Fashion

04.23.13

Spice Girl Platform Sneakers Return to Fashion

Platform sneakers, originally made famous by the Spice Girls, are back. But for many milennials, they represent more than just a passing trend.

The ongoing ’90s revival has already brought back Birkenstocks, bindis, crop tops, harem pants, and slap bracelets. But now, there’s one more to add to the list: Spice Girl sneakers.

Platform sneakers—a hallmark of the Spice Girls’s inimitable wardrobes—have returned in a diverse array of styles whose references range from Hot Topic punk to tennis-y whites. While Baby Spice Emma Bunton’s shoes may have leveled out at up to six inches (worn with pigtails and tiny flounce dresses), the new platform sneaks clock in at a more modest inch to inch and a half. “It’s elegant and not as clunky as the Spice Girls’s shoes,” explained Zina Zegans, fashion director at Superga US. The Italian sneaker brand (whose US license is owned by Steve Madden with creative direction from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen stateside) recently reissued its platform sneakers stateside—a style it initially released in 1996. Zegans elaborated: “If you remember back in the ’90s, they were a little higher, a little clunkier, and the toes were rounder. Now the platforms aren’t as high as they used to be, which is better because more people can wear them.”

The Return of Spice Girl Sneakers
Getty, Everett

Platform sneakers have reemerged with convenient timing, leading brands including Opening Ceremony, Converse, Vans, Chanel, and Céline to issue their own iterations, which are markedly different from the Isabel Marant–popularized sneaker wedges that gained ground (and then plummeted into a sea of knockoffs) over the last three years. Instead, platform sneakers utilize the same “flatform”-type sole that Chanel repopularized for spring 2011 with a range of sandals, placing the foot bed on an even plane of sturdy elevation. The house sprung for its own take on the sneakers (inspired by traditional punk 'creepers') for a neo-Rococo resort 2013 collection, presented at the Château de Versailles.

The style is caught in the crosshairs of a ’90s revival, whose more animated aspects (these shoes included) have spread like wildfire on Tumblr and Instagram, the latter of which holds over 2,100 posts tagged with their likeliness. On Tumblr, a search for #platformsneakers yields and equivocal mix of new shoes, vintage shoes, vintage editorial spreads, and modern-day snaps of Tokyo street style. It gives the style a distinctly cyber edge, one that feels neither old nor new. But that matter is nearly irrelevant to the many millennials who feel like the sneakers transport them back to a more wholesome time—a period when Snick and Tamagotchis ruled supreme. “I remember them back in the day. I almost broke my ankle wearing them with boxer shorts at sleepaway camp,” Zegans explained of the style’s nostalgia.

That feeling has prompted Max Schiller and Jonathan Hirschfeld (formerly of Acne and a Swedish financial firm, respectively) to launch EYTYS, a Stockholm-based brand solely devoted to the platform sneaker. “Basically, the shoe is based on how we see Generation Y,” Schiller told The Daily Beast. “It’s for people who have been brought up with MTV, the dawn of the Internet, which has made it so easy to find out about music, art, and fashion. It’s created a whole new generation where creativity is a force. EYTYS’s take on the platform sneaker is different from its competitors. Its shoes are relatively pared-down, with a one-inch platform resembling a “mid-century tennis shoe.”

“I remember them back in the day. I almost broke my ankle wearing them with boxer shorts at sleep-away camp.”

And it’s already off to a strong start: though the brand launched a trial run three weeks ago in stores like Paris’s Colette and Opening Ceremony in New York, it has already sold out a large majority of its circulated inventory. But most surprisingly, their platform sneaker is actually unisex. Schiller says its appeal for men and women has something to do with the shoes’ “ability to give the wearer an added confidence with extra height. It doesn’t have any gender attached to it—it’s totally unisex. They give the same confidence to women as it does to men, so it’s very relevant with everyone.”

It may seem odd, but EYTYS’s sights on platform-sneaker gender equality are not so far off. Tumblr reveals Tokyo street-style snaps of cool boys sauntering through the city’s Harajuku neighborhood in Converse’s elevated chucks. It’s probably the most grounded interpretation of the current trend for male heels, or meels. Simon Doonan, Barneys New York’s creative ambassador at large, has even vetted the style’s many merits. “This is the age of attenuation—the style ideal which we all carry around in our head is now extremely tall and jacked up,” Doonan explained in an email to The Daily Beast. “I am not surprised that the platform sneaker has returned ... As a freakishly undersized male I am looking forward to trying on some of these new sneakers.”

Gender aside, the shoe owes it all to the Spice Girls--a benchmark for highly calculated, stylized persona, or as Doonan called them “the new Abba, albeit with a smaller repertoire.” Says Zegans: “They make you think of a time in your life when everything was positive and easy.”