When it comes to creepers, there are no mixed feelings. They are strictly a love or hate proposition, even more so than many other emblems of subcultural cool. If you’re of a certain age and mindset, you probably have owned a pair — or several. You may even still own the originals, since — not unlike Johnny Rotten — they are literally indestructible. After the Teddy Boys, and then Malcolm McLaren, helped popularize the style to young subversive types everywhere, the flatform shoe became the footwear of choice for legions of punk kids looking for something slightly more contentiously designed than your standard issue Doc Martens. And like the latter, creepers are now undergoing a mainstream revival, permeating both the runways and street culture.
As is usually the case whenever a potentially dodgy style becomes hip, creepers’ high end comeback is credited to designer Miuccia Prada, who put inventive, colorful, and very tall versions of the shoe on her Spring 2011 runways. Appropriately, the revival seems to be unisex friendly, with Prada’s version — by and large the most popular — being available to both men and women, while Dries Van Noten, YSL, and Thierry Mugler hinted at streamlined versions for their latest menswear collections.
Like Doc Martens, the original crepe-soled “Brothel Creepers” were created for and worn by World War II soldiers, used heavily in both battle and wanton night life. Obviously, in its sixty-odd year lifespan, the style has evolved significantly. The latest versions swap utility for experimentation in color and form, with Prada integrating bold stripes and an espadrille sole into her version. Balenciaga, meanwhile, added straps, a chunky heel, and some mean-looking Lucite treads, effectively modernizing the style into a technophilic mule/creeper hybrid. Burberry went into overdrive, adding monster-sized platforms to terrifying effect. Other interpretations from Alexander Wang and Phi (two New York City labels who quietly beat Prada to the look) merged the typical creeper flatform sole with a heeled boot, lending to a more upscale, but still fearsome look. Of course, lower priced versions are readily available, too, but we advise to choose your poison wisely.
As might be expected, reaction to the creeper revival has been mixed. Prada’s versions sold out instantly, are a hit on street style blogs, and have inspired a dozen knock-offs, a testament to their success. But there’s been a strong parallel aversion to the trend, too, as any Google search for “creepers”+”ugly” will confirm. Yet the sightings continue to mount, especially in cities like New York and London, where creepers’ strong musical DNA has kept the style on life support for decades, anyway. Now that less-than-punk starlets like Katy Perry and Rihanna (and even young Dakota Fanning) have been spotted “creeping around,” a fresh new wave of love and hate will surely greet the trend.