Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Word (or a few hundred) About Ankle Straps

Ankle strap shoes are perhaps the most maligned footwear of the 21st century, with the possible exception of plastic clogs. Ask anyone from a powerful fashion editor to the line cook at IHOP, and you’ll hear similar sentiments: "Ankle straps are evil!" "Ankle straps make your legs look fat!" "Ankle straps were the second shooter on the grassy knoll!"

I've been seeing tons of supercute ankle strap shoes in stores lately, and I've just gotta say: I think they get a bad rap.

I think the
ankle strap is sort of like the really pretty, thin, tall girl in your high school class—sure, she’s intimidating, and standing next to her makes you look short and frumpy, but if you get to know her, she’s not that bad.

Here’s the thing: if you find a shoe you absolutely love, and it happens to have an ankle strap, I don’t think that should warrant an automatic re-shelve. Try it on. Does it make your leg look like a giant sausage stuffed into a too-small casing? Then you should probably put it back, but if not, or if only slightly, here are a few tips to help you rock those ankle straps:
  • Try tights. I know, I know, I always say this, but opaque tights, especially black ones, make legs look so long and lean that unflattering shoes hardly matter. Tights the same color as your shoes=legs for miles, ankle straps or not.
  • If you love the whole shoe except the ankle strap, wear them with slim pants that show everything but that damn strap.
  • The higher and thicker the heel, the longer and slimmer your legs look. This rule applies to all shoes, but it’s especially applicable when considering an ankle strap. There’s a much greater chance that a four-inch platform with an ankle strap will look fabulous on you than a flat shoe with an ankle strap.
  • Speaking of flats with ankle straps—the chances of these looking fabulous hovers at about 2%. I bought a pair of these about a year ago after I saw them on Nicole Richie (yes, I'm an idiot), and sweet mother of god, I had no idea my legs could do such an uncanny impression of...two giant sausages (I just seriously tried for ten minutes to think of a funnier, more creative analogy, but I've concluded that "giant sausage" is the best I can do right now). If you can rock 'em, rock 'em, but proceed with caution...
Shoe above: Via Spiga "Monique" Sandal, which would be SO freakin' cute with black tights in the winter, oh my GOD, $198,

Update: A creative and enterprising reader just sent me this brilliant chart with another, slightly more brutal idea for dealing with ankle straps:

Super cute, right?


Anonymous said...

Hilarious AND helpful!

Anonymous said...

Definitely good advice, and I'm so glad you're back! :)

echidna girl said...

Gorgeous shoes - think I can get away with wearing them to work ;-)? Perfect with a Betsey Johnson style outfit, though.

Just have to wait for the Nordstrom's shoe sale.

Arlynn said...

I have to say that I agree, I love to wear my super-high, ankle-strap heels with a great pencil skirt for work!

And I'm loving the tights idea... seriously, I'm picturing it now & I might have to put together a fab outfit tonight all around those tights & my ankle-strap heels : )


Arlynn from Fleur De-Licious

Marie said...

I LOVE those shoes!

WendyB said...

Ankle straps are sexy. People who are jealous of other people's sexy ankles are the ones who tell you not to wear them. It's part of their master plan to interfere with our sexiness. Don't fall for it.

Mladen said...

"The higher and thicker the heel, the longer and slimmer your legs look."

I disagree!!!

Forthwith I will meet you at high noon in downtown to settle the matter bring your best shooter.

Kelly said...

I think ankle straps are very tricky, and often only for people with very thin legs. My legs (all except for my thighs) are scrawny chicken legs. I figure, my ability to wear ankle straps is just God's little way of saying "sorry every pair of boots you try on puddle around your ankles because your legs are too bony to hold them up"

Anonymous said...

I have one pair of ankle strap flats that I bought entirely because of the color (shiny purple, hmm). You better believe they only get worn with pants that do NOT show the strap.

Anonymous said...

Have nothing against them on a flattering/unflattering level...they're just uncomfotable if they're the thin rubbish ones... I prefer chunky fat ones...

MizzJ said...

Thank you for this post! I agree that ankle straps get a bad wrap. Rules are meant to be broken people, especially in fashion, so straps must be evaluated on a case by case basis. Done right, ankle straps can make a plain ol' heel look elegant and demure.

Sara Darling said...

I think that ankle-strap=bad mumbo jumbo is just jealous crazy talk. I mean, on flats an ankle strap is a tad silly but on heels they look fantastic. I think some of those fashion-advising-expert people are just drunk on their own power.

I am built along rather grand lines and ankle straps look awesome on me. (And I'm not vain, there is plenty that looks distinctly unawesome on me.)

