Posts Tagged ‘Cole Haan’



When asked about gladiator sandals, my first thought was, “aren’t those over yet?” Gladiator sandals debuted around 2006 (the earliest reference I’ve found, from the TopShop Fashion-Era site in 2006, is from the U.K.) The first New Gladiator Sandals were fairly literal: brown leather, a high (above the shin bone) “caged” double-T-strap ankle buckle, multiple straps across the instep.  And a high heel.            

When in Rome

Photo: "Roman Military Equipment" second edition, by M.C. Bishop and J.C.N. Coulston, published by Oxbow Books, 2006.

By 2008, gladiators were everywhere even though they were, admittedly, not pretty.  Fabsugar Trend Alert called them “masculine and daring” and  Manolo Shoe Blogs  said they’re the “most muy macho of ancient feetwear.”  They were recommended only to the tiniest of feminine young women in no danger of getting mistaken for an actual gladiator (Gwyneth Paltrow). These sandals went for authentic and ancient, with dark leather, flat soles as if hand-hewned from animal hide on the battlefield, and lots of brass studs and buckles forged by Vulcan himself.  Some 2008 observers said the style was on its way out (act quick and buy cheap!) while others gave up and joined the trend.  Like Shoe Sense at Shoeblog, who said it well:      

I stayed away from gladiators because they tend to “cut” the foot from your leg, often with bulky plates and multiple ankle straps, and disrupt the natural lines and the illusion of “elongated” that I so direly need to create. Which is to say, I’ve often thought that unless you’ve got wispy legs like a runway model, why, those gladiators are likely to turn you into the spitting image of [Gladiators]. And that’s not a good look for me, is all I’m saying.             


Also? Ugly.  But by 2009, Gladiator Sandals were “here to stay,” according to Runway Daily.   The challenge now, according to  experts like allgladiatorsandals.com,   is how to keep them current.  Real Women Wear Heels also capitulated to the style,  with good updates and examples.       

Today, gladiators are no longer a style of shoe.  The Gladiator has been broken down into a set of motifs, integrated over many styles.   A t-strap, ankle strap, multiple straps.  Extra buckles, extra brads.  Gladiators with a flat heel (like a real gladiator) or in a high heel (so edgy! Could a real gladiator do this?) Sandals for everyone, unless you hate this stuff.  Good luck avoiding it. For everyone else, here are Ten Gladiator Examples, 2010.      

 1. The Purist.  Flat, strappy, simple.  This gold sandal by Born incorporates all typical elements (5 straps, 2 buckles).  Gold is good — brown or black (ugh) would be boring and dated.  This one is casual enough for weekends but could dress up with skirts for evening.  I do still worry that flat heel and high ankle would make my legs look stump.  Borns are a great value and comfy:     


Born, $95

2. The Minimalist.  Take a few elements, pare them down until you have the Essence of Gladiator.  These become delicate instead of bulky, primitive by virtue of their spare minimalism.  Does this make them more Greek than Roman? Cole Haan does these .  Perfect for a warm evening date night, or elegant but casual sightseeing.  Art Walk Shoes!  The innovative floating heel, angled instep straps and beautiful braid make them chic and current:    

I want this shoe

Delicate braid straps, floating heel, no thong, diaganol instep. Cole Haan Air Phoebe, $168.

3. Funky Dress-up Shoes.  The Hot Trend of 2010 is Embellishment. I read that somewhere.  This wedge is a gorgeous sea green.  The studs are badass, but they they are flowers, which is awesome.  T-strap + studs + military-style thong = Gladiator!  This is Carlos by Carlos Santana, “the Shoes that Make Me Wish I Were Someone Else.”       

I want to BE Carlos Santana

Wedge with embellished t-strap in teal, Carlos by Carlos Santana, $99

 4. Ugly Boring Faux-Glads. Watch out for this.  Sometimes when a trend is too challenging, we join in half-heartedly. We stay so close to our comfort zone that we end up with lame shoes that don’t know who they are or what they want to be.  These are barely strappy with one depressing stud.  Just give up, shoe.        

My Grandma wore these in 1988

Bass Margie, $39. Yawn.

5. Ankle cuffs.  Then there’s the style that’s so ridiculous, we all think “it’s a joke, right? They are testing us to see if we are so trendy we’ll pay for something objectively ugly just to prove, by virtue of its ugliness, that we do fashion.” Cynicism, meet Ankle Cuff.  These are shin-protectors just like Playmobil Gladiators.  This will make short legs look shorter.  If any of you are seriously considering these? Remember that this kind of extreme “trend” does not update an old outfit.  It demands a new one. You might want to pass if you are over 20. You also might want to move to Los Angeles.         

