How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Trust me, this shoe is a shortcut to summer cool
- The Birkenstock-style sandal is now suddenly top of the fashion shoe charts
- Shane Watson says 2022’s version must be a polished and glossy, neutral suede
- UK-based fashion expert says that if the shoe fits then everything falls into place
Let’s talk about shoes. Specifically, the sandal of the summer which you still haven’t bought because who wants to buy anything right now unless it’s guaranteed to be useful and life-enhancing.
I’m full of sympathy. This type of sandal — a chunky, moulded-sole sandal with two thick straps across the foot — is a hard one to get your head around even for a clog and trainers fan such as myself.
Not that I don’t own a pair — I do, two-strap suede Arizona Birkenstocks — but these are battered, 20 years old and date back to schlepping around South America (a corkbottom two-strap is excellent for walking in hot climates) and I’ve never worn them other than on holiday or messing about at the weekend.
The Birkenstock-style sandal is now suddenly top of the fashion shoe charts. Katie Holmes is pictured here in her black Birkenstocks, paired with a casual black tank top and white pencil skirt
Now suddenly the Birkenstock-style sandal has crossed some invisible line and is top of the fashion shoe charts. This time the mood is different. And those old suede Arizonas will not cut the mustard.
Summer 2022’s version must be polished and glossy, neutral suede does not score the necessary glamour points (cherry patent does) and you wear them every day with everything bar your wedding best.
Tilda Lindstam is pictured in New York wearing her brown Birkenstocks with wide leg denim dungarees
If you have a fresh-looking pair (I’d say avoid plain white, they are dauntingly dental nurse), this is the moment to bring them out. If you haven’t, here’s why you should invest.
First, a moulded sole feels right. Have you tried a flimsy sole recently? You feel unprotected and out of place, like an over-coiffed lady in a mosh pit. A moulded sole suits pounding pavements, beaches, your garden, the airport, and the Birkenstock sandal is the comfiest and most practical of the lot — they even give you a bit of height.
Left: Lea Naumann wearing white Cecilie Bahnsen long dress, yellow Chanel vintage top, white Birkenstock sandals and Taillee mini bag. Right: Alexa Chung wearing Birkenstock sandals and Chanel necklace
(Note: stick to the two-strap they’re far more wearable. You never want to feel you’re gripping to keep your shoes on.)
For the real thing, go to Birkenstock (from £65, birkenstock.com), but every shop has its own Birkie-esque sandal this summer. Marks & Spencer does a two-strap in everything from bright yellow to silver (£22.50, marksandspencer.com).
The Hush two-strap comes with silver studs (£65, hushuk.com). And who can resist a padded-leather style in black (£80, vagabond.com) or caramel with a platform and back strap (£81, camper.com)? After all, they go with everything.
SANDALS: THE NEW RULES
- Stick with a two-strap
- Try a bright colour
- Black plus gold is smart
- Go OTT with toe polish
Second, the substantial sandal looks right. The first rule of fashion is, if the shoe fits then everything else falls into place — and the chunky off-road look is what makes everything from tent dresses to tailored trousers look modern now.
I really cannot stress this enough. Especially when you are old enough to have worn these sandals first time round. It’s not banned to wear little Louis-heeled mules, but flimsy and pretty is not the mood of the moment and doesn’t provide that 0.25 per cent of attitude that separates looking like your mum and a woman striding through 2022. We need that 0.25 per cent. It’s the difference between bland and contemporary.
Third, actual Birkenstocks are having a moment. It’s not just that Manolo Blahnik, the original It shoe designer and a man who used to wince at the word ‘functional’, has produced a collection with the brand; Birkenstocks have shrugged off their hippy reputation, broadened their base and are now that elusive thing — the One Thing Cool you can pop on as easily as a bracelet and voila!
I love an instant cool trick. My ambition is to barely adjust my look, then add whatever the current OTC is that puts you on the radar. I love the red patent Birkenstocks (£75) and Massimo Dutti’s black twostraps with a back strap (£119, massimodutti.com).
Fourth, you want to show your painted toe nails. These are our extra summer accessory and not to be underestimated. That coral you wouldn’t dare wear on your lips? Put it on your toes. I went too municipal orange recently but acid brights are great for putting zing in your outfit now that we’re past the electric blue eyeshadow years.
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