In 2011, Beyoncé Knowles, accompanied by a cadre of shiny dancers in tank tops, bopped towards a microphone wearing a bejeweled hat, a leotard, fishnets, and an absolutely abysmal shoe: the Isabel Marant Bekett, a puffy-tongued, amorphous bloop of a sneaker, a wedge high-top thing that is objectively ugly. Because the shoe was on Beyoncé, it sold out. Everyone wanted what the shoe promised—to be tall, to be chic, to be dressed down but also up, and maybe, to be Beyoncé. They cost $600 and were inevitably knocked off by so many people that Marant said, quite Frenchly, to the Cut in 2014, “I think they have become quite far from my image...They have become something super-vulgar, so I’m not feeling like I want to be the wedge-sneaker designer.”
Perchance the joke is on Madame Marant, or more likely, on all of us, because the wedge sneaker of the 2010s is back. They are the same, but also they’re not—uglier, somehow, as if Marant doubled down on the hideousness from before, knowing full well that the more people chatter about how atrocious they are, the more people will want to buy them. If jolie laide was her goal, I must say, she did a great job.
Here are the new shoes, which are called the Balskee, cost $770, and are 2 inches higher than the original. They look very much like the original, in that they are hideous, but also look a bit like a Steve Madden knockoff? Like, maybe the Steve Madden knockoff is better than these.
I understand that my visceral reaction to the reintroduction of this shoe is merely the result of old age, as I recall these atrocities when they were first out in the wild, and am now reeling at their return, because it reminds me of my own mortality. I also would like to state that I owned a pair of Nike Dunk Sky Hi Essentials in black suede, purchased at a Buffalo Exchange in San Francisco in the late 2000s, and wore them a few times before realizing that a wedge sneaker was not quite the vibe I was attempting to communicate, and also, I like my feet flat on the ground.
But I will have to live with these shoes because I’m sure the children who were babes in arms when they were popular will find them and wear them in ways that will make me reconsider my previously-stated notion that these shoes are bad. Regardless of the shoe’s price point or the fact that they are, once more, objectively hideous, I suppose I can concede to a wedge sneaker’s utility. Maybe it’s nice to be tall but also appear athletic? Maybe this shoe is the shoe for a date that turns into an overnight that turns into a basketball activity the morning after. If those sorts of activities are on your docket for the summer, then Isabel Marant has solved the problem you didn’t know you had.