From Balenciaga’s sky-high Crocs to Versace’s Aevitas 6 inch pumps, the platform shoe is well and truly present in fashion’s universal consciousness. While they may appear as an example of modern fashion design, platforms have a rich cultural significance. Throughout history, they served a practical purpose, protecting wearers from water and dirt.
From ancient Rome’s towering kothorni, to traditional Japanese okobo and Qing dynasty’s Manchu shoes; these functional designs evolved into fashionable attire; an example of this being the elegant chopines of Renaissance Europe which measured up to 20 inches. The higher the platform, the higher the social stature, allowing women to literally and symbolically tower over others.
In the late 1930s, Moshe Kimmel and Salvatore Ferragamo were credited with the reinvention of the modern platform. This revival was further influenced by factors such as rationing and the use of alternative wartime materials during World War II.
To overcome these limitations, wood and cork were used in shoe design in the form of thick slabs, reducing the need for shoes to be frequently resoled. Originally associated with hardship, the wooden platform gained popularity sparking a 20th century platform renaissance, with iconic stars like Marlene Dietrich elevating and securing its status.
Vivienne Westwood’s 1985 S/S Rocking Horse Platforms attained cult status, exploring how the platform height informed the movement of the wearer. Her 1993 Super Elevated Gillie Heels, inspired by traditional Scottish Ghillie shoes, set a precedent for anti-fashion subcultures that challenged conventional taste, a configuration of the ‘ugly shoe category’ adopted by high fashion houses including Prada, Maison Margiela, and Molly Goddard.
Alexander McQueen, in his captivating S/S 2010 Collection, Plato’s Atlantis, reached new heights of platform architecture when he debuted his highly coveted Armadillo Boots. These distinctive platform shoes became one of the most valuable shoes on the resale market, with three pairs selling for a staggering $295,000 at Christie’s in 2015. Notably, Lady Gaga acquired these iconic boots, solidifying their status as a symbol of celebrity and fashion culture.
Platforms, from their historical origins, subversive creations, and oriental inspirations, continue to captivate the fashion world, blending style and functionality while making a bold statement of individuality.
You can learn a lot about a person by the height of their platform…
INDIGO KEANE / Luxury Specialist
Banner Image: Armadillo boots by Alexander McQueen / Alamy