed bra straps are no longer considered inappropriate or glaring, the brightly hued sole aren’t either or a lapse in what might be considered refinement. They now have the same appeal as good china for fancy finger biscuits.

But the square-toed sole’s problem, for a lack of a better word, isn’t necessarily the sole itself. I have seen women shod in those sandals with straps that don’t snugly hold the toes together, which means the digits at the end of the foot splay across the square front of the sandal, looking like pencils strewn on the edge of drawing paper. The Lido sandal, as I have observed, does not have such a misfortune. The puffed up and exaggerated intrecciato strap is the bulkiest I have ever seen on a sandal, but it’s positioned forward enough to keep the partially-roofed toes comfortably close.

20-01-08-22-32-04-039_deco.jpgSquare-toed soles of heels by Australian label By Far

The square-toed sole, I suppose, is the complete opposite of the pointy-toed cousin, often considered the epitome of femininity and daintiness. But delicately pretty, these days, doesn’t quite cut it. The Lido’s hump of a strap across the dorsum is considered by many as elegant, but, to me, it barely cuts a profile that can be considered trim (the Lido has now a spin-off, the Chanel-ish Padded). Apart from marabou bedroom slippers, outdoor sandals are infrequently this bulky in the upper and front-protruding in the sole.

Entirely new, however, the square-toed sole is not. Historically, it isn’t even associated with royal courts, where fashion was adopted and followed, or the gentry who understood consumption and status, but with the poor. Believed to have existed since the medieval age, the square toe was considered frightfully uncomfortable shoes since they were quite literally wooden blocks strap to feet, not unlike the Japanese geta (下駄), only cruder. Don’t ask me why, but for a moment, I was thinking of what it would like to have iPhones (out of commission, of course)) for soles!

20-01-08-22-33-02-512_deco.jpgSquare-toed ballet pumps by Pedder Red

It is to be expected that the square toe wouldn’t remain as mere sole of sandals but would form the shape of the front of the upper of shoes, from mules to pumps. Shoe brands have not hesitated to jump on Bottega Veneta’s lead. Many may not remember, but Prada had a good run with those blunt-toe fronts in the ’90s, way before chuncky sneakers ruled. While Prada has occasionally brought them back in the past two decades, they did not quite catch on. This season, their platform Square Toe Pumps may give those who prefer their feet covered reason to shop. Talking about pumps, ballet pumps, traditionally blunt at the toe if you consider those really used for dance, is, too, having an OG moment, as seen in Pedder Red’s perfect-for-travel pair.

The men, I quickly saw and with delight, isn’t left out. Bottega Veneta has one quilted Derby that is heart-tuggingly hunky. Sure, the toe box isn’t quite squarish, but the sole sure is. And with a generous corridor that emphasises its blockishness, there is no ambiguity to where the inspiration came from. I think guys would really appreciate the girth that the Derby affords for the front of the foot. But given how so many men wearing leather shoes still prefer pointy toes, perhaps it isn’t so gauche to be square after all.

Photo: Chin Boy Kay

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