The Essentials Series : The Single-Sole Pump

The Essentials Series brings you quick tips that you can apply to your weardrobe immediately. No long prose here and not the usual info you might find on the first page of a Google search. You're going to want to copy and paste this.

The chicest shoe you can own is also the most versatile and, in the right style, practical. Want to cop the French Girl's "effortless" style - gotta have this shoe. Want to correct your posture and elongate your leg - it's this one. Want to elevate any ensemble with some totally appropriate sex appeal - yep - it's the single-sole pump.

Back in 2013, I wrote a piece for a now-defunct fashion site entitled The Rise of the Single Sole Pump which you can read below if you're interested in fashion history. I am a research nerd and collected enough information to fill a book so here are a few quotes and bits that didn't make the article:

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From the pages of Vogue

Never Underestimate the Power of Restrained Sex Appeal
According to Bruno Frisoni, who designs his own line in addition to being the creative director of Roger Vivier, “There is something animal in the [single-sole] look—you feel the curve of the foot.” Bay states frankly that “men really don’t like platforms—they find them totally unsexy. For them, even a kitten heel would be better,” while Choi believes the hottest look to be a thinner sole combined with a great high heel, which throws the arch of the foot outward. She urges courage: “Don’t give in just because you miss the height and comfort!”

Consult the Historical Record
Frisoni reminds us that more slender shoes can make you look like a cinematic heroine: “If you consider the stiletto,” he says, “it’s the perfect proportion. I think it makes you even more feminine, as in the fifties and sixties—Tippi Hedren with a wide, knee-length coat and a stiletto.”

....And from the lips of the King of Stilettos, Manolo Blahnik.... 

“I only make single-sole shoes,” declares Manolo Blahnik. “They transform the way a woman walks: in heavy platforms like truck drivers, in my shoes like ballerinas.”

<<Photo from Aldo, one of my favorite spots for stiletto pumps or...anything!


For those of you who like a short-read (like me!) here are The Three Pumps Every Lady Ought to Own:

1. The Neutrals - one pair in black and one in a nude. Personally, I own two pair of black - one with an ankle strap and one with black spiky studs on it (pictured above) and my nude pair are actually a very pale pink in suede. I have some sort of hang up with wearing anything plain! I should probably take a walk and think about that - ha! But my recommendation is to find a pair that fits beautifully in your natural arch while pushing it out for that slope-y silhouette, with a low vamp, pointed toe (ALWAYS) and the highest heel you are comfortable in but preferably 3" Remember - these should be shoes you can wear almost anywhere so they can't have a short time limit (you know, the amount of time you can be standing and/or walking around in them before you're running into CVS to buy flip flops) But a heel height of 3" is sure to elongate your leg and help your posture so aim for that. Then start wearing them with everything - jeans, shorts, dresses, to the mall, to pick up the kids, to the grocery store. Taking these shoes out of the office or the nightclub = instant chic.

2. The Block Heel - you'll find that this style is a little more comfortable to wear (as noted in my article below and called a stocky heel at the time) but it is also having a moment in fashion. Even if you go with an all-black in this style, please keep a stiletto version on hand as the block heel will not read classic but trendy. 

3. The Special - it's great to have at least one pair with an interesting detail to take a basic outfit up a notch - satin ankle strap that wraps up the leg, an ornate heel, a floral pattern, a peep-toe. Play with it, go out of your comfort zone but keep your outfit totally within your usual preferences. Beware of patterns that might make you look like you're heading to an 80s Prom....unless you are, of course. 

R E P R I N T : The Rise of the Single-Sole Heel

One of the biggest shoe trends of Spring/Summer 2013 is the rise of the single-sole heel for daily wear. The last decade brought us the platform pump - the high-heeled power shoe with the thick slab of platform at the toe but, typically, a stiletto heel at the back. There have been many iterations from pumps to boots as the trend slipped into nearly every area of footwear. It seemed like a blessing from on high: trendy but available in classic colors and silhouettes, kicky yet comfortable. Victoria Beckham practically sponsored the trend, embracing the height boost they gave her small frame into her classic wardrobe with minimalist flare and stunning women everywhere as she carried her young boys to and fro with the grace of a gazelle. 


