How Footwear Has Become the New Way to Have Fun With Fashion

It's safe to say that Angela Baidoo has earned the title of fashion expert. As a trend consultant and senior strategist who has worked with brands as diverse as WGSN, UAL, The Impression and Burberry, Baidoo certainly knows her stuff when it comes to analysing and discussing what will be big this year (and beyond) and which trends have fallen just a tad short. This month, we asked for her thoughts on footwear and how shoes and our approach buying them have changed over time. Here, she investigates just how much power shoes have in 2024 and what that means for the future of footwear in the fashion industry, in pop culture and for brands.

Raiding our mothers' wardrobes for her highest, most colourful heels was often the first playground in which we explored the world of fashion and learned at an early age how we could transform our outward appearance through playing dress-up. In that time of experimentation, we learned how to create a fantasy world for ourselves, but now, as trends encourage us to adopt a more minimalistic and "quiet" aesthetic, are we missing the fun which drew us to fashion in the first place?

As It bags make way for 2024's sold-out shoe style—namely flat shoes, including Mary Janes, Adidas Sambas and mesh anything—footwear is walking all over the competition as the guilty pleasure to invest in, minus the guilt. If there is one thing brands know, it's that the right footwear can make or break an outfit, and as we acknowledge our current circumstances and cut back in certain areas, footwear has become our new status symbol and the last man standing when it comes to indulgent payday purchases. While some are playing it safe from a clothing perspective, we are thankfully entering a new era of fun with footwear as designers and brands, from Louis Vuitton to Ferragamo, experiment with fun faux furs, extra-long leather fringing, and fluffy feathers as a way to bring back a sense of carefree frivolity.



They say that fashion trends work in cycles—look to the 1980s-style puffball skirts and Laura Ashley–esque dropped-waist dresses flooding our feeds as proof of concept. Just like those euphoric days post-pandemic when all we wanted was to celebrate life and trends such as "the joy of dressing up" and "revenge dressing" started to gain traction, we are seeing those same trends becoming relevant again now, but for footwear. At the time, we wanted to get dressed for the very occasions we had missed out on during lockdowns, showing up for our dentist appointments in the loudest of colours and going XXL with volume. This meant buying into brands like Molly Goddard, Christopher John Rogers, Simon Miller, Stine Goya and Valentino. As with most fashion cycles, a period of maximalism is often followed like clockwork by a period of minimalism, and four years later, we have seen in the rejection of logos and the shocking rise in the price of luxury leather goods. A small classic Flap bag from Chanel is £8510, an Hermès Birkin 25 Togo bag starts at the €8000 mark, and The Row's Margaux bag will set you back £4810.

If you're wondering how footwear got its mojo back, read on to discover how I dissect the rise of statement accessories and the ways in which brands are putting the fun back into footwear in 2024.

1. The Astronomical Ascent of Accessories



Despite footwear experiencing the same sharp price increases as handbags, demand continues to grow. For example, Miu Miu pumps sold for around the £300 mark in early 2000 (in business terms, this was considered the sweet spot at which the customer felt justified in making an indulgent purchase), but the brand's buckle-detail patent slingbacks would now set you back over £900. However, those who are shoe obsessed, from classic slingbacks at Chanel to trend-led embellished or mesh flats at Alaïa, remain undeterred. Customers are purchasing these shoes as long-term investments or to add joy to everyday outfits as creative new shapes and fun colour combinations lure us in season after season.

It also wasn't that long ago that sneakers were the shoe style to own. As streetwear rose in popularity, brands saw the opportunity for what it was and rushed to release their own sneaker silhouettes. Balenciaga's Triple S sneakers, released in 2017, became one of fashions most hyped styles, and there were also hundreds of collaborations with some of the world's best-known sportswear names, from Nike collabs with Louis Vuitton and Martine Rose to Adidas with Gucci and more recently Miu Miu and New Balance. In the evolution of the footwear market, what we are now experiencing is a slow return to formality. The minimalistic offerings from brands such as The Row and Khaite that focus on quality materials and long-lasting styles are shifting the footwear market back towards smarter—but still statement-making—styles. As a result, stores have been revamping their shoe departments to become entire floor experiences and places of discovery to introduce fashion-forward customers to emerging brands such as Amina Muaddi, By Far, Mach & Mach, Toteme, Aeyde and A. Emery, who are unafraid of bright colours and unexpected materials.

2. One-for-All


(Image credit: GETTY)

For all of the promises to increase the commitment to a more inclusive vision, fashion often leaves out key demographics of consumers who also want to take part in the latest trends, whether that be #GardenGirl or denim Bermuda shorts. One area where fashion is fit for all is in its accessories, and with footwear, the consumer can experiment once again with vertiginous platform heels, divide opinion with OTT Jibbitz-embellished Crocs or follow the fashion crowd to the football terraces in the latest colour combination of the Adidas Spezial.

