Flatforms: Shoes with a forefoot platform equal in height to the heel, resulting in a high but flat (or nearly flat) walking surface. The word is cobbled together from “flat” and “platform.”
A variety of flatform styles, from wedge-like to heeled to WTF1. Image via RetroThreadz.
Style blogger Tracey Lomrantz gushed about flatforms in Glamour last September:
The way I see it, this love child hybrid between a flat and a platform is a win-win: You get the added inches (and confidence!) that high heels give you, but without the agony of balancing on glorified toothpicks for hours on end. And their shape is insanely refreshing to look at after season upon season of “towering torture chambers.” Then again, I'm partial to plenty of man-repelling fashion, and I'm pretty sure these fall squarely in that category, so I could just be blind to the fugliness incarnate that is the flatform.
Phong Luu, writing in The Telegraph (UK), noted that flatforms “have been dubbed the shoe of 2011” and gave the style “a bonus gold star” for “referencing and rendering the obscure chopine, a towering platform shoe worn by courtesans in Europe in the 15th century, in a more wearable form (necessary elevation for all those maxi lengths).”
Bonus word of the week: chopine. The Fashion Encyclopedia calls chopines “the first fashion fad” and provides some historical context:
Chopines were not an Italian invention. The shoes signaled the establishment of trade between Venetian merchants and the Near East, or southwest Asia. Although the true origins of chopines is not known, the tall clogs Turkish women wore in bathhouses or the pedestal shoes worn by actors on Greek stages in early history may have been the inspiration for chopines. Chopines were used by the Manchus (people native to Manchuria who ruled China from 1644 to 1912) in China in the mid-1600s as a less painful alternative to the deforming effects of foot binding that had been practiced since the tenth century. … The pedestals of Chinese chopines were much slimmer than those developed in Venice, offering women a footprint similar to that of bound feet and giving them the same difficulty walking.
Italian Renaissance chopines. Image from the Bata Shoe Museum.2
One final comment about flatforms from the Telegraph’s Phong Luu:
[T]hey really are quite ugly, the Quasimodos of footwear, if you will. Elegant these ain’t. Tellingly, celebrities have yet to be papped3 in them, despite having first dibs on the freshest looks off the runway before us plebs (flatforms were shown last October)…
2 The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto is on my places-to-see-before-I-die list.
3 Second bonus word of the week! “To pap” is a new-to-me verb as of this writing, but it’s been in circulation in the UK sphere of influence for at least 20 years, according to Double-Tongued Dictionary. It means “to photograph, as by a member of the paparazzi.” Also an adjective, as in “pap snaps.” See You Got Papped, from Brighton, England.