Fashion Wants to Bring Back Square Toe Shoes. Are You Ready?

Python dress shoes, sweat pants, and white socks, Martine Rose is reimagining the role of the smart shoe.
IMAGE Martine Rose

Typically, shoes aren’t the first thing you notice at a fashion show. There are boxy shirts, billowing trousers, and nice jackets that tend to draw the eye, the oft-mentioned silhouette that is a designer’s calling card, but on a Martine Rose catwalk, it’s what the models have on their feet that catches immediate attention.

A signature Martine Rose shoe is square of toe, Cuban of heel, debossed with London place names or in faux python skin, an abstraction of a smart shoe put through a blender and mixed with 100 different references. There’s some Margiela and Slimane’s Saint Laurent, and also the dress shoes of the Zone 4 wide boy, the spit-polished uniform of wheeler dealers and ware peddlers up and down the capital. Rose’s footwear is hip, strange, but appealingly memorable. One pair might have the back lopped off, or the same done to the toe; the sole might be Pythagorean, all angles and hard edges, distended and creeping out from under the leather of the last. Something new recreated from the memory of a classic loafer or Oxford.

Photo by Martine Rose.

In her latest, hugely impressive, digital collection, What We Do All Day, a global collective of models, friends, and collaborators (Drake, Certified Lover Boy himself, makes a fun appearance towards the end) are shown in the spring/summer 2021 collection and again, it’s Rose's footwear that jumps out. A matching red tracksuit is worn with white athletic socks pulled up and paired with a massive pair of snakeskin dancing shoes. Rose's vision is English sportswear and playboy Juarez Sicario, flash and dangerous. Dress shoes are worn with socks pulled up high and short shorts, or Nineties polyester track pants and a smart shirt; black leather loafers with roomy blue jeans pooling at the ankles. These are home clothes, going out clothes, and retro clothes tied together with faux exotic leather on the feet.

Photo by Martine Rose.

Inspired by the ennui and insularity of the last year, models are filmed sloping, slouched, and drifting through apartments, living rooms, and harshly-lit bedrooms, the clatter of cutlery on plates and the buzz of a razor as it touches a scalp. There's Elsa in Nairobi, John in Los Angeles, and Drake in an empty studio, gleaming in a flawless tracksuit and, from my view at least, the only pair of trainers in the presentation (Rose does have an ongoing relationship with Nike to be fair).

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To make it big in fashion today, an independent designer needs a 'hero' item to carry the load. The Telfar bag, or Nicholas Daley's tartan workwear. While Rose, now 13 years into being one of the most interesting designers in menswear, was refracting and riffing on sport and athletic culture long before Vetements trolled into view, it's her maximalist take on the much-maligned square toe that has, in recent seasons, become a brand staple; a jeans and sheux uniform for the art school generation.

Photo by Martine Rose.
Photo by Martine Rose.

Maybe it's my having spent approximately eight thousand hours inside this week, or maybe it's the Martine Rose magic, but for some reason I can't stop thinking about a pair of red faux python leather dress shoes with a heel and square toe.

How strange.

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Finlay Renwick
Finlay Renwick is the Digital Editorial Assistant at
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