While sizing may still prove to be an issue when it comes to finding wider fits, brands like Vivaia, Simply Be and Sargasso and Grey are developing ranges in a positive direction, which is expanding options for women of all sizes who don't want to have to stick to handbags when it comes to shopping for fun accessories in what has become a 30-billion-dollar market.

3. Down to Earth



Prada and Miu Miu have been instrumental in the current domination of flat footwear—just as they were a few years prior with their chunky loafers. The Lyst Index of fashion's hottest brands placed both in the number one and two spots for the first quarter of 2024. Additionally, as lifestyles and working patterns shifted to focus on the home starting in 2020, fashion followed suit. Footwear became much more relaxed and closer to the ground as luxe slippers, sliders and sneakers—which are more aligned with short daily trips to pick up groceries, walks in the outdoors and visiting friends—rose up the ranks of must-haves. As fashion moved on, designers didn't forget the need for comfort and transitioned casual, sporty flats into pretty ballerinas and elegant kitten heels as trends such as coquettecore and quiet luxury caught the zeitgeist.

The OG flats have always been the Chanel leather ballerinas, but this year, the focus is on mesh flats, which have taken over the feeds and wardrobes of fashion fans across the globe, led by Pieter Mulier's cult studded and mesh ballerina styles for Alaïa, which have developed a cult-like following. At first appearing on the soles of those in the know, they soon became a best seller for the luxury house, selling out across retailers globally and spawning dozens of dupes by brands at all levels of the market.

The appeal of embellished ballet flats is in their simple style. They're elevated with crystal studs that allow them to be dressed up or down, even acting as an alternative to the typical party heels usually reserved for special occasions.

4. Putting the Fun Back Into Footwear



For summer, fashion has decided to take a short break from minimalism and have a little fun. As we look for ways to express ourselves authentically, designers are letting us know that joy can be part of our everyday style by sparking pleasure in the art of dressing up. If you want to take it up a level, seek out brands that are using texture to create surface interest and a sense of playfulness. Furry slides and sandals should be inspired by footwear from Loewe, Burberry, Givenchy and Stella McCartney and come in puppet-like primary colours while long hairs dance with every step, and chubby shearling is perfect for the UK's unpredictable summer season. The "cowboy chic" trend is also extending beyond the classic cowboy boot style, and footwear is getting the yeehaw treatment with fringed and tasselled trims—a key detail especially in suede.

Desirability for these items is only set to increase as more brands create hero products using a statement colours, fabrics, textures and pieces of hardware. Coupled with a standout marketing campaign—think Balenciaga's ode to Apple's original adverts and Gucci's Horsebit 1953 loafer campaign starring Paul Mescal— enough buzz can be generated to produce sell-out products and long waiting lists every season. Not since Carrie Bradshaw's enviable shoe wardrobe in the original Sex and the City series have we been so encouraged to have fun with footwear.

5. The Best Investment



In a world where £30,000 chiffon Chloé dresses are becoming the norm, we have never had to question whether footwear was a good investment. It will often only take a few seasons for those patent pink Valentino platforms to be trending once again, even if they appear in a new form like boho wedges or studded clogs.

What is also fuelling the footwear category is TikTok content creators like @justshoesinfo who have taken to mining the archives for some of fashion's most influential shows and their signature heels. These creators are introducing them to a new generation who are hungry for nostalgia. The power of iconic shoes associated with a particular brand also can't be underestimated. In the last two decades, we have seen the releases of Saint Laurent's Tribute sandals (2009), Christian Louboutin's So Kate pumps (2012), Balenciaga's Knife boots (2016), Dior's J'Adior slingbacks (2017) and Isabel Marant's Bekett wedge sneakers, which all produced—and in some cases still are producing—millions for each brand. Returning to the present, footwear choice has never been greater. The difference between then and now is that you can invest in statement shoes from as little as £50 for the most on-trend style and be the first to buy into an emerging brand, many of which are producing some of the most directional silhouettes, with some even influencing trends themselves. These sit around the £300 mark and can be found at brands like Loeffler Randall and Le Monde Beryl.

As brands started to see the value in developing footwear that wasn't just made for walking, we saw red and metallic shoes, Mary Janes, embellished ballerinas, fur-trimmed shoes, naked shoes and even the return of the jelly shoes. Jelly shoes in stiletto form from Amina Muaddi, woven at Ancient Greek Sandals and encased in glitter at Free People have become must-haves in the last year alone. It's safe to say that shoes, unlike clothes, never need an occasion to justify dusting them off and wearing them for your summer tour of Europe or a simple hike for that daily flat white.