It’s fun to see fashion turn full circle with a line-up of footwear trends that were all the rage a couple of decades ago. Some styles, like the toe mules, were fashionable as recently as fourteen years ago, which meant that they had a good run. And silhouettes like the sandals with mesh inserts generally kept their stylish flair despite the dated look of their ‘90s mates.
‘90s footwear was generally chunky, heavy, square-toed, casual and black, which was quite a switch from the more delicate shoes of the ‘80s. Lug soles, flatforms and platforms reigned supreme, as did shoes with wide straps, large buckles, velcro fastenings, bulky laces, large soles, block heels, and silver hardware. Unisex footwear like Dr. Martens were popular in the early ‘90s, as were all styles of “tough boots” and blunt platform boots. Ladylike styles with pointy toes and slim heels were not the norm of the decade, but they weren’t absent either.
Here are the ‘90s inspired fringe footwear styles that are coming through for Spring and Summer. They are not mainstream, but might gain momentum over time.
Mules are backless slip-on shoes with covered toes. They were one of the few dainty styles of the decade, which made them stand out. They are elegant on the foot, but I found them hard to walk in. The heeled versions slipped off my feet, which meant that I had to curl my toes to keep them on. Hello foot cramp. The flatter versions were better, but often cut across the top of my foot. They also click loudly as you stride. That said, I like the way they look, and will enjoy them vicariously through you.
2. Chunky T-Bar Shoes
The T- bar shoe stays on the foot and is very supportive. Back in the ‘90s, the soles were heavy, which made them tiring to walk in. This time round they’re a lot lighter and more comfortable. They are best suited to high volume feet. I like them best in black, white or metallic. They can look a little juvenile so you’d have to add a degree of sophistication to make your overall look more grown-up.
I used to call them slides, but they’re called “sliders” this time round. The renditions can be dressy or casual depending on the material of the sole and the fabrication of the upper. Some of the footbeds can be arch supporting and cushioning, so don’t rule them out just because they’re flat. I like the versions that cover at least part of the bottom of the toe because that looks more elegant to my eye. Slides that expose the entire toe look too “caveman” for lack of a better description.
4. Block Heeled Platform Sandals
A sandal with wide straps on top and a very chunky sole with block heel on the bottom. At least the front platform prevents the foot from being overly arched by the high heel. Casual, and a little more grown-up than the T-bar style.
5. Geek Shoes
In brown or black these look like the shoes we wore with our school uniforms back in the ‘70s. I like them in the pastels and white a LOT more, because it softens the look. Soles are chunky, and some chunkier than others. It’s a comfortable and supportive shoe (which is why Clarks and Bata sold them as school shoes back in the day). Arty and “Harajuku”, especially when worn with socks, skirts and dresses. An acquired taste, but can be cute nonetheless.
6. Dr. Martens
Docs need little introduction (most of us probably wore the brand at some point). I’ve shown the non-boot styles here, of which there are many — these are by no means exhaustive. Chunky, masculine and with that signature resin sole. I’ve worn a lot of Docs in my day, either the original lace-up boots styles or monk strap oxfords. They take a while to break in, but they’re quite heavenly afterwards.
7. Platform Sneakers
I bet most of us wore a version of platform sneakers. Some of the soles are still quite heavy, but lightweight versions are available too. The soles are either block-heeled or flatform. To my eye, black, white and metallic once again look best.
8. Sandals with Mesh Inserts
A more refined ‘90s inspired ped that might be the most wearable and versatile of the lot. Soles can be slim and dainty like the version on the right, or chunkier like the one on the left. Either way, the mesh inserts are interesting, alluring and Sporty Luxe.
9. Square Toes
Wider feet tend to enjoy the square toe because the footbed is roomier than a pointy toe. Square-toed shoes can be toe-covering or expose part of the toe. Almost any style of shoe can have a square toe. Here I’ve shown a sandal bootie on the left and slides on the right.
Back in the early ‘90s, I loved my Dr. Martens best of all. Later in the decade I liked wearing flat black slides made of soft leather or fully elasticated uppers because they were extremely comfortable. I also enjoyed wearing mesh insert sandals with velcro straps. It was amazing that I could find styles to fit my low volume feet. I had my fair share of closed, square-toed footwear, which I could take or leave. I loved the look of toe mules, but they were difficult to walk in. By far the biggest disaster was the chunky platform sneaker. They were extremely heavy and uncomfortable. I used to cover my feet in plasters before I wore them, and was hobbling in less than half an hour anyway. Yet I persevered for the sake of fashion. I’m glad those days are over.
I’m not into chunky footwear these days, although I will always have a soft spot for Dr. Martens. I like the look of the less chunky slides and mesh insert sandals, but since I prefer to cover my toes, I don’t think they will work this time round.
Over to you. Does this ‘90s inspired footwear bring back good or bad memories, and would you wear any of the styles again?