Playmobil Chic Ankle cuff faux-thong, flat with open heel. Dessert by Type Z, $76.21


6.  Huarache sandals, too.  how did these sneak in there?  They are Frye, they are green, they are in the current Nordstrom catalogue.  That’s Shoe Cred.  SO: behold. I think they look like the same lame old huaraches I’ve always avoided. The double ankle-strap with two buckles makes you ready for some Lady or The Tiger action.  

Kayla by Frye Kayla by Frye, $148

7. The Figure 8. Like the evolved skeletons of birds*, some gladiator sandals have undergone a fusion: Where there once were parallel straps over the instep, there are now bending, angled twirls. For example, the “Figure-8.” Because of the angle, the ankle strap is lower on the foot and ends in a V — more flattering for short legs. This look was on American Idol, ergo it is cool. If you love this one, let’s go find cheap ones. I just loved the Michael Kors too much to ignore. Such pretty articulation of the studs, great buckle location (even that will make the leg look longer), very cool heel.  

Aubrey Michael Kors Aubrey, $298


8.  Ankle band, Toe Band. In the opposite direction some sandals have only an ankle band and a simple thong (Via Spiga does this in gold, over-the-toe). No straps, no buckles, just simple.  See what’s happening?  It says “ancient” because of the ankle action and the chain embellishment.  But it took the look in an entirely different direction.  Deconstruction!  This is a gorgeous color (did I do too much blue today?) Steve Madden is a go-to brand if you want to dabble in a quick trend. Current, pretty, not too expensive.         

Steven Madden

9.   Simple T-Strap Thongs.   I could wear this.  See how the lower ankle strap makes a V? That draws the eye down, elongates the leg, and softens the otherwise-severe effect of ankle straps.  Instead of pounding us with visual repetition, it’s like a little poem.  A little song about a gladiator.  The t-strap is crazy thin, like a leather necklace that Mark Anthony made for Cleopatra and then she made it into a shoe.  I am so crazy for big funky jewels on my sandals this summer, but honestly?  When they are cheap, they look cheap. When they are hefty, authentic stones, they are not cheap.  Love this.         

I want this one for real

T-strap, double-ankle strap with closed heels and contrast stone embellishment: "Glint" by Charles David. $144.95 at Nordstrom

10. The End. Did I say I’d do ten? Well I’d better quit while I’m ahead, and leave room for Russell Crowe and dinosaurs (see below).    

Shoes? What Shoes?

The contemporary idea of Gladiator sandals comes from "Sword and Sandal" filmes. Starting with Cabiria in 1914 and more recently embodied (above) by Russell Crowe.

*Birds are often considered to be the only vertebrates with a fused collarbone — the wishbone.  The keel of the sternum serves as an attachment site for the muscles used for flight.  Some extinct animals — in particular, theropod dinosaurs — also had wishbones.  Check this out the next time you see a T. rex skeleton!   


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Sofft, $99

Napoli III in Chianti by Sofft

There is nothing — nothing I tell you — that dresses up a workday outfit like a beautiful heel.  No other single piece of clothing can make a woman feel so confident, powerful, beautiful and absolutely butt-kickingly fabulous.  But I will admit, even as a big proponent of high heeled shoes , I do get tired of wearing them some days.  With five days a week to fill with fabulous business casual, I definitely mix it up and wear plenty of cute flats, loafers and boots. 

Kara Rose by Clarks Indigo

Kara Rose by Clarks Indigo

So I was thrilled to discover that Nordstrom has lots of new fall shoes from Sofft’s Fashion Comfort line.  Sofft have always struck me as the clunky kind of comfort shoe, “cute” like chunky little teddy bears are cute.  And seriously I don’t want teddy bears on my feet.  This new generation of Sofft has really raised the bar, though.  Gorgeous patent leathers, sleek shapes, deep current colors like red wine and midnight blue.

Clarks Indigo is also doing some great things.  These are all at price points below $100, making them a bit more accessible than the Cole Haan [Nike] Air series that I also rave about.  And Nordstrom has a promotion right now for Clarks Indigo that if you try one on, you get a scratch ticket to see if you win a prize!  I won a Clarks Shopping Bag.  I’m conflicted, does this kind of promo cheapen my Nordstrom? Or is it just one more reason to linger over my big messy pile of try-on shoes while the salesclerk bring me more and more to try on?  Whatever the reason, today I’m raving because my shoes “look like a pump, and feel like a sneaker” (tm Easy Spirit).  And yes, we still need to be careful with overwearing any heel regardless of comfort (especially if you walk a lot — I have a desk job). 

