Last call: Those leather gladiator sandals you purchased on a whim last spring are still acceptable—as long as you don't mind knowing you've got on the latest "it" warm-weather footwear. (Or risking wearing the same thing as a dozen other girls, wherever you may be.)
At first glance, the calf-hugging sandals are a little daunting. Maybe even campy. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the sky-high, cage-like, knee-reaching versions—unless you've got some serious Giselle legs, gals of a more normal height should probably opt for the less intrusive ankle-length variants scattered throughout the malls.
Flat sandals were ripe for a comeback when the hippie/Laurel Canyon/'70s thing was the look of choice for the young crowd, as well as when the flowy maxi-length (I can't be the only one who thinks of Kotex when I hear this term, right?) dress chose to stick around. And, of course, it also helped when major fashion houses such as Dries Van Noten, Balenciaga and Givenchy included gladiator sandals in their spring 2008 shows.
Most people's initial reactions to the footwear—including mine—were looks of revulsion and confusion. Last spring, Marc by Marc Jacobs had a jelly version, with a minimal amount of straps and zero embellishments, in a rainbow of colors. I hated them, and it seems the majority of America agreed: I saw them in discount outlets like DSW not too long afterward.
This year? Well, I find myself lusting after a similar pair, after tiring of the too minimal flat T-strap sandals that have recently stormed our stores. I know. I'm ashamed of myself, too.
Lanvin has a serious pair I'd trade in my firstborn for: a snakeskin bronze style with three simple straps. Luckily, my nonexistent kid has nothing to worry about—Dolce Vita, which reliably offers affordable versions of high-fashion designs at highstreet prices, has an eerily similar version for $87.
There are no real tips for wearing gladiator flats—they go with everything from teeny denim cutoffs to sundresses and rompers, though it's best to avoid the earth-tone varieties. In fact, it's probably a good idea to avoid any sandals that do more than give a nod to the actual ancient Roman footwear—this means tassels, medallions and, yes, even studs. (Unless they're the heavily studded ones from Balenciaga's SS07 collection. Then it's okay. Balenciaga? Always okay.) I'd say an unadorned pair would be the safest bet—though I've seen more than a few pairs that require a rather fearless sense toward fashion—but sometimes safest isn't the most fun, either.
But here's what it truly comes down to now: If Lauren Conrad, Heidi Montag, or any of those The Hills via Laguna Beach non-celebrity celebrities are wearing it (or, the way things are harrowingly going these days, designed it), it's time to reconsider.