Why Not Try a Cork Wedge This Summer?

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This past week, I received an alert on The RealReal for Just Cavalli. (Yes, I get notifications for Just Cavalli.) I browsed through the options and behold: an incredibly noughties pair of wedges. The sole boasted a trippy print of seashells and flowers, and the straps were optic white and stamped with a metal “JC” toward the front. The cherry on the top was the four-inch cork wedge, emblazoned with a psychedelic “Just Cavalli” on the side. I imagined a glamorous-yet-casual Jennifer Lopez strutting around in them circa 2002. (She indeed wore cork wedges during the filming of the music video “I’m Gonna Be Alright.”) I hadn’t logged on to The RealReal intending to buy these shoes of all things, but before I pressed buy, I thought, Why not? Why not a glorious shoe crafted from the phellem layer of tree-bark tissue? No more vertiginous stilettos! Bye, stubby kitten heels! I’ll scrap the flat, earthy sandal too! This summer I want stable and unapologetic height. I want to stand three, four, maybe five inches taller and not tremble. Give me a fat-bottomed heel; I need a tree trunk on my foot. And just like that those Just Cavalli sandals, in all of their early-aughts glory, were mine.

I don’t necessarily know when these shoes fell out of fashion. I remember them being a favorite of Snooki on The Jersey Shore, who traipsed—and probably tripped—around the boardwalk in them. My colleague Christian Allaire told me that the protractor-shaped shoe reminded him simply of Miami. They have some posh links too. According to Vogue’s Sarah Spellings, Kate Middleton is a fan of the style and also valiantly plays sports in them.

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A weird assortment of associations, sure. Yet, I can’t stop singing their praises. After all, the wedge’s triangle shape is the most stable heel and has truly stood the test of time. In the March 1993 issue of Vogue, there is a fabulous article about the greatness of wedges curated by none other than the dame of accessories, Candy Pratts Price. She explains that the style dates back to ancient Greece, when actors would wear them to subtly gain a few more inches. Centuries later, Salvatore Ferragamo outfitted the soles of golden-age Hollywood in them. Fun fact: The divisive cork material entered the world of footwear in World War II as it was inexpensive—and easy to use—during a time of rations.

Price’s assortment is fantastic, including a tall and strong pair with a lipstick red strap by Diego Della Valle and Chanel powder pink shoes formed from stacked, curvaceous slices of cork. In the December 2005 issue, there is a fun image of models Caroline Trentini and Julia Stegner backstage at the spring 2006 Donna Karan show—a collection of classic uptown skirts and capris—kicking their long limbs up in pairs of basic cork wedges. Truly chic, truly versatile!

Love it or hate it—though you should love it—the cork wedge is timeless and dependable. They are made to lift you up and are full of buoyant, stylish flair. Wear them with something equally Y2K, or opt for something more pared back and contemporary. They are the chic life raft for any outfit.

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