AKA:  Mexican sandals

How to say it:  wuhrah-chee

Traditional Features: 


  • flat, rubber sole
  • woven upper, leather or synthetic
  • traditionally sling back
  • can be open or closed toe

21st Century Huaraches

The huarache is currently experiencing a bit of a revival on the modern footwear market. Available in a wide range of styles and colours, the huarache has transformed from a short and stout peasants sandal into a pretty, feminine shoe perfect for hot, summer days.

DV by Dolce Vita FRYE

DV by Dolce Vita, FRYE

Seychelles Steve Madden

Seychelles, Steve Madden


…of the style: The huarache sandal originates in Pre-Columbian Mexico and has been traced to farming communities in JaliscoMichoacanGuanajuato and Yucatan -the style  was favoured for their comfort, durability and versatility.

In the 1930s the traditionally hand-made, all-leather sandal began to made with a rubber sole constructed from recycled car tires; the shoe was still mainly found in Central America, however after WWII travel into Mexico increased and the huarache made its way into the USA. The style became popular in North America in the 1950s and into the 60s when they were adopted by the Hippie Culture.

As the popularity of the huarache increased, the style of the shoe evolved, appearing in open and closed-toe versions, with sling-backs, ankle straps and even laces. Other materials also began to be used (mainly synthetics) allowing for a wider range of colours and price points.

The huarache slipped from popularity as the Hippie movement died out, but in the 21st century the style has been revived and there is an abundance of different styles of the woven sandal available on the modern footwear market. Despite its comfort and versatility of style, the huarache is a definite look and while it is unlikely it will ever disappear from the footwear landscape, it is definitely a style that will come and go with the trends.

…of the name: The term ‘huarache’ come from the word kwarachi in the P’urhépecha language – it means ‘sandal’ in English.

Random Facts

For more info on Huaraches try Wikipedia, wiseGeek, or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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Gladiator Sandal

AKA: Roman sandals

How to say it:  glad-ee-ey-ter  san-dl

Traditional Features: 

Gladiator Sandal

  • flat sole
  • can be ankle height or reach as high as the knee
  • multiple straps crisscrossing the foot and leg
  • can be laced or buckled
  • may have a zip closure at centre back to make putting them on and taking them off easier

21st Century Gladiator Sandals

The gladiator style has retained it popularity in the second decade of the 21st century. Available in a huge variety of designs, the gladiator sandal is available on all levels of the modern marketplace and can be found in all types of colours, materials and heights.

Dolce Vita Seychelles

Dolce Vita, Seychelles

Steve Madden Stuart Weitzman

Steve Madden, Stuart Weitzman


…of the style: Gladiator sandals, as the name suggests, were inspired by the shoes worn by Roman Gladiators as far back as the 1st century BC. Donned by gladiators in the arena where they battled for the pleasure of the Roman Empire, these strappy, leather sandals helped keep traction in the bloody sand as they fought for their lives. These gladiatorial games ended around the 5th century AD, and while regular Romans also wore strappy sandals, the gladiator sandal effectively died with the gladiators.

The gladiator sandal didn’t show up in modern fashion until the late 1960s, probably because up until that time, it was considered inappropriate for women to wear shoes that exposed the skin of the foot. While the Roman styles tended to be laced, the modern versions sported multiple buckles and zips on the straps. The multi-strapped trend continued into the 70s as societal dress rules continued to relax; the style then re-emerged again in 1983 as part of an ancient-inspired footwear trend that was big that summer, and again in 1993, thanks to the Versace Spring Collection.

However the gladiator sandals didn’t really hit the height of their popularity until the 21st century. Some sources credit the blockbuster film ‘Gladiator‘ (2000) for the rise in popularity of the style, maybe so or maybe no, but in Calvin Klein‘s 2002 Spring/Summer Collection nearly all the outfits were accessorised by gladiator sandals in various materials, and from there the style continued to evolve as designers got a hold of the look and made it their own. The gladiator style received another boost in 2008 when Gwyneth Paltrow apparently wore a pair to the premiere of ‘Iron Man‘ and from then the shoe has been a staple on the footwear landscape.

