Is Patent Leather the Flashdance of our Time?

According to plenty of style blogs, patent leather is the rage for spring. Not exactly a new idea.

In Kim Johnson Gross and Jeff Stone’s 1998 book Chic Simple: What Should I Wear? Dressing for Occasions, the stylists name patent leather shoes as the go-to item for transitioning a winter wardrobe to warmer weather. So, that concept has survived at least a decade.

Longevity or no, it took me awhile to be convinced. Sure, I’ve worn shiny leather dress shoes before. They were black, low-heeled Mary Janes. I wore them with my polka-dot birthday party dress when I was six. And for the past three decades, patent (in my mind) has remained just that: A nod to little girl fancies that also include ankle socks, pink sashes and ponytail elastics with gum ball-sized beads.

But the thing about trends is that, if we see anything (excepting stirrup pants, of course) enough times, it starts to make sense.

“Flashdance” sweatshirts, Uggs, skinny jeans and yoga gauchos all found a niche in the shopper’s psyche.

In the same way, by the time I got around to checking out the Marc by Marc Jacobs Spring 08 collection, patent leather had found its way into my heart.

Suddenly, it seemed the perfect foil to all the au naturel espadrilles and overly casual flip-flops. Glossy sling-backs are ladylike the way rough-hewn leather sandals can never even aspire, while the none-too-serious shades of Kelly green and mustard yellow that accent Jacobs’ line save the demure styles from a preppier fate.

So, do these Crayola-inspired hues mean I can revert to polka-dot dresses and festooned hair bands? Possibly, though I’ll probably be tempering the irony with my favorite jeans. Still, I’m getting the feeling that a pair of these high-shine sling-backs peeking out from beneath a denim hem is the like the whole-foot equivalent of brightly colored toenail polish on the first warm day of the season.

In a word: Happy! And that’s a trend for which I don’t mind signing up.


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