“The higher the heel the closer to God,” mused pop supernova, Dua Lipa, in the caption of her latest Instagram photo. The bona fide fashion starlet is still on her endless summer vacation, but her latest sun-drenched and skin-tight fashion post offers us a reprieve from her signature slinky resort wear and micro bikinis.
Perhaps in a subversive, Chloë Sevigny-esque way, Lipa has quelled her tried-and-tested silhouette and offered us something the club kids would’ve seen being doused in liquid on the dance floor at Tunnel or The Limelight.
We are, of course, referring to Marc Jacobs’ Kiki boots.
Weighing in with a 4” platform and 6.75″ inch heel—quite a lot of mileage, despite what the sealed section of teen magazines may tell you—the vertiginous silhouette is a walking piece of fashion currency.
Despite the pervasiveness of the style suggesting it’s a cult piece plucked from fashion’s archive, the Kiki boot first stepped out on the runway on Marc Jacobs’ Fall/Winter 2016 runway show. Of course, the hypersonic speed with which the style sells out and moves on the resale market would also suggest it’s an insider secret from Jacobs’ grunge days.
Yet, despite the shoe’s frivolity and zaniness, Lipa’s post has reminded us that pieces once held sacred by the ‘IYKYK’ fashion sect, are now becoming revered as status symbols in the mainstream.
In the years that followed Jacobs’ FW16 show, both the thigh-high and ankle-grazing variations began their saturation from the wardrobes of Parsons graduates, SSENSE stylists and indie darlings alike into the zeitgeist.
Now, no less than a decade later, the pieces are being packed into Lipa’s holiday wardrobe. They’re making their debut at the Met Gala on Kendall Jenner. They even have a front-row seat to the Renaissance Tour, showing up on the feet of Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter herself.
They’ve become so prolific that Marc Jacobs himself has even forgotten how many variations of the Victorian-esque boot he’s designed, writing in an Instagram caption of the legendary LA-based vintage boutique, Pechuga Vintage, how much he loved the colour of a distressed khaki green variant.
The fashion archivist, stylist and fashion encyclopaedia behind Pechuga, Johnny Valencia, argues that the shift from avant-garde pieces becoming a mainstream staple rather than a subculture phenomenon can be whittled down to a few reasons.
“The anti-trend, trend. Our embrace of chaos,” Valencia tells me over email from his L.A. office. “I’ve stated this in the past, I think that surrealism and dada have taken centre stage, we revel in the random and we glorify the cringe.”
“Think about what goes viral on our feeds. No one’s going to bat an eye at a homely penny loafer. That’s safe. We want conversation pieces, if the piece you’re wearing isn’t making a statement then what’s there to discuss, right?
“Kikis have transcended as a status symbol piece and have now, dare I say it, become a closet staple. Who doesn’t want the extra inches in height nowadays? Think about it. And cults are fun, we love a sense of community.”
Oftentimes these polarising styles fall into two categories: kitsch or camp. But unlike other viral gaudy styles, Valencia thinks Kikis pave their own path. Similar to how Maison Margiela Tabis (but these needn’t an introduction) have become synonymous with deconstruction and high-brow theoretical sartorialism, Jacobs’ boots are just a tool for empowerment.
“There’s just no denying the extra boost of confidence that a good platform gives you when you’re out and about. I personally benefit from a good heel, your legs are elongated, and you stand upright, like a good corset, a good pair of shoes is enough to change your whole attitude.”
Look at style savants like Nicola Peltz Beckham. Known more for her Y2K Posh and Becks cosplay street style than rebellious choices, the actress looked to the Kiki boots to reign her 28th Birthday in, pairing them with another ‘of the minute’ viral piece, Fanci Club’s sheer ruffled dress.
“I believe in wearing whatever you want,” Valencia said when I asked him if there is a difference between people who wear them to appreciate Jacobs’ subversive know-how versus people who wear them because they’re trying to get in on a slice of insider cool.
“To the girlies who have just started wearing them all I gotta say is: What took you so long? Beyoncé, we’re looking at you! Did you see her wearing the crystal Kikis during her Renaissance tour? I mean, what a moment.”
Valencia also adds that Pechuga is very anti-‘you can’t sit with us’. “We’re more in the mindset of ‘grab your Kikis and come join us!’”
“I asked Marc if he ever imagined the Kikis becoming the phenomenon that they are now and even he told me that he didn’t see that one coming. Personally, I think that the Kikis are a combination of right place, right time,” Valencia adds.
“Societally we’ve built this fascination with embodying dolls, I think the Kikis’ best attribute is the bloc heel, the boots give you this amazing Bratz-like proportion. Coupled with the varying colours and textiles the boots came in, I think the Kikis were destined to become a fan favourite due to their collectibility.
“Also, Marc’s social media presence gave the Kikis a boost, as a designer he’s so loved and seeing him wear the boots out and about only added to their charm.”
Of course, Valencia could be slightly biased, considering he did admit to me that the shoes stand to be one of his favourites of all time.
“I camped outside the Heaven store when Marc Jacobs announced that they would be selling their FW16 Kiki inventory. The lilac boots I got that morning would go on to appear on the Met Gala Red Carpet on Grimes, then Lalisa Manoban wore them when she released her first single “Lalisa” and literally broke the internet.
“I have a pair of black lurex Kiki boots that Adriana Lima wore (Adriana recognised the boots because she had walked the Marc Jacobs SS17 show where the lurex textile first debuted). Kali Uchis rode a mechanical bull wearing a pair of the Pechuga Kikis and Brazilian superstar Sabrina Sato stepped off an *actual* helicopter whilst wearing a pair of Kikis she purchased from Pechuga. You can’t make this up. Thank goodness we have the pics!”
This article first appeared on GRAZIA International.