All Hail the Platform

28th March 2021


Platforms are becoming the go-to shoe for designers ranging from Versace, Prada, Valentino and up-and-comers like Harris Reed, for their optimism, decadence and fluidity. The perfect antidote to the flats that ruled 2020?

platform boots
platform boots street style

Platforms have throughout the centuries had a deeper meaning. Will they be our footwear of choice in the near future? Images courtesy of Imaxtree.

Platforms emerged as the unlikely hero item of the fall 2021 season, showing up on many a catwalk in their most irreverent, eccentric forms. 

Early on in the year, Pierpaolo Piccioli kicked the year off on the Valentino Couture catwalk with a series of towering platforms in scrunched up metallic leather, for Valentino’s spring 2021 couture show. They had a sci-fi flair that brought to mind Lady Gaga’s early glory days. 

The response was ecstatic and it heralded the triumphant return of party-ready, decadent shoes. Prada followed suit with sequin-embellished and printed platform boots; Versace  dressed the Hadid sisters up in coloured eyeshadow, sparkly mini dresses and platform Mary Janes in bright colors to match, while Jonathan Anderson at Loewe offered a more minimal take in the form of extra high platform loafers. 

Off the catwalk, shoe designers across the board are championing the platform: Paris Texas offered up platform sandals in shocking pink, while shoe maestro Christian Louboutin started designing unisex platform boots featuring comfortable mid-heels, as well as sandals with extra high platforms and loud, clashing prints. 

It’s an attitude that is shared with the new generation of designers too, who champion gender fluidity and often turn to the platform as the ultimate gender-fluid shoe style: Up-and-coming designer Harris Reed – who has famously dressed Harry Styles in his decadent, fluid pieces – has been partnering with London label Roker to design extra high, lace-up platform boots featuring glossy leather, glitter and zebra print galore. Roker makes a point to offer the shoes – which are made-to-measure in its London atelier – across men’s and women’s sizes, so that glamour is available to anyone that wants to feel a little extra. 

Why the sudden appetite for platforms you might ask? Most of the world is still in lockdown and used to the comfort of their slippers, crocs and New Balance sneakers – so what could possibly be going through designers’ heads? 

It’s simple: Just like the rest of us, designers are fed up with the monotony of lockdown and something as ostentatious as an impossibly-high platform boot featuring sparkly embellishments and in-your-face patterns, might just be the antidote we all need, as the world prepares to open up. 

Women still want to feel feminine and sexy and once this period is over, they will be desperate to go out, have fun, feel free, dress up and feel super feminie – Paris Texas creative director Annamaria Brivio.

In the middle of gloom, economic uncertainty and – in many parts of the world – political oppression, a glitter platform that can be worn by both men and women, might just be the symbol of defiance some need. There’s something a little bit rebellious at the end of the day, in choosing joy, optimism and over-the-top dress-up, in a world where you are asked to be uniform and fearful. 

Platforms have always stood for defiance in some shape and form, through the centuries. Did you know that they date back to Ancient Greece, where they were worn by actors to gain height on stage or by high-status women? In the 16th century Venetian women wore platforms (called ‘Chopines’ then) up to 20 inches high, to allow them to show off lengthier skirts- talk about a shoe statement. It’s this “ostentatious” character that led priests from banning them from English Christian churches, around the 20th century. 

In recent history, platforms have been associated with courtesans and prostitutes, while from the ’30s onwards designers like Salvatore Ferragamo, Roger Vivier and Elsa Schiapparelli started introducing them to the mainstream. Ferragamo’s rainbow-hued platform sandals were particularly key in popularising the style, that hasn’t stopped being re-visited ever since. 

Remember the towering Vivienne Westwood platforms in which Naomi Campbell famously took a plunge on the catwalk in the ’90s? Westwood helped equate the platform with punk, but at the same time disco heroes like David Bowie started wearing them, as did Marlon Mansoe, the Spice Girls and ravers – the style transcended gender, aesthetics and age to become a symbol for partying, having fun and defying all forms of convention. 

Today, when the world is experiencing a new set of social and cultural shifts, that rebellious spirit – and a few extra inches – of the platform shoe might just be what we need, as we prepare to go back out there and renegotiate our space and purpose in this new landscape.