A HISTORY OF OUR FAVORITE CAMEL TOE

vor 4 Monaten
Created in 1988, Maison Margiela’s Tabi boots are one of the most iconic items of not just the Belgian fashion house, but of all shoes, period.

Originally an ankle boot with a hoof-like separated toe, these shoes have been designed in a tremendous array of shapes and materials over the years, ranging from knee high boots to sneakers. Contrary to many western consumer’s thoughts of its avant grade, new age design, these shoes actually have ancient roots, dating back to 15th century Japan. A separated toe was put to use by construction workers as a supplementary hand, helping them hold onto ladders while working. These Jika-tabi were usually made out of cotton or a very flexible leather, and they had a very thin sole, allowing its wearer closer contact to the ground. Later on, they become useful for athletes, especially popularised for those practicing martial arts.
Martin Margiela took inspiration from this ancestral object and adapted it into a fashion statement, adding block heels. It quickly became one of his signature pieces. He debuted the Tabi boots during his first fashion show in Spring/Summer 1988, by putting red paint on the soles. The models left red iconic footprints down the papered runway. The Tabi quickly became one of the most iconic creations from within Maison Margiela, and were rethought and restructured by John Galliano, Margiela’s new artistic director as of 2014.

Margiela’s Tabis now exist in various forms and can fit many different styles and characters, from Parisian chic to Korean grunge. The structural design is quite minimalistic yet still anatomical and draws many devotees to its shape. The shoe is mostly either loved or hated, with not much middle ground. More than a garment, those boots have become a long-lasting object of successful design. The notion of community is important in this case: fanbases focusing solely on the Tabi are growing, and many fashion lovers and mavens have begun collecting them. In a world of fast fashion and quick trends, this phenomenon is rare. And while such devoted followings do appear in the fashion realm, such as the case with the Hermes Birkin bag, the adored pieces are fairly specific to niche communities and status. With the Tabi boots, they shift away from being a product and standing on their own as an artwork, with collectors ranging in ages, style, and tax bracket. Instagram influencers such as @fengfan_x jumped on the hype and almost dedicated their content around this slipped toe boot.

Many designers have made their attempts to reinterpret the Tabi: Nike has nodded to its performance potential, and Demna Gvasalia from Vetements even had the audacity to try knocking it off completely. But Maison Margiela will forever be synonymous with this design, and forever will be our favorite, most fashionable camel toe.

Text by Marien Brandon
Images Courtesy of @margieltab1

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