They are a distant relative of the sandals originally worn by the ancient Greeks and Romans. At the spring-summer 2013 fashion collections, designers such as Tom Ford, Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzarra featured innovative knee-high-and-above versions on the runways, taking shoe envy to new heights. They are arrestingly sexy. And for many, they summon up a blow-the-wheels-off-your-chariot feeling of female empowerment. Some ladies might even take on a gladiator mentality if it came down to a fellow shopper reaching for the single pair left in her size.
"They" are the bold new gladiator sandal-boots — and they are making a statement in the footwear arena this season.
So are these sandal-boots comfortable and livable enough to be worthy of all the fuss? A wear test was the only real way to find out.
Disclaimer: I lived in Manhattan for 13 years, so sprinting in 5-inch stilettos on cobblestones to hail cabs was once second nature. Fast-forward through two bunion surgeries and multiple foot stress fractures, and I am ready to slip into some fabulous footwear again.
First question: Where to wear them? As luck would have it, I was invited to a birthday dinner for my cousin at Mélisse, Josiah Citrin's award-winning French restaurant in Santa Monica. So on a foggy Thursday night, I donned studded, orchid-colored "Mogul" stiletto sandal-boots, courtesy of Jimmy Choo.
While getting one's foot into the maze of straps and lacings may appear to require a Houdini-like act, this sandal-boot is surprisingly simple to slip on, thanks to a side zipper, the flexibility of supple suede, and front lacings that can be adjusted to custom fit the ankle and calf. Boot fanatics out there will appreciate that last point; it is truly a shopping feat to find any style that is not too loose or tight at the calves, and this pair fit to perfection.
I was initially doubtful about the purple hue, as the style is bold enough in neutral and my entire wardrobe is pretty much black. But cutting-edge sandals with a shot of color were the perfect punctuation for a basic L.B.D. An understated, oversized black silk tunic-dress balanced out the va-va-voom factor of my heels.
As I stepped out of my car at the valet station, I swear that the attendant looked me squarely in the sandal-boots as he asked, "Are you coming to dinner with us?" Could shoes as chic as these possibly be translated as trashy?
Inside, one thing became certain. These boots attract males. Exhibit A: Brian, the sommelier, quickly volunteered that he loved my "strappy and sexy" boots and proceeded to stroke them. I pulled my leg away, laughing nervously. Yes, he was cute, but still. "You look good in those," he said. If he is truly from France, his forward approach may be forgivable. Then again, I wasn't exactly hating the fact that my sandals were doing the flirting for me.
Drew, the waiter, added his two cents to boot: "After all those platform, peepy-toe shoes that came off strip club floors and into the public, I don't see anything wrong with these. These are nice. I think those other ones had something to do with the Kardashians."
Was that a compliment? He was beaming at me.
The boots seemed to stir up some extraordinary chivalry, as well. "How are your feet feeling? Do they hurt?" asked Ryan, another waiter, looking genuinely concerned when I had to stand for 15 minutes as the valet pulled my car to the door. Surprisingly, my feet felt cushiony and comfortable. Not to mention that there were no signs of strap sagging, lace dangling, ankle chafing or sweaty shins.
Then the true test: It was drizzling. Caught without an umbrella, I instinctively sprinted to the car ... with absolutely zero slipping or teetering. When I got close to home, it was raining steadily; in keeping with my footwear fate, there were no parking spaces in sight. Yes, it is humbling to admit that a girl with such grand heels must resort to street parking. These $1,500 boots suggest a chauffeur or, at the very least, a garage of some sort.
I wanted to panic at the thought of the potential footwear fiasco to come, but I was too tired. So I just ran with it. Down two blocks and around the house on slippery stones. And not only am I still standing, but I am begging for invitations to wear these fun, fierce, flippant sandal-boots again.