But as the reign of the platform wore on, that chunk of height at the toe became more and more impractical, forcing women to tromp around with no real hope of delicacy. They soon entered comical proportions as the heel height soared and the platform stacked until women like Lady Gaga and even trendy-classy Kim Kardashion, who practically founded ShoeDazzle on the silhouette, began to look more like they were channeling a sexy Minnie Mouse or a modern Betty Boop. Designers like Brian Atwood created styles like the Alesha Sass which boasted a 6.5" heel and 2.75" platform while Olcay Gulson of SuperTrash and Charlotte Dellal of Charlotte Olympia create shoes as high as 7" with their signature separated platform.


Perhaps in retaliation, the single-sole pump has returned. It was all over the catwalk during SS13 fashion week - Burbery Prorsum showed them with a wedge heel; Alexander Wang showed them in stack-heeled sandals with a strap that went up to the knee. Major street-style icons have been seen strutting effortlessly in them like Victoria's Secret model Miranda Kerr and fashion director-at-large for Vogue Japan, Anna Dello Russo. It's safe to say that thin is in.


But was it ever out? Manolo Blahnik would argue an emphatic no! He has never designed a platform heel, regardless of the monster trend. He recently told Vogue: “I only make single-sole shoes,” declares Manolo Blahnik. “They transform the way a woman walks: in heavy platforms like truck drivers, in my shoes like ballerinas.”


And, of course, when it comes to wedding shoes and evening wear, single-soles are everywhere. It's that daytime, running from A to B time, that women have preferred and/or gotten used to the platform. What a happy turn of events for the fashion set that form married function in that thick-toed shoe. And, it would seem, that many are none too excited about returning to the single-sole, which offers significantly less comfort for being on your feet for any extended amount of time, and heralds a return to carrying a pair of flats in their purse just in case their feet give out. Even with the foldable kind that come in a little drawstring bag, the idea is less than ideal.


So, who should we look to to guide us through this transition? Why, the French, bien sûr! In the Style Rethink section of's The Edit, British journalist Christa D'Souza deconstructed the enviable, effortless French fashion sense, a key element of which is the single-sole pump. They go for clean, elegant, modern, no matter the cost to their soles. "French girls don’t do uncomfortable and they definitely don’t do ‘victim’," D'Souza declared. And when you think of some of today's most inspiring French fashionistas - Carine Roitfeld, Charlotte Gainsburg, Emmanuelle Alt - you will certainly see a pointy-toed stiletto with barely half an inch separating it from the cold, hard street. 


We all know, of course, that trends and revivals of classic pieces come and go - poncho, anyone? - without being embraced by the masses. So the Big Question remains - will the every day woman, not just fashion magazine editors and the fashion voracious, slip on this style or will they cling to their clunky platforms for comfort's sake? Thankfully, there may be a middle ground: the stocky heel. The term stocky combines the descriptors stack and block and while it has been a favorite add-on to the slipper craze of 2012, it's showing up at higher altitudes for SS13. Carolina Herrera offered them in patterned sandals while Alice + Olivia showed theirs in orange with a rounded heel and Dolce and Gabban were ahead of the trend with velvet ankle strap pumps with a gilded midi block heel.


Considering the single-sole shoe has a slimming, elongating effect for the leg that platforms do not and can be worn so well with cropped pants, another hit of the SS13 season, you should definitely find a pair to include in your wardrobe. And since this is something of a comeback, you can experiment with the many exciting new designs - studded, buckled, neon, color blocked. Or, think long term and go for a black patent leather pair or a nude with a metallic-capped toed for something wearable with a trendy touch. You really can't go wrong with this timeless staple and if you miss the comfort of your platforms, don't worry - they're still on trend. 



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