As the footwear market moves into the 20-teens the gladiator sandal is prolific, with styles hitting stores in a variety of heights, designs, materials and price points and is loved by modern women for its versatile style and sophisticated look. While not an ideal style for the colder months, it is unlikely the gladiator sandal will disappear from the summer market anytime soon.

…of the name: The multi-strapped sandals were inspired by sandals worn by Gladiators of Ancient Rome.

For more info on Gladiator Sandals try Gladiator Sandals, Ellen Duffer, Style Studio or WiseGeek

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AKA: thongs, jandals, pluggers, go-aheads, slaps, slides, step-ins, chankla etc.

How to say it: flip-flop

Traditional Features: 

Flip Flops

  • traditionally have a flat sole, but can be a heel or wedge
  • held loosely to the foot with a Y-shaped strap that starts between the first and second toe, splits and passes over the foot, attaching to the sole on either side
  • generally made from rubber

21st Century Flip-Flops

Flip-flops, love them or hate them, they have become a staple footwear style in the 21st century. High-end designers and cheaper chain stores alike are producing flip-flops in various styles, colours and materials to fulfil the modern woman’s desire for the comfortable, versatile sandal.

Billabong Havaianas

Billabong, Havaianas

Ipanema Tory Burch

Ipanema, Tory Burch


…of the style: The flip-flop style is an old one, dating back to the Ancient Egyptians around 4000 BC. Throughout history they have been worn around the world and have been made from different materials (the Egyptians used papyrus, the Maasai of Africa used rawhide, while Chinese and Japanese versions were made from rice straw), but the iconic Y-shaped strap between the toes has remained a constant through the years.

Despite the style having existed for centuries, the flip-flop didn’t enter modern fashion until after WWII. The style became popular in America after soldiers returning from Japan brought with them the Japanese zōri, a flip-flop-esque sandal that is part of traditional Japanese clothing (more on that later this month). The sandal became popular in the 1950s and quickly evolved to fit in with fashions of the day, appearing in brightly coloured versions that were comfortable and convenient.

In the 1960s the flip-flop became synonymous with the beach lifestyle of California, cementing the sandal as a casual, summer must-have for men and women alike, but as the popularity of the style grew, the flip-flop continued to evolve and began to be worn at more formal occasions.

This push into the realm of dressy or formal wear has continued into the 21st century and flip-flops can be found in many different materials – ranging from the traditional and casual rubber, to more formal (maybe) versions in leather. The dressy-ness of the flip-flop is a widely contentious issue, as younger generations feel that a the flip-flop is an appropriate style of footwear to wear to a formal occasions, while older generations often disagree, claiming the flip-flop is a casual and lazy way of dressing, completely inappropriate for formal occasions. This argument has reached as far as the White House. In 2005, some members of Northwestern University‘s national champion women’s lacrosse team visited the White House wearing flip-flops and were widely criticised for their choice of footwear. The team responded by selling their flip-flops on eBay and raised $1,653 for a young cancer patient who was a friend of the team.

The appropriateness of the flip-flop in various social contexts continues to create debate, but regardless of where it should or should not be worn, no one can argue the popularity of the simple style. One look at the modern footwear landscape will ensure anyone who cares that the flip-flop has a secure hold on a large chunk of the market and is unlikely to give it up anytime soon.

…of the name: The term ‘flip-flop’ comes from the sound the shoe makes as it slaps the foot while the wearer is walking. The term has been used since approximately 1972.

