Reatil Therapy: Enter the not-so-down at heel: You thought it was a joke? Not true. Platforms are a high street fashion statement. Julie Aschkenasy surveys the scene

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The Independent Online
Platform shoes are back with a vengeance. Shops say they are selling fast, particularly to the under-25s, who cannot remember them the first time around. The styles vary enormously; many are a cross between sandals and shoes.

Spring lines include gently wedged espadrilles, mules (for day or evening), snakeskin or jungle-print sandals, denim Doc Martens, brightly coloured, zipped rubber boots and wearable platform lofas. Clumpy black platforms are popular whatever the season.

Equally diverse are the materials used for the soles. People buy platforms for their looks, but even some of the clumpier ones are surprisingly comfortable. The manufacturers say that this time round they are lighter to wear because the materials used in making them are more advanced.

Not surprisingly, the most extreme styles are selling to young buyers, but there are plenty of conservative heels to tempt the unconvinced. If you want to avoid a Naomi Campbell-style tumble, however, do not be too ambitious.

RAVEL Most shops are doing a version of the platform espadrille. Ravel offers a wearable ecru shoe with a modest platform wedge (about 1 1/4 in high) at pounds 19.99, and a bold, gold leather, lace-up espadrille with a similar heel for pounds 29.99. And a black suede sandal/shoe called Ocker, with a 3 1/2 in heel, 1in platform, nice square toe and studded detail, is selling very well at pounds 36.99. A jungle-print pair of monster platforms in suede sell for pounds 59.99.

SHELLYS

Plenty of exaggerated fun platforms here, many in truly Seventies colours: powder blue, pale pink and lime. High but not too dangerous, a lime green mule (heel about 2 3/4 in, platform 1/2 in) with a circle stack heel and peep toe, is casual and suprisingly easy to wear, pounds 42.99. Black suede lace-ups with high espadrille-heeled wedges (2 3/4 in heel, 1 1/4 in sole) and stitched detail in raffia, look fun but it takes a while to get used to the lurching sensation, pounds 37.99 (mail order, 081-450 0066).

PIED A TERRE The smart, black suede mule (3 1/2 in heel, 1in platform) would look good under a long flowing skirt, although there is little heel support (from the Basics range, pounds 55). More comfortable are the high, cork-wedged black sandals with black net and criss-cross stitching in raffia; they have big platforms (2 3/4 in heel, 1 1/3 in sole) but are light and do not feel too high (expensive at pounds 159, from the top-of-the-range Rouge collection).

HOBBS Stylish and wearable leather platforms of the more demure variety. Its 'Romantic Betty' sandal (2in heel, 1/2 in sole) comes in navy suede, with a closed toe, key-hole front and a look that easily pre-dates the Seventies, pounds 54.99. The black 'double-plateau' court platforms have a classic look and are suprisingly comfortable, considering their 3in heel (sole 1/2 in), pounds 67.99. The canvas, lace-up rococo with 2in heel (1/2 in sole) is similarly old-fashioned: beige canvas with dark brown leather detail on the toe and heel, pounds 59.99. A Brown Vita platform sandal with cross-over front and 2 sq in heel ( 1/2 in sole) won all-round approval in the office for wearability and style, pounds 64.99.

MISS SELFRIDGE For a loud, funky pair of shoes, try Miss Selfridge's vampish leopard-print platforms in synthetic suede (3in heel, 3/4 in platform), pounds 29.99. And for an extreme version of the black leather court shoes, look no farther: Miss Selfridge's examples are smart and shiny, and would not look out of place on Minnie Mouse (3 3/4 in heel, 3/4 in platform), pounds 49.99.

RUSSELL & BROMLEY Russell & Bromley has a large range of gentler platforms as well as a few of the more drastic variety. Its leopard-print suede cork wedges with thick straps are fun and light-weight, pounds 49.99. As a tame alternative, however, you could easily wear the ecru leather, loafer-style-fronted sling-backs to the office, pounds 89.50.

BERTIE In keeping with the fad for jungle and animal prints, Bertie has a reptilian pair of snakeskin sandals, with a 3/4 in platform base and 3in block heel, pounds 85.

(Photograph omitted)

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