In the mid-‘90s, as a junior in college, I asked my boyfriend, Ross, (now husband) to buy me shoes for our one-year anniversary, rather than roses. This may have seemed a bit offbeat and forward to some, but it was logical to me. I figured that he might as well put the money towards a gift that would last more than five days. The pair in question: Steve Madden chunky black loafers. Oh, and shout-out to Fontana’s, the over 100-year old independent shoe store that still resides on Eddy Street in Ithaca, NY.
The nostalgia set in recently, after I read the news about Steve Madden re-releasing one of their other iconic ‘90s styles, the Slinky Sandal. If I close my eyes and think of my group of friends wearing those sandals, I can hear the sound of the footbeds slapping against our heels as we walked around the streets of New York City, not long after graduation. And Steve Madden isn’t the only one going deep into the closet - Rocket Dog updated their popular ‘90s platform flip-flops in collaboration with celebrity stylist Elizabeth Saltzman. Gal Gadot recently wore these on the red carpet for the Wonder Woman premiere!
Of course the retro trend is bigger than these two individual items. Athletic classics have been a key growth area in the footwear industry for a number of years now – dollar sales of this segment grew 21 percent in the last 12 months ending May 2017, and over 50 percent in the last 24 months.* Other industries are tapping into consumers’ sweet spot for history with their product launches and reinterpretations. Think Polaroid’s Socialmatic camera, Nintendo’s limited release of the NES Classic Edition, reboots (pun intended) of old TV shows like Full House and Will & Grace. And, who would have expected that dollar sales of paper appointment book/planners would be up 16 percent during the past two years?*
I think it is definitely about time that we start recognizing the icons of dress and casual footwear as well. Of course each organization will act according to their own brand, product, and merchandising strategy, but why not think about keeping some of the classics (or future classics) around for a while if they are selling well? If the same sneakers can be available on the market for 20, 30, or even 40+ years in some cases, why can’t select shoes, sandals, and boots enjoy longevity as well? With so many influences on fashion today, and consumers looking to define their own style, old and new can co-exist better than ever.
Therefore, I am very happy to see that this retro trend is hitting the fashion footwear market, and I hope to see more iconic styles make a comeback. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be at home bingeing on the Twin Peaks revival.
*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service