Single-sole: Descriptive of a shoe style without a platform sole. Usually seen as a modifier for pumps or heels.
“Single-sole” is a retronym: a “throwback-compound” that differentiates the original form of a word from a more recent version. (In a 2007 New York Times columnabout retronyms, the late language maven William Safire attributed the coinage of “retronym” to Frank Mankiewicz, then president of NPR, in 1980. Safire’s examples included skirt suit, land line, and analog watch; he didn’t live long enough to see the rise of single-sole pump.)
I’m a little late to the party on this one: my first encounter with “single-sole” was in an email sent last Thursday from the flash-sale site Gilt:
In fact, though, “single-sole” has been showing up steadily for almost three years—a reaction, perhaps inevitable, to the dominance of platform soles in women’s footwear for about a decade. (Platform shoes’ previous heydays were the 1940s and 1980s.) In February 2012, the trade publication WWD reported on high-end designer Manolo Blahnik’s Fall 2012 “collab” with mid-market retailer J. Crew: “For the show, J.Crew chose to reimagine the single-sole pointy-toe pump in 41 different ways, with glitter, suede and a variety of colorful fabrications culled from its apparel line.”
Blahnik has continued to beat the single-sole drum. “I only make single-sole shoes,” he told Vogue.com in January 2013. “They transform the way a woman walks: in heavy platforms like truck drivers, in my shoes like ballerinas.”
Also in January 2013, the luxury retail site Net-A-Porter “loved” single-sole pumps:
“Time to abandon the platform shoe,” fashion correspondent Misty White Sidell declared in The Daily Beast in June 2013. Her rallying cry was more wishful than prophetic; Sidell acknowledged that beauty-pageant culture has played an outsize role in platforms’ continuing popularity. Despite some retailers’ attempts to make “single-sole” a trend, Fall 2014 fashion forecasts were still full of platform styles (see Glamour and Lucky, for example, both of which featured some ultra-clunky flatform styles).
Like most fashion trends, “single-sole” isn’t as novel as it first seems. I found a citation in an article published in the New York Times on October 25, 1952, under the headline “10,000 Expected at Shoe Exhibit”:
“The platform shoe is very popular but the single sole type is cutting in on the demand. The consumer wants single-soled shoes, Mr. Keane said, because it [sic] affords a sheet of foam rubber or other material which supplies a soft layer to walk on.”
Plus ça change, plus c’est les mêmes shoes.
Related #1: A Wikipedia list of retronyms (including Coca-Cola Classic, conventional oven, and analog recording).
Related #2: My August 2013 Visual Thesaurus column on the use of “classic” in retronym formation. (No longer paywalled.)
Related #3: My June 2013 post on creepers.
Also of interest, retronym-wise: “It’s not a digital book or an e-book, it’s a bookbook™.” - IKEA