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Do Square-Toed Shoes Have Staying Power?

Square-toed sandals rejoined the style lexicon this spring season, and while most fads prove to be fleeting, this trend appears to have struck a chord with women of all ages.

According to brands at the FN Platform trade show in Las Vegas last week, square toes are here for the long haul. The style will continue on into Spring 2020—and likely beyond.

“There are a lot of options for the square toe, and I really do think it’s here to stay,” said Jennifer Foy, vice president of sales for Marc Fisher. “It came from retro styles; the time period was around the ‘80s when we last saw a lot of the shape.”

Now, Foy said, brands are experimenting with variations of the square toe on all types of shoe styles. “Whether it’s a flat sandal or a boot, brands are playing around with proportions—how square the toe is, how wide it is.”

The shape, Foy said, has come back into play because “it really does flatter the foot, and it’s easy to wear.”

Plus, she said, the market has been saturated with pointed toes for a long time, and it’s natural that trends have swung back around to something different. “I don’t think she wants [her shoe] to be so narrow anymore,” she added of the female consumer.

The square toe’s modern iteration emerged first in the designer market, and it resonated there, Foy noted. Marc Fisher shoppers can expect to see the trend appear “more and more” throughout the brand’s upcoming collections.

The trend is an evolution away from the casual styling that has dominated footwear for years. “In our line, it does feel a little dressier,” Foy said. “She does want to go a little cleaner and more tailored now, I think.”

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The square toe provides a point of difference in “very sophisticated, modern way,” agreed Harel Waldman, founder of Wal & Pai, a small boutique brand specializing in handcrafted leather styles. “It’s for someone who likes to be unique, but without shouting about it,” he explained.

Waldman has been designing square-toed styles for three years now, and he’s glad the trend is stealing the spotlight. “I think it’s very flattering; the way it holds the foot is comfortable and natural,” he said.

He also believes the look has lasting appeal, because it’s accessible to everyone.

“I have customers who are 20 years old and those who are 90 years old,” Waldman said. “I don’t want my designs to be something where you say ‘I love it, but I wouldn’t wear it.’”

Waldman pulls inspiration for his styles from architecture and industrial design. “My shoes are structured; I almost look at them like mid-century furniture,” he said, pointing out small details, like biased cuts and beveled edges.

“That’s the way I build the shoes, and there’s a reason for everything in design. I like things very clean cut, bold and graphic,” Waldman said.

Boldness is what has shoppers excited about the style, according to Cindy Traub, creative director for Rebels Footwear. Of square-toed styles, she said, “They’re fresh and fun, and in this stale marketplace, everybody is looking for fresh.”

Of course, she also acknowledged that the style pulls inspiration from a bygone era. “Everything comes back around, and it’s all how you interpret it,” Traub claimed.

The square-toed style’s clean, architectural lines, as well as its ‘80s influence, make it “very culturally relevant,” she added. The shape will complement next spring’s apparel, which promises to be a retrospective of the era’s hottest looks.

“You’re seeing a little bit of it now, but I think it’s going to progress into a bigger share of the market,” Traub said. “We’re already working on our next two collections, and square toes are being represented there.”

Still, replacing the ubiquitous round-toe as footwear’s reigning silhouette would be a hard sell, she said, with industry folks betting on more conservative, basic styles.

“But I do think that as far as forward fashion and freshness is concerned, it will stick around for several seasons,” she said.