An ankle strap emphasizes a shapely ankle and I don't think it stumpifies the leg unless it is very wide -- considering that most ankle straps are less than half an inch wide, I've never found that to be enough to break up the line of the leg. Anything with a way wide strap or weird cuffy thing, is probably best avoided on it's own merits beyond just that it's unflattering. But I am old and un-hip.

Lisa said...

LOL I must be a fashion freak of nature then, because ankle straps on a heel are actually a major selling point for me! I like how they hold my feet in place and keep them from sliding forward and my toes from crunching together uncomfortably at the front of the shoe. Plus, any ballroom/salsa dancer will attest to the benefits of ankle straps in keeping shoes firmly on your feet when you're dancing. And I definitely like your ankle-straps with tights idea; I tried something similar with my T-strap shoes and black tights here.

Lopi said...

I've had that thought too a while ago... And I couldn't help but post about it:

As I mention, the ankle straps undo all the hard work the high heels do to elongate the calf. As for the flats, they are just plain unnecessary! So, I took the straps off and tied them together to make a kind of bracelet/belt thing.

Claire said...

I've always kinda liked the vintagey ankle-strap pump, but whenever I try some on, it's how weird the strap feels that gets me. I can never seem to get it adjusted comfortably. I'm sure it's all for the best, since the faux cankle is probably not a good look for me haha.

Anonymous said...

Wise words, Winona. All my ankle strap shoes are platforms and I rarely get sausage-leg-ophobia looking at my gams in them.

Katy said...

I never thought of ankle straps of being flattering or unflattering, to be frank, I almost never thought of them at all, though now I do think about it, you're right. Although these are might cute:

Emma said...

i just cant get behind straps.

amanda said...

I'm with you on this! Ankle straps get a majorly bad rap. I have soccer player calves, but super tiny ankles -- I kind of look like my feet should snap off in accordance with the laws of physics -- so ankle straps are weirdly ... not so much flattering as they make my legs look human.

Ankle straps on flats, though? That's just crazy talk.

Beth said...

I agree with Lisa! Straps = shoes not falling off of feet.

I had only sort of heard that they're considered to be bad, but the fact that a tight line around your leg makes it look fat hasn't stopped anybody from wearing leggings that don't reach to their UGGs, has it?

Oh, and as the tall skinny girl from high school, I must say that I was just as uncomfortable as you were, and I wasn't that bad! I would have even had you over for tea and baked goods. None of the boys liked me either, because I made them look short. (Of course, now my boyfriend just laughs about it and rocks the hell out of the fact that his girlfriend is almost a foot taller than him in heels... but we're not suffering from the disease called adolescence anymore. Our judgement has improved.)

Sorry this post got so long. But yeah! Ankle straps!

Kira Aderne said...

great blog and amazing sandals!
Very romantic!

a kiss for you girl!
thanks a lot for passing at my blog!!

la petite fashionista said...

i'm so intimidated by ankle straps, i'm a bit short and muscular! i love the how-to demo for alternative uses :D

Caroline said...

um...I like ankle straps. always have. even with my sausage legs.

Meghan and Lana said...

I just found your blog and I'm dying. It's so hilarious and wonderful. The romper post is gold. I also think same color shoes and tights is probably the best combination of anything I can think of right now.

Bex said...

Ankle straps are okay, as long as you don't strap the shoe on too tight, that's probably why the legs look like giant sausages!!

ninaribena said...

OMG, I'm still mourning the loss of the prettiest ankle strap shoes I had. The loop at the back of the heel broke, and before I could say "hey, I'm gonna get them fixed" my husband freakin' THREW THEM OUT!!! Honestly who would live with man, sniff.

Thomas said...

I think the problems start when the ankle strap gets too wide. Charlie thinks I'm a hater.

pretty said...

The issue comes in with strappy 90s looking shoes, where it's not about JUST an ankle strap but all the other toe straps too.

Reena Rai said...

Hilarious! On a serious note, I'm a fan of the ankle strap. They stop my shoes from falling off and me from falling flat on my face. Obviously there's usually alcohol involved in that little story...

Elise said...

I was afraid of the ankle strap too! And this is what jolted me to reality:

Imagine if you will, you're cruising through the movie channels on a cold afternoon, nestled into your lambie blanket because it's oh so cozy and as you're surfing you stop on a channel with these amazing legs. You stop. Those are cute shoes! Silver peep toe ankle strap shoes!

The camera pans up...Those are hot legs! I like the black tights in those silver peep toe ankle strap shoes! They look AMAZING!? What movie is this?

And then you hear it...the piano, the camera continues to pan, it can't be...IT IS! Then, the song feel've been drooling over these fantastic legs...and they're Nathan Lane's. Yes, you've found The Birdcage.

And that my friends is when I realized that ankle straps make ANYONE'S legs look hot, even Nathan Lane's.

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