The title of this post refers to Mad Men and sandals, not Mad Men and the “gladiators in suits” populating Scandal. I admit that I have only seen one episode of Scandal, but I’ll have time to catch up now that MrB and I have gotten 72 episodes of Mad Men out of the way. We were so woefully behind that we had to spend the two weeks watching seasons 2 through 7A to be ready for last night’s final season premiere.
We averaged a little more than five episodes of Mad Men a night, causing me to have many Mad Men-related dreams, some of which were Bert-Cooper-singing pleasant while others were falling-from-a-building disturbing. During my waking hours, I developed an intense appreciation for the work of costume designer Janie Bryant. I definitely want to go to the Museum of the Moving Image to see the clothes in person. I’m sure the gladiator sandals I spotted in season 6, episode 10 won’t be there because they weren’t worn by anyone important, but at least I got a picture of them on-screen.
Mad Men‘s sixth season took place between December 1967 and November 1968, which was exactly the right time for knee-high gladiators. A famous photo of beautiful, doomed socialite Talith Getty wearing a pair was taken in June 1968.
I’ve had a passion for gladiator sandals since the mid-’80s.
I was thrilled when gladiators had a big moment in 2008 — the Los Angeles Times called them “ubiquitous.” The trend was propelled by celebrities wearing the ornate versions from Balenciaga’s Spring 2008 collection. Chanel actually did it earlier, prominently featuring a more traditional-looking, flat, knee-high gladiator in the 2007 Cruise collection shown in 2006. Mary-Kate Olsen was wearing the Chanel style in 2008, but the more outrageous Balenciaga sandal stood out more, both in its low and knee-high versions. Of course, ultra-fashion-forward Rihanna wore the latter style.
The knee-highs came in for a lot of criticism. The Fashion Police blog (not related to the E! Fashion Police show) asked, “High leg gladiator sandals: still ugly?” and answered in the affirmative. “Seriously ladies, stop wearing gladiator sandals,” begged the Audioshocker blog.
Even the ankle-high gladiator trend died down all too soon for my taste. But the style re-emerged in 2013. It was going even stronger last year, with celebs flocking to a flat Stuart Weitzman style that goes for about $400. I pined for those, but they had to be special ordered and I was worried about fit. I was happy to find less-expensive, ready-to-wear sandals while visiting Athens last summer. I was literally knee-deep in sandals there, though I suppose that sandals purchased in Greece should be called “Grecian” rather than the Roman “gladiator.”
You know I love a shoe style when I’m willing to wear a flat version!
I predict that gladiators will even more popular this summer. It’s always an indicator when Bergdorf Goodman devotes a section of its website to a specific trend. But Bergdorf’s 36 styles are blown away by Saks, which has 126 options. The look is also available at all pricepoints, with plenty of sandals below $100.
All the stores are offering both high and low sandals, but I’m convinced the knee-high style is going to rule, and that last year was just a start. Last summer, I wondered why the high style was so much more popular than it was in 2008, and finally decided that uglier sandals — like Birkenstocks — had gotten fashionable makeovers, so why not gladiators? Plus, people had already been exposed to the high gladiator sandal in 2008. I think it’s an unusually slow-moving case of my “Never Is the Next New Thing™” motto: The styles that are most hated at first — the ones that make people say, “Never!” — are the ones that are hottest once our eyes adjust. We’ve adjusted!