For the past few years, it feels like a lot of guys have been on a crusade to outdo themselves when it comes to daring footwear, almost at pains to make up for time lost during the mid-’10s when they wore plain-white Common Projects and dressed like a Copenhagen design school student. Chunky sneakers have become normal to the point of boring, and even Tabi boots — in all their behooved glory — have re-entered the conversation in a big way. How crazier can we get!
Professional Instagram cool guy Luka Sabbat seems to think so. A couple of weeks ago, the turbo-influencer was seen wearing full Rick Owens, including a pair of crazy platforms. Talk about Mr. Inconspicuous! The boot has been around for a minute (just ask Marc Jacobs, their biggest fan) but there's something about this iteration — complete with metal hardware adornments and a transparent heel — that just hits different. They're flamboyant but not in a corny way; gothic yet... still kinda camp? Imagine what Disco Stu from The Simpsons would wear if he moved to Berlin and ditched listening to, erm, disco for Ben Klock.
When talking about trends, it feels absurd to bring Owens into the conversation, given the singularity of his work. If fashion brands were countries, he'd be a remote island ruled by a belligerent tribe, one that reacts to strangers encroaching on their space with unhinged belligerence. Outside of collaborations and co-signs by some rappers, Owens doesn't fuck with the mainstream and they don't fuck with him (the exorbitant price points are another bulwark). You might see the odd Geobasket every now and then (strangely, I've noticed one or two lads wearing the lego boots with fairly conservative, drapey trousers in recent times), but that's about the extent of it.
Even if Owens' platforms won't be strutting their way to the high street en masse any time soon, they're indicative of menswear's seemingly insatiable appetite for outre footwear. Building on last year's momentum, might 2020 be the year of the RBFH — really big fucking heel? MACHINE-A founder Stavros Karelis thinks so. "I think men are way more open to trying new things," he says. "That's the effect of a more genderless approach when dressing. Men are less afraid to experiment. Many emerging brands like ION have established a big following based on those incredible shapes of their boots for both men and women.
"Brands like Random Identities, Rick Owens, and Marc Jacobs are introducing covetable platforms. But it's not just about a new shape. It's a way of lifestyle and what one likes to stand for. Freedom, equality, and breaking boundaries between genders are defining the young generation. These are the ones who are [...] establishing trends because of their power as consumers."
Youth culture has always used fashion as a means of social self-expression, but unlike the punks and mods, the current generation — although not comparable in any way — has to contend with the fact their style decisions are being played out against the backdrop of social media.
As the underground and mainstream coagulate into one big, hulking mass, it makes sense that the cool kids looking for footwear to signpost their outlier credentials would eschew notions of tradition altogether. After all, a Jonas Brother (groan) might bite your favorite sneakers, but wearing a square-toed snakeskin loafer or giant platform probably a bridge too far. It's akin to digging for vinyl records, always trying to find that weirder, more shocking sound that no one else is into. Wearing said styles isn't easy, but then that's the entire point. Consider the inaccessibility as a deterrent to lameness. Fitting them in with your personal wardrobe is a challenge to be embraced.
"I think platforms will become one of the biggest trends, but I also think elegant, futuristic, and softer shapes like the recent trainers showed at Raf Simons' FW20 show will also be popular," adds Karelis. "Those shoes and the Tabi are similar in that they both have a soft side but are still strong and significant. Completely genderless. Overall it's about unconformity, whether that's in challenging the shape — like Martine Rose — or challenging the gender, like the above-mentioned brands." Those words ring true, not just when you think of heels, but the schoolgirl sandals worn on the red carpet by the likes of Harry Styles and Tyler, the Creator.
In his column last month, Eugene Rabkin spoke of the difference between being fashion-conscious and being fashionable. The former is afraid to take risks, while the latter is not. If that's the case, then platforms — in all their effeminate, bombastic, showstopping glory — are the ultimate litmus test when it comes to sorting the wheat from the chaff. They're not for everyone, and for that, we should be thankful.