Free Associations: The Flatform Shoe

It's one part platform, one part flat: Here, we bring you a condensed history of the shoe style that will soon stampede Manhattan, from geisha girls to glam rockers,

11 photos
Creatures of Comfort
The "flatform," a platform shoe with a relatively flat pitch, may be the newest word in accessories this season, but a closer look reveals this style has been stepping through the ages. Here, a condensed history, from geisha girls to glam rockers.n(at left, women pose as Japanese maiko, or apprentice geisha; at right models pose in Prada's Spring 2011 flatforms)
The cultural tradition of the female Japanese entertainers known as geisha dates back to the 18th century, with costumes that include kimonos, obi belts, and yes, flatforms. Above, a few examples of traditional Japanese-style geta (with two "teeth" below the platform) and okobo (with a single wooden wedge.)
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Geishas weren't the only entertainers to adopt the flatform. Throughout the last few decades, men like the funkadelic Bootsy Collins, glam-rocking David Bowie, and Kiss' Gene Simmons (pictured above) have used the shoes to elevate their style onstage.
In the late 1990s, wedge-heeled flip-flops like the Rocket Dogs pictured above anchored many an outfit with tight black capri pants on the New York City streets.
Jenni Avins
Pierre Hardy designed a much more flattering version for the Gap in 2008. (Above, one of our own well-loved pairs.) We love the natural-colored leather and wood combination, which works well with bare legs or stockings.
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... Much like this highly wearable pair from Michael Kors -- one of many flatforms that walked the Spring 2011 runways.
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Across the pond, not even Karl was immune to the Spring 2011 flatform fever. Here, Chanel's version integrates tweedy textured wedges with baroque swirls.
But they're not just for the runways. Joanna Drescher, the retail director of directional Brooklyn boutique Bird, says she'll be stocking several versions this spring, including the Alexander Wang version pictured above. She says customers are happy to have the extra height, especially with this season's longer trousers, skirts, and dresses.$625 at Bird
We'd be content to clomp around in this Robert Clergerie pair all summer long. $545 at Creatures of Comfort
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If Vena Cava's show was any indication, we'll be wearing our flatforms next season too -- here, a pile of pairs wait to walk the runway at Fall 2011 Fashion Week.
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