Random Facts

For more info on Flip-Flops try Wikipedia, StyleList, International Business Times or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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AKA: alpargatas

How to say it:  es-puh-dril

Traditional Features: 


  • rope or jute sole
  • canvas upper
  • can have long laces which wrap around the leg
  • can have a rubber layer on the sole to prolong wear

21st Century Espadrille

In the 21st century this jute covered classic is widely available on the footwear marketplace for both men and women. Present in a variety of styles, the modern woman can take her espadrille any way she wants it – flat, wedge, heel; sandal, pump, loafer, slide. The choice is endless and this summer classic remains a modern favourite.

Burberry JCrew

Burberry, J.Crew

RED Valentino Topshop

RED Valentino, Topshop


…of the style: The espadrille, in one form or another, has been around for approximately 4000 years. Traditionally made in Pyrenean Catalonia and Occitania, the espadrille has been in continuous production for around 700 years, and have been worn by everyone from the infantry men in the King of Aragon‘s army in the 13th century to Salvator Dali, Lauren Bacall and Pablo Picasso.

From the King of Aragon’s army, the espadrille spread throughout Europe and South America, covering the feet of priests, mine workers, dancers and peasants. During the Spanish Civil War Spanish soldiers were apparently sent to the front line wearing espadrilles and in the 1940s Hollywood got in on the act, with star like Sophia Lauren, Grace Kelly and Rita Hayworth wearing laced espadrilles in their films throughout the decade.

In the 1950s espadrilles hit the fashion landscape and brands began making the espadrille their own by changing the colour of the canvas upper and evolving the design to make it more relevant to the styles of the time. A major change came in the 1960s when designer Yves Saint Laurent ordered the iconic jute rope and canvas shoe to be made with a heel – something that had never been done before. However, once the heel had been applied to the style it stuck, and the espadrille was forever changed.

In the 1980s the espadrille shoe was revived – by a man! Don Johnson’s character Sonny Crockett in the popular series Miami Vice regularly wore the style and brought the espadrille back to the forefront of fashion. Since then the espadrille has come in and out of fashion, for both men and women. The style, colour and heel height continually change with the seasons, but the jute rope sole, the defining feature of the shoe, has remained constant since the style’s inception some 4000 years ago. Given that the style has lasted this long, combined with its enduring popularity, it seems likely that the espadrille will remain a summer favourite for many years to come.

…of the name: The term espadrille is a French word that apparently comes from the Catalan word espardenya, meaning shoes made from ‘espart’ or a rope made from wiry Mediterranean grass.

For more info on Espadrilles try Wikipedia, Espadrille Store, Drilleys, Castaner or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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d’Orsay Shoe


How to say it: door-say

Traditional Features: 

d'Orsay Shoe

  • covered toe and heel
  • cut away at the sides, leaving the shank bare

21st Century d’Orsay Shoes

D’Orsay shoes are everywhere right now! Flat, heeled, platforms; ankle strap, slip-on, lace up – the styles available in the 21st century are huge and varied. Over the years designers have taken some liberties with the style, adding a peep toes, asymmetric cutaways and toe detailing to keep the style fresh, new and relevant season after season, resulting in the huge choice that is available to the modern woman.

J.Crew L.A.M.B.

J.Crew, L.A.M.B.

Manolo Blahnik Saint Laurent

Manolo Blahnik, Saint Laurent


…of the style: The cut away style of the d’orsay shoe was actually first designed for men in the 19th century. The Count Alfred d’Orsay, an ex-soldier, painter, artist, sculptor, dandy and all around arbiter of style, is credited with its creation when he designed a military parade shoe in 1838; the shoe was cut low on the sides to eliminate gape and allow for wider feet, had a v-shaped top and fit more snuggly than the other shoe styles of the day. Soon after its inception the silhouette became popular with women and the d’orsay pump was born.

