I’ve developed a strong taste for wearing heeled shoes – not stilettos, but men’s boots with a distinct rise. Aside from adding a rock ’n’ roll edge to suits, they’re potent attitude boosts. It’s hard to avoid strutting in any heels over an inch; they throw your shoulders back and allow for a cheeky hip pivot. Even the gratifying knock-knock on the pavement adds a stirring frisson.
Designers are indulging in an array of heeled boots this season. For Saint Laurent’s spring collection, creative director Anthony Vaccarello referenced vintage Mick Jagger via sheer voile shirts, belted cotton tunics and lithe 4cm-heeled boots. Dunhill has also been experimenting with heels, pairing soft Italian calfskin boots with wide-leg tailored trousers – a styling trick straight from the book of Edward Sexton’s ’70s glory days, when he worked with Tommy Nutter cutting for the Stones and ex-Beatles. Other music icons are also informing designers’ boots: Christophe Lemaire was inspired by Nick Cave this season, resulting in clipped tailoring made distinct with long winklepickers.
“Heels for men is a trend that’s coming in many different guises,” says Thom Scherdel, senior menswear buyer at Browns. The London retailer has styles from the likes of Saint Laurent and Gucci, with some towering at almost 8cm. “There’s a new desire to channel the halcyon disco days of the ’70s,” he adds.
The most prevalent are cowboy styles, part of the general Western mood that’s been brewing over the past few seasons. Notable are Our Legacy’s simple, low-heeled boots with elasticated sides and Jimmy Choo’s Jesse style, which is inspired by a vintage Texan boot. “The modern cowboy shape offers men an additional silhouette to play with,” says Jimmy Choo creative director Sandra Choi. I have a silver pair that I wear with massive straight jeans in homage to David Bowie’s Jean Genie.
“We’ve stocked heeled boots from Maison Margiela and Gucci for several seasons now,” says Damien Paul, head of menswear at MatchesFashion. “These and Cuban heels are back as they’re in step with the blurring of gender boundaries.” Margiela’s cult cleft-toe Tabi boot with a block heel consistently sells out on MatchesFashion, along with other outré ideas by Ann Demeulemeester and Balenciaga, although the 12cm-heeled boots Galliano offered on Margiela’s s/s 2020 catwalk may prove a little too challenging for some.
Gender blurring is firmly on the menu, however, and heeled boots are an apparent bridge between the feminine and masculine. With his androgynous collections for Gucci, Alessandro Michele has long been championing this, harvesting references from rock ’n’ roll, east London club kids and royal court history. This season he offered stacked versions of the house’s ’70s snaffle loafers and patent boots with contrast panelling that evoked the stage personas of Prince and Little Richard.
Heels might be too much for many – so I’d suggest baby steps for new recruits. Low-heeled styles – such as Corthay’s Bella, effectively a cropped Chelsea boot, or Husbands’ Blake boot – can transform a black cocktail suit into something rather slinky. “We have many characters wearing our heeled boots,” says Barbanera co-founder Sergio Guardi, who has made Cuban heels his stock in trade. “Lapo Elkann teams our Cash boots with jeans and knitwear, while Kit Harington wears his with suits.”
Classic men’s style isn’t immune to this elevation either. “Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen more demand for higher heels,” says Tony Gaziano of Savile Row boot-making duo Gaziano & Girling. “Heels make a statement, giving the boot guts and serious styling.” Gaziano’s work is about refined lasts, exquisite patinas and traditional construction, as seen on the lithe elegant Chelsea or handsome Wigmore boots – which are both superb with tailoring.
I’d put my money on the trend staying around. On an instinctive level, these boots look and feel great on – I’ve got a pair of almost-8cm Gucci patent boots intended for black tie that have crept into party looks with jeans. They may raise eyebrows down the local pub, but the real challenge is making a run for the 38 bus.