Words by Amy De Klerk
The Noughties’ favourite is more popular than ever and, in an era that is championing timeless design, they couldn’t be better suited
There is a fairly well-accepted notion that fashion trends tend to come back around about every 20 years. And, since we spent the last decade absolutely obsessed with everything Nineties, and are currently seeing the unexpected return of low-rise jeans, cargo pants and maxi denim skirts, it is quite safe to say that we are about to go through the next 10 years revisiting our favourite trends from the 2000s. Therefore, it is not a huge surprise that ballet pumps are well and truly back on the high-fashion radar. First re-emerging in the spring/summer 2021 collections, the shoe has been seen everywhere for the past few seasons, from Dior and Chanel to Miu Miu, the latter of which created something of a cult item, which is currently being championed by the likes of Bella Hadid.
As one of the favourite footwear trends of the Noughties, the mere mention of the ballet pump might take your mind immediately to Kate Moss or Sienna Miller pairing their leather flats with spray-on skinny jeans or floaty boho skirts. Or, if you’re anything like me, it might bring to mind the seriously worn-out Topshop pumps you wore again and again (long after they should have been thrown away) during nights out at university.
This image may not have you racing to invest in another pair. However, unlike some of the questionable trends, like chokers, that have resurfaced over the past few years, I am here to convince you that the ballet pump is actually a fashion classic, a timeless shoe that should never fall out of fashion again and one that, in a new era that champions wear-forever staples, is something every woman should have in her wardrobe.
Although the ballet pump was undoubtedly wildly popular in the 2000s, the simple shoe’s place in fashion of course dates back much further than this to the 1950s, which is when the pump first took on a new life away from dance. In fact, most credit Rose Repetto’s designs for the introduction of the ballet flat into the fashion sphere. The footwear designer created a pair for Brigitte Bardot to wear in the movie And God Created Woman and later for Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, the combination of which launched the simple ballet pump into becoming an extremely popular style of shoe for women all over the world.
Since then, the ballet flat has fallen in and out of fashion, certainly having its moments of heightened popularity (like in the 2000s) but it is a trend that continues to re-emerge time and time again – one which isn’t really a trend at all, but a classic style that we always come back to.
“They are a great investment because they are a timeless style that never dates,” Cassie Smart, head of womenswear buying at Matches Fashion tells me. “You may wear them one year and not the next, but you will certainly always go back to them.”
They are a fashion staple – and Smart credits the simplicity and versatility of the design for their timelessness. “It works hard in your wardrobe,” she says. “It is a very flattering shape and can be styled with everything from denim to dresses at every length.”
Heather Gramston, head of womenswear buying at Browns, agrees: “The ballet pump is an enduring and timeless shape that you can never get bored of – it is practical yet chic and you can wear it day or night.”
And, there might be another reason that we are feeling particularly drawn to ballet pumps at the moment, and it comes down to the fact that they basically resemble a slipper. The resurgence of the style is in line with other footwear trends, many of which favour comfort, a trend we are seeing again and again since the pandemic began.
According to global fashion search engine Lyst, the most popular shoes of 2022 were all flat. Miu Miu’s ballet pump, Birkenstock’s Boston clog, Ugg’s Tasman slipper, Adidas’ Samba trainer and Gucci’s 1953 Horsebit loafer are the only shoes to have landed a place in Lyst’s top 10 hottest products for 2022, with no heels making the cut. This news very much suggests that shoppers are prioritising comfort over all else when it comes to their footwear, perhaps a habit picked up during lockdown where we opted for loungewear over dressing up.
Ready to give the ballet pump another chance?
This article originally appeared in harpersbazaar.com