The d’orsay style appeared in modern fashion in the 1930s – perhaps because the style exposes the arch of the foot, making it a sensual shoe that shows off a part of the foot that can’t normally be seen. The d’orsay shoe has remained popular in women’s footwear ever since and in the 21st century designers regularly feature the cutaway style, in both flat and heeled versions, in their runway shows. This classic and versatile shoe is currently available on every level of the footwear market and appears in casual and evening styles in equal measure. Despite its nearly 200-year old design, the d’orsay shoe is still considered a sophisticated, flattering and sexy style, and these traits that are likely to keep the d’orsay shoe in the fashion landscape for many years to come.

…of the name: The d’orsay shoe is named for Count Alfred d’Orsay who is credited with creating the design for men in the 19th century.

Random Facts

  • Count d’Orsay was a friend of Lord Byron
  • Count d’Orsay was such a fashion leader of his time that he also has a coat named after him
  • In his prime, Count d’Orsay was considered “most perfect gentleman of his day”

For more info on d’Orsay Shoes try ezine articles, Peter Fox Shoes, Rue La La or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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Chelsea Boot

AKA: beatle boot, dealer boots, jodhpur boots, paddock boots, baba boots

How to say it: chel-sea

Traditional Features: 

Chelsea Boot

  • ankle height
  • round, pointed toe
  • elastic gores on the sides
  • low heel
  • typically made from two pieces of leather that join, but don’t overlap at the gores

21st Century Chelsea Boots

In the 21st century the Chelsea Boot is still as popular as ever. Available in a variety of colours, materials and heel heights, the easy-to-wear ankle boot comes back season after season and is worn by the fashion set around the world on a regular basis.

Alexander McQueen Chloe

Alexander McQueen, Chloé

FRYE Topshop

FRYE, Topshop


…of the style: The Chelsea boot style is accredited to Queen Victoria’s then boot maker,  J. Sparkes-Hall. Whether or not he is the rightful creator of the boot, he certainly claimed it as his own, patenting the design in 1851, and claiming that Queen Victoria walked in them daily and “thus gives the strongest proof of the value she attaches to the invention”.

The elastic gores on the side of the boot (made possible by Charles Goodyear‘s development of vulcanised rubber) made the boots easy to put on and remove, making the Chelsea boot a popular style of footwear for walking and riding in the West until the onset of WWI.

In the 1950s a young and fashionable group of artists, creatives and socialites began frequenting the King’s Road in London. The trendy pack included fashion icons Mary Quant and Jean Shrimpton and was labeled the ‘Chelsea Set’ by the media; this nickname linked the term ‘Chelsea’ to a particular way of living and dressing, which included the wearing of the elasticated ankle boot, which became known as the ‘Chelsea Boot’.

In the 1960s a pair of London shoemakers, Anello and Davide, added a cuban heel and the style became known as the ‘Baba Boot’; it was popular in the Rock & Roll world but really took off in mainstream fashion after The Beatles started wearing the style in the 1960s. The style was renamed the ‘Beatle Boot’ after the Fab 4 made it part of their ‘look’. The boot then became part of the Mod uniform, securing the style’s status as a fashion classic and ensuring the Chelsea boot’s popularity ever since.

In the modern fashion landscape the Chelsea boot appears regularly in both men’s and women’s fashion, and despite the classic lines that identify the style, designers have not held back when making the Chelsea their own. 21st century Chelsea boots come in a variety of materials and designs, sometimes featuring textures, patterns, brogue detailing and various heel heights keeping the style fresh and on trend.

The Chelsea Boot has a long and illustrious history which has elevated the style to iconic status in the fashion world. It seems unlikely that it disappear from the fashion landscape anytime soon.

…of the name: While the elasticated ankle boot has had many, many names, the term ‘Chelsea Boot’ came about when members of the ‘Chelsea Set’ made it part of their unofficial uniform in the 1950s.

Random Facts

  • Steed, from the Avengers, always wore Chelsea boots, regardless of his outfit
  • Darth Vader’s stormtroopers wore white Chelsea boots in all three of the original Star Wars films

For more info on Chelsea Boots try Wikipedia, Gentleman’s Gazette, The Look, Fashion Beans or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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