IF YOU’RE about to kiss your Manolos goodbye (or at least put their soles to rest for a while), you’re in step with the pandemic times.
So says an article in The Washington Post last week about five changes market research analysts are seeing in how consumers are rethinking their spending on beauty products, clothing and shoes.
False eyelashes (yes, really) topped their list, with steadily increasing sales successive each week during the month of May. Game to try? Up to you. However, if you find them impossibly finicky to put on—the drugstore variety—or ridiculously expensive—the salon application, sales of mascara and eyebrow products grew, too, as consumers focused on emphasizing eyes, the only feature you can see above protective face coverings. Instead of trendy items, retailers expect us to return to basics, purchasing wardrobe evergreens like T-shirts and classic jeans. Analysts think athletic and casual attire will be the norm for back-to-office wear. While the conventional thinking is that hemlines go down during recessions, not this go-round. Shorter skirts and dresses are coming back. Mon dieu!
We can talk about those changes in the following weeks, but now let’s get back to shoes. High-heel sales have been wobbling for several years now, but in view of the virus atmosphere offering few excuses (no theater or concerts to attend, no fancy soirees, not a dinner party in sight) to don a dress and heels, sales are down even further. Sneakers are everywhere; there’s a style to suit everyone, and we’ve been wearing them with everything. During the few months we’ve spent sheltering in place, slipper sales have surged, particularly for cozy, fur-lined options. And, love ’em or hate ’em, Crocs are back. For now and the foreseeable future, comfortable footwear rules. But our advice is don’t ditch those high heels yet. Fashion is fickle—and cyclic. Just as hemlines rise and fall, you can bet those heels will have a comeback.
For the moment, though, some super-comfy styles to slip into:
All Birds are like the Prius of sneakers—a little clunky, but eco-friendly with renewable materials (eucalyptus tree fiber), a carbon-neutral footprint and are beloved by celebrities like Cindy Crawford and Jennifer Garner. We like the more streamlined look of these Tree Breezers ($95). They come in 15 different colors and color combinations. And they’re washable, too.
Everlane brags that you’ll want to walk in their Day Heel ($145) all damn day. The ballet-inspired silhouette, a two-inch block heel and an elasticized back combine comfort with style and ensure you’re steady on your feet. Available in leather in six colors and in suede in three.
NEAR RIGHT: Although Papillo’s Lana Sandal ($119.95, Nordstrom) is made by Birkenstock, offering the much-loved contoured cork footbed with arch support, this refined, strappy wedge sandal is the minimalist’s answer to the brand’s more orthopedic styles. FAR RIGHT: I admit it; I’m flummoxed by the appeal of the classic Croc clog, which pretty much dispenses with the line of the foot. The label’s new Lite-Ride™ Mary Jane ($54.99) looks a whole lot softer and flexible, and stretchy straps in front and back ensure they’ll stay on your feet.
Loafers may fall into the category of dress shoes for some, but for me, they’re a feel-good staple. About 10 years ago, I bought a pair of navy suede tasseled loafers at a Massimo Dutti store in Milan. I have yet to find a replacement I like as much, but this old-fashioned-looking Paul Green Becca Loafer ($355, Nordstrom) is in the running. I’m particularly partial to that sporty lugged sole. This is a pricey pair, yes, but I have proven that you can get miles of wear from a good-looking loafer.
Ugg’s Oh Yeah Slide ($100) may just be the pandemic’s quintessential footwear, combining slipper and sandal into a cozy statement shoe for indoors or out (it has a rubber outsole). What could be more comforting than your feet swaddled in soft sheepskin. Color choices include coral, mint, turquoise and sulfur yellow. I’m undecided about whether I’d wear these outside of the confines of my home. Worth a try combining with white jeans or a midi dress.
With plenty of room for toes to wiggle, these Ara Vivian pumps ($122.99, Zappos) with a block heel, cushy footbed and rubber outsole are a shoe-in for my closet. They look a lot like the much more expensive Arche shoes that are a favorite of some of my favorite New Yorkers. Black-suede pumps have always been the workhorse in my shoe stable, and these have a must-buy written all over them.
NEAR RIGHT: Thanks go to my savvy-shopper friend for alerting me to High-Everyday Couture, a design label that bills itself as having a “romantic and eclectic aesthetic” geared to “the seriously creative professional.” Despite that pompous-sounding description, I found some of the most imaginative, fun clothing I’ve seen in a long time on the site. For comfort and great style, it would be hard to beat this Radical High Tech Sneaker ($636), basically a pull-on sock in a textured knit with a wedge heel with a fit you can adjust with criss-cross cords pulled over the front. FAR RIGHT: My terrific Pilates instructor who’s quite knowledgeable when it comes to feet, gives the thumbs-up to Xero sneakers for their wide toe box that lets your toes spread, splay and function naturally. The brand’s HFS Lightweight Road Running Shoe ($109.99) only weighs about 6 ounces (per foot), enough to forget you have them on. The shoes come with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.