Let’s talk shoes.
The Birkenstock: a shoe that over the past decade has transitioned from a deprecatory label for liberals, to natural birth control, to the fashion world’s runway “it” shoe.
Somewhere in between it was adopted by midwesterners as the sandal everybody sported at their lake house or “up north” trip. They were nowhere near a fashion trend, and Anna Wintour was likely as fond of them as she would be of a change in haircut.
But from stepping on the lakeside, they went to strutting on runways, blowing up the #ootd (outfits of the day) Instagram posts of fashion’s elite and selling out stores.
The Ugg boot went through the same trend, although it has almost come full circle. My aunt and uncle each have a pair from “before they were cool,” as they put it. Not too long ago, they were the “must-have” shoe and hit the mainstream harder than the Birkenstock. Now, however, they are the go-to lazy shoe, seen mostly during finals week and meant more for pairing with sweatpants and an all-nighter rather than your favorite top.
Some shoes go beyond “trend” status and become icons. Christian Loubouton’s red-soled shoes are so famous that Yves Saint Laurent, upon attempting their own colored sole, was faced with a lawsuit.
The unusual Alexander McQueen “claw” shoes that Lady Gaga wore in her “Bad Romance” music video (and to runway shows) have reached icon status as well. Although the performer has sported many “experimental” or even edible outfits, the bedazzled outfit that included those shoes creates her most memorable silhouette. The fashion house might not have Loubouton’s iconic status yet, but the shoes certainly do.
Madison’s fashion scene is much like the enigmatic world of shoes. There is a little something for everyone, whether it’s those who have worn Birkenstocks for years or those who have a McQueen “claw” shoe in their closet.
For the hardcore design-minded, there is the TADs (textile and apparel design) program that allows seniors the chance to attend Fashion Institute of Technology. Moda Magazine is the fashion and lifestyle publication on campus, which conducts photo shoots and publishes musings on both the cerebral and the effervescent sides of the fashion world.
Social media enthusiasts can participate through College Fashionista, a student street-style blog with representation on many campuses including the University of Wisconsin. Madison boutiques such as Bop, Twigs, Context and Iona provide outlets for those with hangers to fill, and there are many opportunities to see runway-style shoes throughout the year.
Madison’s many outlets make it easy to get involved in fashion as little — or as much — as students like. Think of it this way: you are as likely to see Birkenstocks worn for the traditional reasons as you are for the “trendy” reasons. There are no rules in Madison fashion; just be open to learning, changing and exploring it as you will do in all of your college endeavors.
That is a lie — there is one rule. Buy a parka, even if it doesn’t match your shoes.