But it’s a wonderful feeling to have a Good Shoe Day, and I felt so inspired I thought “I wish I had a place to tell everyone about these shoes!” Oh wait, here we are!  Ladies of America’s Workplaces, hear me now: There are shoes out there that will inspire you to run, not walk, through the parking garage on the way to the office because they are so comfy and you look so great that you want to show them off to your best coworker girlfriends.  If fall has you reaching for your same dumpy pair of black ankle boots from two years ago, YOU TOO can go shoe shopping.  YOU TOO can wear beautiful clothes you love and still be comfortable.

Shoes are magic!

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Pink snakeskin-embossed Bandolino slingbacks

Pink snakeskin-embossed Bandolino slingbacks

Shoes are one of our first and most primary possessions.  Even little kids get way into their shoes* —  they’re the first objects which are exclusively “mine” but yet not fully “me.”  In the folktale of Cinderella, shoes are emblematic of transformation (from isolation to community, loneliness to love, loss to rediscovery)**.  Cinderella’s coach turned back into a pumpkin at midnight, so how did the glass slipper remain? Because shoes are magic. They connect our transformed fantasy with our everyday reality. They are ours, but just beyond us.

Shoes are intimate but public.  Shoes are functional, they are decorative. And I do believe they have the power to transform us.  I think there might be two kinds of women — those who believe in Shoe Magic and those who deny it.  I was a skeptic for like 20 years.  Shoes are personal, so I can’t presume to tell you exactly what shoes to wear.  But I will tell you that shoes are an opportunity and if you haven’t yet taken it, your life can change if you do.

Of course we have to wear the right shoes at the right place and time.  Wear the shoes that are required for your vocational or recreational activities.  But think beyond the demands and limitations on shoes — allow them to be happy and fabulous.   If you have hang ups about your body, spare your feet. Your feet are not fat (the late Diana, Princess of Wales wore a size 9 and did she not look fabulous?) Almost everyone’s feet are a bit quirky, but it’s possible to find beautiful shoes that fit.

Today I’m posting pictures of my heels.  Don’t think of heels as a single kind of shoe. Heels are place on the shoe – on many, many kinds of shoes — where a shoe may be elegantly elevated in a flattering way. I wasn’t convinced until I read it in O Magazine (as a general rule, I trust O to shit me not) that if you’re looking to improve your professional wardrobe, “wear heels.” If you think all heels are uncomfortable, “keep shopping.” A good heel makes your legs look great, makes your walk more confident, and improves the look of your outfit. If you wobble, keep shopping – it’s not just the heel height but lateral support and heel structure that give a shoe stabilitiy.

Cole haan red loafer; Pink Patent leather slingback wedge; Circa Joan & David toe-tone leater; Purple Kate Spade Stiletto

Cole haan red loafer; Pink Patent leather slingback wedge; Circa Joan & David toe-tone leater; Purple Kate Spade Stiletto


Cole Haan Carma Open-toe pump; Fred Meyer brown heel with bow.

Lower heels:
Three low-heeled shoes. The one on the right I only wear with pants.

Three low-heeled shoes. The one on the right I only wear with pants.

I have a variety of heel heights because I have a variety of pant lengths — theoretically you should hem your pants to the shoe, but I haven’t perfected that art, so I do a lot of switching around.  Cute shoes can be slipped on with an otherwise boring outfit (Me: blue trousers. brown sweater) and make a cool outfit.   Great shoes can be worn with a nice outfit and make a superstar outfit.  Heels are pretty and once I got used to them, they seriously improved my stature and presence whenever I wear them.  This used to be way out of my reach, and now it’s not, I’m really into it. It’s a joy I wish on everyone.

Coming up: pictures of my old, boring shoes, as well as my comfortable flats and loafers, summer sandals, my “weekend shoes” (that I’m not totally happy with right now). And boots, which should not be worn in summer!

*Toddlers and shoes are discussed in Your Two Year Old: Tender or Terrible, by Louise Bates Ames & and Frances Ilg. These books are the gold standard in explaining phases of early childhood development (their “advice” can be dated and weird but the underlying research is reliable). It’s so reassuring to see that my kids freakish behavior is developmentally normal. Once I remember that, it’s easier for me to empathize and develop age-appropriate expectations and discipline tools.

**The Cinderella story has been repeated through cultures and over the centuries, but it is almost always about a shoe: in Strato’s Rhodopis, 1st c. B.C. it is a sandal; Ye Xian, China 860 AD it is a slipper.

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