How White Shoes Cleaned Up Their Act

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Once tragically uncool, they are the chic choice this summer, says Naomi Attwood

Even as fashion trends swing from one opposite aesthetic to another like a pendulum, there remain certain items that you can reliably put your money on never coming into favour – the likes of white stilettos, for example. In America, where apparently wearing white after Labor Day (i.e. after summer has ended) is a terrible faux pas; it is harsher still in the class-conscious British society, where jokes have abounded about Essex girls favouring white shoes as they make it easier to see the “L” and “R” they've inscribed on each foot, and where the only acceptable reason for wearing the offending items would be when going to a bad-taste Eighties fancy-dress party. Well, that's all changed now, as white shoes are everywhere: on the catwalks; in both designer boutiques and high-street destinations; and the ne plus ultra of the editors on the front rows who accessorise their statement trousers and couture ensembles with white court shoes, loafers and minimal wedges.

Design houses that sent models out shod in white for spring/summer 2013 include Balenciaga, Balmain, Burberry Prorsum, Cacharel, Christopher Kane (embellished with spiral telephone cords, of course), Diane von Furstenberg… and that's only as far as D in the alphabet.

Hannah Almassi, the deputy fashion news and features editor at Grazia, has traced the current trend back to its catwalk inception: “The white-shoe comeback isn't all down to one woman alone, but I would say that Phoebe Philo has a large part to play. I remember the eureka moment – her pre-autumn 2011 collection for Céline. Among many items from that season that still resonate, such as patchwork denim, rollnecks, monochrome, leopard and more, the low stiletto pointy-white court worn with coolly understated tailoring – and in some looks, black socks – took the white shoe from trashy to fashion-forward.”

Natalie Kingham, Matchesfashion.com's international womenswear buyer, agrees. “We have noticed the white-shoe trend bubbling under the radar since spring/summer 2012,” she says. “But it was definitely this season that they hit the spotlight and became the go-to shoe for the front-row fashion pack. With everyone from [Harper's Bazaar's global fashion editor] Carine Roitfeld to [Brit model] Poppy Delevingne sporting a pair, there are a plethora of options to choose from – some of our favourite styles this season include wedges at Stella McCartney, single-sole pumps at Gianvito Rossi and strappy sandals at Alexander Wang.”

The London-based design duo Preen, Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi, sent white and off-white heels down their SS13 runway (pictured above), part of a collaboration with the high-street chain Aldo's sub-label, Aldo Rise. The muse for their collection was Christina Ricci in Buffalo '66, the darkly absurd, cult American film – though the finished shoes are very much more sophisticated than Ricci's bleach-blonde ingénue might have worn.

The new generation of white shoes is earnest, rather than in any way ironic. After all, if a white shirt goes with everything, why not a white shoe?

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