the new men’s fashion must-have?
The “strangest trend in men’s shoes” has emerged this year – ballet slippers.
According to The Wall Street Journal, fashion designers, celebrities and notable trendsetters have been spotted wearing the shoes over the past few seasons. They also appeared on the Paris runway for the brands Dries Van Noten and Jil Sander, as well as “rising New York label” Bode, the newspaper said.
In 2023, fans of the “sleek, barely-there footwear for men – which, indeed, recall simple ballet flats when not flat-out copying the dance shoe silhouette – have emerged”, said GQ. “And while the idea of them may yet give some men pause, there’s a perfect storm brewing that’s toeing the line toward the mainstream.”
‘Traced back to the Renaissance’
According to Footwear News, ballet flats have an unexpectedly deep history.
The classic silhouette we know today “can be traced all the way back to the Renaissance”. It was worn by both men and women, and the “length and point of the shoe’s toe was an indicator of nobility”, the site explained. “The longer the point, the more noble the wearer was.”
They became a popular dance shoe in the 1730s, when French dancer Marie Camargo began performing in flat-soled shoes rather than heels, which had been a dance staple for decades. This move “set in motion a chain of events that would pave the way for the modern ballet flat”, Footwear News added.
Now, their non-dance purpose appears to have been rediscovered as they have become an emergent trend around the world.
First, they were picked up by women. According to Katie Jackson on NBC’s Today, the Amazon Essentials Belice Ballet Flat was number one on Amazon’s list of bestsellers in women’s flats back in 2020.
“We’ve seen ballet flats sweep the fashion world for months – from the streets to the runway – with no sign of the trend slowing down as we get into the holiday season,” Bianca Gates, CEO and co-founder of Birdies, told Footwear News.
In the wake of their revival among women, increasingly they are being adopted by men too.
‘A style that will continue to simmer’
According to Casey Lewis, writer of a popular fashion newsletter “After School”, the trend may have been started by singer Harry Styles, who sported a pair of white dance shoes on the cover of his “Harry’s House” album last spring.
“I’m a longtime Harry fan and I think he can kind of pull off anything,” she told GQ. “It’s really interesting to me the way that he’ll wear something and all these hip New York guys will start doing it.”
For Men’s Folio, ballet slippers are a style that transcends traditional gender divisions. “With on-going discussions regarding gender and the deconstruction of its binary nature, it is likely that the love for this style will continue to simmer,” the site said.
Not everyone is convinced, however. Vogue writer Christian Allaire “test-drove” a few pairs of ballet flats at New York fashion week last year. At the end of his two-day test, Allaire questioned whether he was “a total ballet flat convert? Hardly. By day three of fashion week, I was back into my Gucci loafers, already feeling more like myself.”
Footwear News conceded that the ballet flat style “is definitely not for everyone”, but said: “One thing is for sure though, the shoe is not going anywhere anytime soon.”
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