In Defence Of The Sandal Trend

Why you should embrace the catwalk trend for chunky NHS-style semi-shoes

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Last month, the Esquire fashion team trooped out to Paris and Milan for the seasonal menswear shows. Glamorous though this jaunt around the fashion capitals of Europe may sound, it was in fact, not.

It wasn’t because of the clothes, no. The suits, shorts and shirts are the best part of the whole shebang - that and the fact that you can justifiably eat three rounds of veal Milanese and four portions of Croque-Monsieur (Croque-Madame if you’re fancy) every day for two weeks because you want to "embrace the culture".

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No, it’s more because you spend pretty much seven hours of every day sitting in a car, battling with inner-city traffic (Milan comes to resemble deepest Mumbai in high summer) and you start your day at 7am and tend not to finish before 2am, if you’re lucky.

The parallels with Mumbai don’t stop at the traffic, either. Think sitting through a 20-minute fashion show in 35ºC heat, rubbing the wet rubber of your upper arm against that of the rapidly dehydrating editor sitting next to you sounds like fun? Think again.

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There are, of course, upsides. There’s much to be said for immersing oneself in the hotbed of global fashion for long enough to understand exactly how this juggernaut of an industry works. It’s fascinating. From the mechanics of a show (they cost a FORTUNE to produce), to the way buyers actually decide what you’re going to be wearing next season, to the intricate cognitive processes editors engage in when deciding which trends they’ll feature the season hence (yea right), there’s a lot to take in – and that’s before you’ve even Tweeted/Instagrammed/Linked-In’d about it all.

Some seasons there’s a stand out show (AW’14 was all about Louis Vuitton and Kim Jones’ incredible coats) while others are all about one key trend. SS’15, in addition to being dominated by the high fashion skate shoe (there wasn’t one brand that didn’t produce a take on the style) was the season of the NHS prescription sandal.

Before you scoff, there’s something strangely alluring about a chunky semi-shoe wrapping the foot of an otherwise impeccably dressed man. From those at Prada, which featured hefty rubber attachments on the sides, to the Birkenstock-esque styles at Cerruti 1881, to those at E Tautz, which sat somewhere between a high top sneaker and sandal – there's something that feels desirable and liberating about them.

Teamed, across the board, with tailored pieces, these sandals looked as though they could withstand a nuclear winter and consequently felt reassuringly - not to mention surprisingly - masculine. It’s nothing new. Look at the Ancient Greeks – sandals were the preserve of warriors and philosophers. Jesus was a fan too.

Perhaps it’s the contrast of the cumbersome chunkiness of a sandal against a beautiful suit, or perhaps it’s because somehow they manage to make the foot encased within look elegant (an impressive feat – ho ho). That said, maybe it’s simply because I’ve been brainwashed by those crafty fashion brands. Whatever the reason, I’m hooked. I bought myself a pair last week – some sleek textured leather ones from Valentino, no less (you won’t see me in a prescription pair, just yet).

It's quite a move away from my 'chestnut Chelsea boots in winter, tan derbies in summer' routine, but it's hardly surprising that I've been sucked in; we men love an item of clothing that actually does something. It’s almost as important as how a garment looks. Take sandals, for instance, wearing a pair on a hot day is practical - they keep your feet cool. Wearing some of this season’s most beautifully designed sandals, from the likes of Zegna or Gucci on said scorcher is not only practical, it’s stylish too.

Countless brands have got in on the act. Over the past few seasons the likes of Hermes, Givenchy and Lanvin have placed sandals at the core of their collections. From the super sleek leather styles at Hermes to slightly chunkier rope-topped versions at Givenchy, these sandals are wearable and elegant. It's also filtered down into the high street. Functional footwear manufacturer Teva produce a lovely trechnical take on the sandal, while relative newcomer Ancient Greek Sandals produce dressier options in soft leather.

If you still need convincing, look to Steve McQueen - that perennial icon of men's style - who was a confirmed sandals wearer, there are some lovely images of him wearing Birkenstocks knocking about on Google. On the other hand, be sure not to take your cue from Esquire's creative director David McKendrick and wear your sandals with socks - no one wants to look like a metal-detecting enthusiast from Margate.

The way I'll be wearing mine? Should you see me at a sweltering show in Milan next summer, I'll be rocking my sandals with some cropped cigarette chinos and a sweat-free smile. I'd advise you do the same.


Not convinced? Tell us why below


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