The Many Faces of the Ankle Strap
by Elena Chen
But just like other fashion "trends" we have seen, including the fishnets under ripped jeans (er, why not just buy an "un-holey" pair if your legs feel the cold?) and the flatform, does the world really need the socks and sandals trend?
Fashion isn’t about necessity. It has never been. It has been about the unnecessary, the extravagant, the statement. Clothing as apparel means something different to fashion. The value of that which is fashionable is not in its wearability or functionality but rather in the proclamations, intentional or otherwise, about the time of its creation as communicated through the specific arrangements of fabrics and stitching bound to context. This is to say that in fashion, it is ever changing what particular tones of fuschia mean, how vinyl used on jackets and shoes differ and why perms iconic to the 80s have yet to return. Fashion is about issuing opinions and directing the perception of others as much as possible. An item that has encased so many such opinions is the ankle-strap shoe. A strap hinging on the shoe counter wrapped above or below around the ankle, the ankle-strap has been redone and reinvented over the years: its timeless form and continuous versatility adopted by designers and constitutive in trends. In commemoration and celebration of the ankle-strap, this post is an archival attempt dedicated to its many faces, on feet.
Ankle straps have made an appearance as early as the 1910s…
Through to the 40s…
And the 70s, with signature platform patent leather heels having their moment…
The fastening is contrasted with the fragility that comes with its tight grasp. Around the ankle, marking a point of fragmentation, both in the elongation of the leg and in the separation of the foot from the rest of the body. Fast forward to the 2010s, and we see some of the boldest ankle-straps were shown in Vivienne Westwood’s collections: chunky platforms and ribbon ankle fastens in her 2012 AW Ready-To-Wear collection.
In the collections from the 2010s onwards, a series of experimentations and reconfigurations of the ankle strap as a partition between the fashion above and below the ankle came to life. The shoe became its own entity, living in a world of its own ruling. Platforms, bobbles, socks, sequins, ruffles, extensions...after the ankle-strap came the shoe, complete in some way a part of the outfit and apart from it. Something about the strap made it a finishing touch, leaving the shoe balanced and defined.
It’s made a new tradition.
And blurred boundaries.
It has dramatic flair.
And plays with perception.
It is elegant.
At times it’s escaped definition. But it has always been integral to its shoe. The way it informs the silhouette and structure, the curvature it places on the leg, and the definition it provides to an entire ensemble.
What do we make of the ankle-strap? What of its many faces?
Whilst we’re busy trying to suss out how we feel about these enduring shoe features, they’re busy making their way into the next collections.